One of the fun things about watching the well-heeled stars hit the Academy Awards arrivals red carpet is imagining how their fashionable finery — from the trim, tailored tuxedos and full-skirted ballgowns to the instantly iconic and fantastical (swan dress, anyone?) — would look on us. For most of us, though, the dream of satisfying that curiosity has been frustrated without the necessary disposable income (or stylists or fashion-house connections, for that matter) to make it happen.
Now, thanks to augmented-reality technology, trying on an Oscar-caliber gown can be almost as easy as taking a selfie. We’ve looked back at the last half-century of Academy Awards fashion — the 1970s through the 2010s — and picked a single memorable look from each of those decades. Next, we tapped New York artist Micah 404 to sketch interpretations of these looks.
The result? As we wait to see what sort of sartorial surprises the first Academy Awards of the 2020s serves up on Sunday, you can interact with the dresses in an augmented-reality experience on the Yahoo News app by RYOT, an L.A.-based immersive media company.
Get the latest on the Oscar winners, the best-dressed and behind-the-scenes action from L.A. Times journalists inside and outside the Academy Awards.
Farrah Fawcett in Stephen Burrows, 1978
Few people remember why Farrah Fawcett was at the 50th Academy Awards in the first place (she copresented the Oscar for film editing), but it would be almost impossible to forget the dress she was wearing for the occasion. A slinky gold chain-mail spaghetti-strap gown designed by Stephen Burrows, it managed to tick all the boxes: It perfectly reflected the career trajectory of the ascending “Charlie’s Angels” star; it captured the spirit of the Disco Decade; and it made a not-so-subtle reference to Oscar gold.
Cher in Bob Mackie, 1986
Cher has done more than most to up the fashion game at the Academy Awards, and her most memorable contribution came in 1986 when she attended not as a nominee but a presenter (she handed the supporting actor statuette to Don Ameche for “Cocoon”), decked out in a showgirl-inspired Bob Mackie midriff-baring ensemble that paired a black, beaded and jewel-encrusted geometric bralette top and lattice-like neck-to-decolletage harness with a floor-length skirt that sat low on the hips. Taking the outfit from iconic to over-the-top was a towering, jet black feathered headpiece that looked like the offspring of a fright wig and a Mohawk haircut.
Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Lauren, 1999
When Gwyneth Paltrow took home the lead actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love,” she did it a pale pink silk faille Ralph Lauren evening gown with a V-neck bodice that would become one of the most-referenced dresses in red-carpet history. Initially derided by critics — some felt the cotton-candy color wasn’t appropriate, others critiqued the bodice as ill-fitting — it ended up being tremendously influential, especially when prom season rolled around and teen girls across the country could be seen wearing knockoff versions.
Björk in Marjan Pejoski, 2001
Few red-carpet dresses — at the Oscars or anywhere else — have been as memorable or as polarizing as original-song nominee Björk’s swan dress. Created by Macedonia designer Marjan Pejoski, the leather, felt and feather creation, originally part of Pejoski’s fall and winter 2001 runway collection, resembled a swan complete with a long, graceful neck that looped behind the singer’s own. In addition to launching countless parodies and tributes in the years since, the look set the bar for over-the-top, unabashed red-carpet self-expression.
Billy Porter in Christian Siriano, 2019
“Pose” star Billy Porter brought the prevailing trend toward gender-fluid fashion to its logical conclusion — and looked damn fine doing it — at the 2019 Academy Awards when he hit the red carpet in a custom Christian Siriano creation that managed to deftly meld the most striking visual elements of both men’s and women’s formalwear. Developed in concert with Porter’s stylist, Sam Ratelle, at the top it resembled a traditional tuxedo jacket worn over a white dress shirt and accessorized with a black bow tie. From the waist down, though, it was a full-on, full-skirted velvet ball gown.
This Los Angeles Times project is a collaboration with the Yahoo News XR partnership program and RYOT, an L.A.-based immersive media company and incubator for media and technology brands at Verizon Media.
To re-create the Oscar dresses in 3-D, The Times’ staff worked with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist Micah 404 to illustrate the dresses using L.A. Times archival photos and an archival photo from Getty Images. For our story, RYOT developed an interactive augmented-reality experience. For the AR version, download the Yahoo News app.