Putting a Modern Face on Oscar Classics

Loretta Young, in her 1948 acceptance speech for Best Actress for “The Farmer’s Daughter,” dismissed the Academy Awards as a “spectator sport, but I dressed just in case.” Though we might have forgotten the role, we remember the dress--yards upon yards of emerald-green silk taffeta, tucked at the waist and exploding into a huge skirt. Oscar fashion, first and foremost, is about making an entrance.

What would the Oscars be without the outrageous ensembles Bob Mackie designed for Cher, such as the sheer black showgirl costume she wore in 1988, when she collected the Best Actress statuette for “Moonstruck”? Or Julie Christie’s daring turn in a glittering gold pant suit in 1966, when she won Best Actress for “Darling”?

Other actresses left their fashion mark by making the best of a bad situation. Bette Davis didn’t let her shaved head for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in “The Virgin Queen” keep her on the sidelines at the 1955 ceremony--a gold-sequined helmet secured her place in the spotlight. Allegedly suffering from a 104-degree temperature (or was it just a bad case of nerves?), Joan Crawford accepted the award for Best Actress for “Mildred Pierce” (1945) from the comfort of her bed wearing a simple peignoir. And why not?

And then there are those who epitomize elegance--Elizabeth Taylor leading the audience in a rendition of “America the Beautiful” in 1976 in her signature red strapless column dress, Grace Kelly accepting the award for Best Actress in 1955 for “The Country Girl” in her much-copied classic silk gown with spaghetti straps, or the ever graceful Audrey Hepburn, nominated in 1968 for Best Actress in “Wait Until Dark,” in a glittering vest with a simple, chic bow.


Going for the gold in any decade starts with the right dress. On the following pages, we pay tribute to these memorable mistresses of Oscar fashion with updated looks from the latest in couture and coquetry.


Styled by Vincent Boucher. Hair: Laini Reeves / Celestine; makeup: Leiane Taylor/Celestine; prop stylist: John Millhauser; models: Erika Stromqvist/L.A. Models, Steve Vanda/Warning, Braden Bacha/Warning, Nick Hinton/Warning, Bill Brown/Warning; photo research: Mahshid Hariri; 2003 Bentley Azure convertible courtesy of Bentley Motors Inc.