Gown With the Wind: The True Story of an Oscar Dress Heist

The most talked about gown on last year’s red carpet didn’t appear on worst dressed lists—it disappeared. Here’s what really happened
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As Oscar night approaches (friendly reminder: set your DVR for this Sunday, February 28) and we ready ourselves for an hours-long red carpet fashion show, we here at LA mag couldn’t help but remember the crazy circumstances swirling around Lupita Nyong’o’s 2015 gown. It’s usually the bad dresses that cause the most post-show chatter (Cher’s Bob Mackie showgirl number, Bjork’s plushie swan dress) but the pearl-encrusted, Calvin Klein number worn by Nyong’o to the Academy Awards last year made front page news when it was stolen from a West Hollywood hotel. Media outlets, from here to the U.K, including CNN, BBC News, The Washington Post, and the Daily Mail covered the dress’s disappearance. The cover of the New York Daily News read: “Gown With The Wind” in the paper’s signature boldface font, following the incident. Perhaps least surprising was the coverage by TMZ. The celebrity-stalking site first broke the news of the theft and would later play a part in its recovery. We tracked the nicked dress down—Law & Order style. Here is the true story of the case of the missing pearl gown…dun, dun.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office
West Hollywood Station
Wednesday, February 24 2015
11:30 p.m.
Lieutenant William Nash receives a call that a dress estimated to be worth $150,000 was stolen from a room at The London West Hollywood Hotel. The dress designed by Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein was festooned with 6,000 white Akoya pearls. Nyong’o told cops she was not in her hotel room between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. earlier that day, so it is estimated that the theft took place during that time frame.

TMZ
Thursday
7:11 a.m.
The gossip website first breaks the news.

The London West Hollywood Hotel
West Hollywood
Thursday
7:30 a.m.
Sheriff’s Detectives spend much of the day interviewing hotel workers, searching for eyewitnesses, and reviewing grainy surveillance video but come up with no solid leads, suspects, or persons of interest. The culprit faces charges of burglary and grand theft.

TMZ
Friday
2:30 p.m.
A man calls TMZ’s tipline claiming to have been the thief. He admits he knew which room Nyong’o was staying in and waited until the door was left ajar to enter. He threw the gown over the room’s balcony to an accomplice who was waiting to pick it up. He then took two pearls off the gown and went to the garment district to have them appraised. Turns out the pearls were phony. The thief, fuming at the discovery, says he brought the gown back to the hotel. He stashed it in a black trash bag, under a sink in a second floor ladies room adjacent to the fitness center. He claims to have contacted TMZ because he wanted the world to know “Hollywood’s fake bullshit.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office
West Hollywood Station
Friday
3 p.m.
The Sheriff’s Department receives a call from someone at TMZ who relays the message from the alleged crook. Detectives are dispatched to the hotel where they locate the garment using the information from TMZ. The alleged robber had called TMZ from a blocked number. Detectives decide not to dust for fingerprints because the bathroom was accessible to anyone in the hotel.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office
West Hollywood Station
Friday
5 p.m.
Officials hold a press conference and displayed the dress. Though it is believed to be the same one Nyong’o wore to the Oscars, they were waiting for confirmation from the actress. Lieutenant Michael White says the investigation will continue.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office
West Hollywood Station
Tuesday, March 3 2015
A representative from Calvin Klein retrieves the gown. The company decides not to press charges.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office
West Hollywood Station
Thursday, March 5
The Sheriff Department confirms the case is closed.

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