Byline: Merle Ginsberg

For every fabulous, hyper-hyped Oscar dress sashaying down the carpet on the big night — and every distinctly unfabulous choice — there are scores of other worthy gowns that got left behind. But that doesn’t mean these rejects weren’t camera-ready; they were simply stood up at the last minute.
Every woman alive has exercised the prerogative of dumping plan A for plan B. But it’s not often that plan A was a couture gown labored over by five people and hand-embellished with rare beads from Outer Mongolia. In the spirit of all the gowns that never shared the spotlight, here’s a list of WWD’s favorite Oscar dresses that were almost — but not quite — seen by billions.

Last year, Selma Hayek turned down a vintage rose-colored Valentino gown, which the designer’s L.A. team spent many hours altering, after Hayek’s then-boyfriend Ed Norton nixed it. Reportedly, when she modeled it for him, he didn’t think it was quite “sexy” enough. She opted for a body-hugging violet Eric Gaskins, instead. The Valentino folks were not too happy. “Ed Norton just didn’t get couture,” huffed one source on the scene.

When Sharon Stone donned her infamous Gap turtleneck in 1996, she dissed two designers she’d oft worn in the past: Valentino and Vera Wang. Unfortunately for Wang, she’d gone all out for the event. “Sharon and I found an uncut-diamond necklace that was a bit brown,” she said. “We set it in rough-cut gold, and sewed the necklace into an original Fortuny bodice.
“Then we attached a length of Tibetan red silk jersey to the bottom. That dress we created was worth $1.2 million, can you imagine? It was the hardest dress I ever made.”

Of course, everyone knows that Hilary Swank was meant to wear a Dior couture gown John Galliano whipped up for her last year, when she won for “Boys Don’t Cry.” Dior even flew in a couturier for last-minute alterations. But Swank went with the bronze Randolph Duke ballgown — which husband Chad Lowe adored. “What people don’t know,” said stylist Jessica Paster, who worked with Swank, “is that we didn’t put her in the Randolph dress ’til Saturday at 11 am.
“If [the Dior dress] was amazing, believe me, she would have worn it,” she added. “The color, dark gray, didn’t work on her — it made her look ashen.”

Rita Wilson was meant to wear a black vintage beaded Valentino that had been fitted to her specifications in 1999. In the end, she strode down the carpet in a snug Randolph Duke. “She just didn’t feel comfortable in it,” said one source. “At least she called and told the Valentino people how sorry she was. Most stars never call. You don’t know if your dress is being worn or not until you watch the show.”