BEVERLY HILLS — For fashion, the Oscars’ cast of characters is enticing — a combination of familiar red-carpet veterans as well as fresh faces to add spice to the ritual.
The 82nd annual Academy Awards on March 7 will feature actresses with vastly different styles, from Sandra Bullock, a Hollywood mainstay who received her first best actress nomination Tuesday for “The Blind Side,” to British newcomer Carey Mulligan, selected for her work in “An Education.”
Bullock, who picked up a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award last month, has always been a versatile and interesting dresser, but she has clearly upped her game this season with a variety of high-fashion frocks ranging from Alexander McQueen (SAG) to Bottega Veneta (Golden Globes) to Alberta Ferretti (Critics’ Choice), all paired with flawless hair and makeup.
“The thing about Sandra is that she has her own style and can wear color really well,” said her longtime stylist, Deborah Waknin, adding they “haven’t jumped the gun” with a dress for the Oscars. “We already knew she was going as a presenter, but we’ll have a much better idea in the next few days.”
What Bullock decides on won’t be predictable — she has also worn several New York designers, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan and J.Mendel to major events, along with the Europeans.
Mulligan has generated plenty of buzz with her red-carpet appearances. A year into working with New York-based stylist Tiina Laakkonen, Mulligan has honed her eclectic approach with more intellectual and editorial designers such as Marni (Critics’ Choice), Nina Ricci (Golden Globes) and Lanvin (SAG). Expect another European creation, most likely from the recent Couture, come Oscar Sunday.
Fellow first-timer Gabourey Sidibe, who is working with stylist Linda Medvene, has the art house crowd on her side for her breakthrough role in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” Sidibe’s sheer joie de vivre at landing on the awards circuit via an indie breakout film was reflected in the emerald green Kevan Hall design she wore at the Golden Globes. Her full figure means designers such as Hall and Tadashi Shoji have had the opportunity to create custom looks for her and will likely continue to do so.
Rounding out the best actress category, icons Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren don’t need to work with stylists to make good fashion choices. Streep even broke away from her usual monochromatic classic look — Prada and Donna Karan are her favorites — with a green and white printed Balenciaga gown at the SAG Awards. Mirren, who always shows off her still-stunning figure, manages to look both sexy and regal in everything from Christian Lacroix to Giorgio Armani to Badgley Mischka.
Among the best supporting actress nominees, last year’s winner, Penélope Cruz, is back again for “Nine,” and she and longtime stylist Cristina Ehrlich will again collaborate to create a classically elegant European movie star vibe.
“We always start this process off in November,” Ehrlich said. “Penélope definitely likes to take it one event at a time, but the common denominator is always a romantic and glamorous look.”
This season, she has favored Giorgio Armani Privé, L’Wren Scott and Chanel, but remains loyal to designers who have brought her red-carpet success in the past, including Oscar de la Renta and Dolce & Gabbana.
“She’s good with European designers because they understand a classic woman’s body, with healthy-looking curves,” Ehrlich said. “[For the Oscars] we’re looking at some ideas from Couture, and we may play with color this season.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, a first-time nominee for “Crazy Heart” — costarring with best actor nominee Jeff Bridges — is already a seasoned Oscar presenter, having made waves for her avant-garde looks from Proenza Schouler and Lanvin in previous years. Gyllenhaal, who works with New York-based stylist Leslie Fremar, embraces high fashion and has the willowy, statuesque frame to wear it well. Her choices are never cookie cutter, from Roland Mouret to Chanel to Louis Vuitton, but always among the most-anticipated on any red carpet.
Another newbie, Anna Kendrick, recognized for her role in “Up in the Air,” is one of young Hollywood’s hottest actresses and is just starting to make an impression on the red carpet. It comes naturally, through not trying too hard and going with her instincts, said her stylist, Jodi Leesley.
“If she puts something on and it feels comfortable and looks good, she wears it,” Leesley said. “She’s not concerned with labels.”
Kendrick’s porcelain skin and russet hair make a good backdrop for vibrant color, such as the purple Alberta Ferretti gown she wore to the SAG Awards. But she’s not above taking fashion risks, such as a ruffled silver jacquard Marchesa gown at the Golden Globes.
“She liked that one because it made her look tall,” Leesley said. “She’s already known for being talented and smart, so she’s not looking for clothes as a way to stand out. She just goes with what she likes.”
Veteran actress and first-time nominee Vera Farmiga, who costarred with Kendrick and best actor candidate George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” tends to lean toward sophisticated, elegant and feminine clothes, and is blessed with the ability to wear different silhouettes and colors to flattering effect.
“Our goal this season is to mix it up and make sure she feels comfortable so she can enjoy the night,” said her stylist, Amanda Ross, who has put Farmiga in Giambattista Valli (for the “Up in the Air” press tour), J.Mendel (SAG), Reem Acra (Critics’ Choice) and Dolce & Gabbana (Golden Globes). She has also worn Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein.
“She lives outside of New York City with her family, so she really does enjoy getting to dress up,” Ross said. “We’re talking to some different designers, so I’m excited to see what we’ll see.”
Another Oscar first-timer, comedienne Mo’Nique, who played Sidibe’s abusive mother in “Precious,” seems to have had a lock with awards voters for her powerful dramatic turn. Red-carpet watchers should enjoy watching her bask in her moment, charting new territory in glamorous gowns that compliment her strong personality.
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