Anything goes? Not. After 30 years as an observer of the Oscar red carpet—an almost-95-year-old ritual—I can say with authority: Hits are classic shapes in striking colors; misses go too hard for the gusto (though Lady Gaga always gets a pass).
It’s all about balance: The brighter the color or beading, the simpler the silhouette; the louder the jewelry, the quieter its canvas. Ilaria Urbinati, stylist to Ryan Reynolds and the Rock, among others, sees 2023’s Academy Awards as “the first real Oscar red carpet in years.” Hence, more actors getting paid by luxury brands.
“Eighty percent of what you see is paid endorsements,” says Beverly Hills jeweler Martin Katz. “Jewelry’s trending smaller, but when the jewelry doesn’t go with the dress, big money’s changed hands.”
Actors still take home $250,000 to a million bucks to vogue down the carpet. Who can resist that?
DOS. These celebrities hit all the right notes in style, color, and glamour.
RED HANDED. If you’re Lady Gaga, pairing downright weird accessories like gauntlet “dishwashing” gloves with a classic fairy-tale gown (Azzedine Alaïa, 2015) works. If you’re anyone else, don’t.
BLACK ON BLACK. When staying monochromatic, texture is all. Andrew Garfield’s Saint Laurent plush velvet jacket (2022) contrasted his satin shirt and shiny shoes.
THINK PINK. While sheer dresses let it all hang out, Zoë Kravitz went full Audrey in strapless Saint Laurent (2022). As Diana Vreeland once decreed: “Elegance is refusal.”
TAKE A BOW. All gowns are not created equal. Armani Privé’s peplum bow (2018) for Nicole Kidman gave her outfit volume, contrasting that flash of leg.
GOOD AS GOLD. Leslie Odom Jr.’s double-breasted Brioni tux (2021) was crafted with 24-karat-gold silk thread—classic fit + flamboyant fabric = fabulosity incarnate.
DON’TS. Some attendees should seek better advice.
WHAT PRICE EASE? Angelina Jolie on her Atelier Versace gown (2012): “I had a more complicated dress, and I wore the more comfortable dress . . . I was just so comfortable.” Maybe comfort isn’t everything.
BABY BLUE. Knights in bright satin? Sure. Men other than Tom Wolfe in ice cream suits? Never. We’re looking at you, Kodi Smit-McPhee (Bottega Veneta, 2022).
GOING GIRLY. Rosettes. Keyholes. Pastels. One sleeve. Sheer fabric. Froufrou. Heidi Klum’s fluff-happy Marchesa gown (2016) was labeled “a bridesmaid disaster.”
RUFFLED FEATHERS. Kristen Wiig’s Valentino sheath with double-sided ruffles (2020) was a bold choice. The color worked—but not with that shape. The Instarazzi dubbed it “the lasagna dress.”
GOTH GONE WRONG. Goth gowns, jewelry, and guyliner don’t mix. After she donned Alexander McQueen (2002), Cosmopolitan advised: “If there’s one time to put them away, Gwyneth, it’s the Oscars.”
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