REDCOATS ON THE RED CARPET
THE BRITISH CAME — AND HANDLED OSCAR IN THEIR OWN FASHION.
Byline: James Fallon / Merle Ginsberg
Plan B for McTeer: Trousers
Janet McTeer’s broken foot meant she had to glean glamour from disaster. To get it done, she turned to Vivienne Westwood.
McTeer, nominee for best actress for her leading role in “Tumbleweeds,” had already been primed to wear a dress by Westwood, her dream designer, to the Oscars. A toile had already been made. Then, the accident happened and her plans flew out the window.
“It all changed halfway through, when I rather cleverly fell down the stairs and broke my foot,” McTeer explained. “I decided it really wasn’t a good idea for me to hobble around at the Oscars in a frock with a pair of crutches. So Vivienne rather imaginatively came in and rethought everything.”
As Westwood described it, her original dress for McTeer had “a gorgeous, low-cut corset and a Mae West fishtailed bottom skirt, to complement Janet’s curvaceous figure — she is tall and statuesque and would have carried it off beautifully.”
Westwood, who in the past has designed Oscar clothes for Cate Winslett and Helena Bonham Carter, is convinced the secret in making dresses for such occasions is “to keep in mind not only the nature of the particular event, but also the person’s character and body shape.”
That philosophy, applied afresh to McTeer’s post-accident condition, dictated a new and simpler solution: pants rather than a skirt, so the star could maneuver with more ease and grace.
McTeer, for her part, seemed rather blase about the whole affair, on the one hand admitting it’s a dream to wear Westwood, and on the other not understanding what all the fuss over her clothes was about.
“Vivienne was the only designer I approached, because she’s been my favorite British designer since I was 20 — when I could afford them,” said McTeer, who since the fittings, has bought a few pieces from Westwood’s spring collection. “I’ve just always thought she was wonderful, and very classic.”
The friendly actress was otherwise loath to talk too much about her Oscar wardrobe, for fear it would overshadow what to her was the true point of the evening: her performance. She said she was “a bit shocked” when she was nominated, especially since “Tumbleweeds” was made on such a small budget. “It’s strange when you do something like that, and then later on, people come along and offer you cars and dresses — all things which, taken together, probably cost more than the entire film.”
McTeer did acknowledge that the nomination means her profile is now probably higher in America than it is in Britain. But that doesn’t mean she’s about to decamp to Los Angeles. In fact, she planned her trip to the Oscars to be as short as possible: in on Saturday and out on Monday. “I’ve had enough of hype,” McTeer said.
She added that she generally isn’t that keen on the idea of awards ceremonies, and did not really think she deserved to win the Oscar, anyway. Her vote for the Best Actress award would go to “Boys Don’t Cry” star Hilary Swank, she said.
“This idea of winning a kind of race is a bit strange. I’m a little old for that, aren’t I? If I were in acting just for the awards, I’d be grabbing all the free frocks I could and negotiating my fees, instead of sitting here with a broken foot.”
Sadie and Jude
Sadie Frost wants her Oscar dress to become an heirloom, which is why she didn’t accept any of the designer outfits on offer.
“It was difficult to choose what to wear because I have lots of favorite designers: John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson and some of Tom Ford,” said Frost, who’s married to Oscar nominee Jude Law. “But in the end, I decided to have my dress made. It’s every actor’s dream to go to the Academy Awards, and one day I’ll be able to give it to my granddaughter and say, ‘This is the dress I wore to the Oscars.”‘
Just to be safe, Frost chose two. The one she was having made by a local dressmaker was a long, brown sequined dress with a high neck. “It’s based on one Julie Christie wore in the film ‘Shampoo,”‘ Frost explained.
The other she bought at the shop One of a Kind in Portobello Road, just in case the weather in Los Angeles was very hot. It’s a cream-colored, knee-length dress, again with a high neck.
“But it’s got a very, very low back,” Frost said. “I thought that rather than show cleavage, which everyone seems to do, I’d show my back. It’s a very Marilyn Monroe dress.”
Law planned to go a similar fashion route to Frost’s. He eschewed the likes of Prada and Gucci in favor of a bespoke suit by hip London tailor Timothy Everest, who in the past has made clothes for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Frost said neither she nor her husband had had enough time to think about what they’d wear, since both of them have been busy working, Law in Berlin shooting “The Siege of Stalingrad,” Frost making the short film “Soul Patrol” for Film Four in the U.K. She’s also been preparing for a film the two will shoot together this summer, “Psychoville,” and a stage play she’ll appear in this fall called “Sophie’s Breath.”
Then there’s the British release this month of the film “Love, Honor and Obey,” which also stars Law, Sean Pertwee and Jonny Lee Miller. The movie is based on karaoke and, to Frost’s chagrin, her song is being released as a single from the soundtrack.
“We haven’t had enough time to be nervous,” Frost said. “We fly in on the Saturday and out on the Monday because Jude has to get back to Berlin for filming. The poor boy has been in the trenches 18 hours a day.”
The actress said she does have two hard-and-fast rules about Oscar Night, though: One is to “wear very, very comfortable shoes you could walk in. So I’m having Jimmy Choo make me a pair of diamante shoes that are high, but not too high. I’m not very elegant in high shoes, so I avoided four-inch heels.”
The other rule might be harder to obey, she admitted, but is equally important. “The key is to limit the champagne at the start. The evening starts so early and if you start drinking all the champagne that’s around, you won’t make it. But at least because the awards ceremony starts early, it’s over pretty early as well. That way, by the time all the parties come, you can really let go.”
Why did Savile Row master tailor Timothy Everest get involved with dressing many of Oscar’s musicians and performers when he’s got most of London dying to climb into his pants? (Not to mention his bespoke jackets). After all, he’s the man who made Tom Cruise’s suits for the first “Mission Impossible,” and he’s one of Savile Row’s most in-demand designers.
“I thought it would be an interesting experience, working with L’Wren Scott (the Oscar’s style director),” said Everest, on a pit stop in L.A. just days before the Oscars. “And I liked the idea of the challenge of making everyone doing numbers on stage at the Oscars be truly themselves — but the best they can be. I don’t do uniforms; I make clothes for specific personalities and specific bodies. I used very specific fabrics to interact with the lighting — some old dress fabrics for evening wear, and I’ve been flying back and forth to London from L.A. with measurements, to get it all perfect. But I’m not as tired as one would expect.”
Good thing. Everest’s about to be even more in demand. He did his first show of men’s wear in Milan this past January, and he’s doing what he calls “my first proper ladies’ collection” to be shown for spring 2001. “The customer kept asking me, ‘Why can’t you do what you do for girls?’ The modern customer is so discerning and switched on; they want something that’s a better product than ever before. And a better value.”