COUTURE ACCORDING TO FOX
Byline: Marcy Medina
LOS ANGELES — To hear Patty Fox tell it, the Oscar fashion spectacle began long before Uma sailed down the red carpet in that lilac Prada gown.
The newly appointed fashion director of this year’s Oscars should know. Her latest book, “Star Style at the Academy Awards” (Angel City Press) chronicles 70 years of fashion moments on Hollywood’s biggest night.
“What I do for the show has changed over the years from what Edith Head did,” Fox said recently from her Beverly Hills home, referring to her legendary predecessor, who died in 1981. “She was mostly there in a censorship capacity. And my vision for Oscar night is couture — one gown for one body for one night. The highest level of fashion and film meet on the red carpet.”
To help insure that presenters and nominees look top-drawer, Fox is building a collection from which they can choose — should they need a gown — by asking designers to send in their best samples (see sidebar).
It might seem like a lot to ask designers to part with their most-prized looks for a few weeks, but Fox, a Los Angeles native who studied design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, has had plenty of experience. She held the post of Saks Fifth Avenue’s West Coast fashion director for 12 years, helping to launch designers such as Christian Lacroix and Donna Karan.
She left in October 1990, just two months before getting her Oscar calling.
She served as an Oscars consultant from 1990 to 1999. During that time, she published her first work, “Star Style” (Angel City Press, 1995), highlighting 10 Hollywood icons.
Last year, she took a break to put the finishing touches on the book that would encompass five years of research on the celebrity image.
“There were many instances where we gave credit to actresses for being perfect, but I found they had their own insecurities,” she said.
Greta Garbo, for example, popularized turtlenecks in her effort to camouflage a thick neck. She had seen them on jockeys at the races.
Fox also discovered Marlene Dietrich lost sleep over how she looked. “That’s how she came up with those tweezed eyebrows. She thought one of her costumes was too distracting so she did something to bring attention to her face.”
Though she spent countless hours in the Academy archives, her book features images that even the Academy doesn’t own.
One of these, a 1951 photo of a pre-megastar Marilyn Monroe — in her only Oscars appearance — makes a telling statement. It had been the first downtime for the movie industry because television had just exploded onto the popular landscape, so Oscar producers devised the now tried-and-true practice of using starlets to present awards.
“I’m sure few people know that she tore her dress backstage and had to be stitched back into it. She was in tears,” Fox marveled.
On the Agenda
As part of her duties as the Oscars fashion director, Patty Fox will produce a runway trend preview for 150 members of the international and electronic media at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills March 8.
“Designers send what they think is their best Academy Award look,” said Fox, who hand-carried several gowns upon returning from New York Fashion Week.
Among the designers participating are Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Richard Tyler, Pamela Dennis and Bob Mackie.
Dennis’s contribution is an oyster-color full-length strapless gown with spider-web beading. Dolce & Gabbana plans to show some classics, plus fresher looks such as beaded leggings.
Harry Winston is providing the jewels and the Frederic Fekkai salon is doing hair and makeup.
If that doesn’t satiate a fashion-crazed public eager for the big day, Fox is organizing a press photo op at the Shrine Auditorium on the morning of March 22 with models wearing some of the the gowns and jewels.