The playing field Armani used to have all to himself is getting crowded, and everywhere you looked you saw a Valentino, a Versace or a Vera Wang.
With all the supermodels, silver and gold clothes, hip slips, and fashion mania on the runway, it might have been Paris or Milan. But it was Hollywood and the Oscar arrival line, and in no previous year has the curvaceous line between fashion and entertainment been so blurred. Since most of the winners were no surprise, even the local TV channels turned their attention to fashion. “WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?” was chanted like a mantra.
“Six million people are watching to see what everybody’s got on,” Whoopi Goldberg noted, and even the normally Raggedy Whoopster changed from a Ray Aghayan velvet evening dress to a custom-made Armani tux and shirt. If the designers could have sewn their labels on the outside, they would have. Even Clint Eastwood and Frances Fisher bolted through arrivals reciting, “Cerruti, Cerruti, Cerruti!” to all the outstretched mikes.
There was so much competition to dress the stars this year, even the stars started to revolt. “You know how many people I offended by not wearing their tux?” moaned a guilty Valentino-clad Tom Hanks.
“I had quite a few offers,” admitted his “Philadelphia” co-star Antonio Banderas, “but Calvin Klein called me first.”
Oscar fashion maverick Geena Davis was hounded by what she called a pack of “countless” designer wolves at her door. Even the normally non-competitive Todd Oldham whipped up a little number for Rosie O’Donnell that proved to be too little: “I gained a little bit of weight,” she admitted, “and Richard Tyler made this for me in two days.”
As usual, Giorgio Armani got the biggest on-screen credit and even a big on-air endorsement from Whoopi. But the playing field he used to have all to himself is getting crowded, and everywhere you looked you saw a Versace or a Valentino or a Vera Wang. Armani did pick up one new convert, however: Glenn Close, who usually shows up in some awful Geoffrey Beene. The other Armaniites included Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Christian Slater. “In situations like these,” said Neeson, “I like to leave it to the maestro.”
Even streetwise Rosie Perez played it cool in a long black Armani with a full train. “I was gonna wear Dolce & Gabbana,” she said, “but I decided to be more elegant when I knew I was gonna bring my father.” She did break character a bit when people got too close. “Quit stepping on my train!” she yelled at her entourage.
If anything, the fashion extravaganza was a little boring. Where was Demi in one of her hideous biker short outfits? Or Geena Davis in a Little Bo Peep costume? Even Kim Basinger toned it down — she made an appearance in a demure black Yohji Yamamoto shift with a bloated Alec Baldwin in tow.
Washington managed to come to the rescue with one genuine fashion victim: Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who showed up in a Donna Karan slip dress — to which she had unaccountably attached a vintage white cape — and carrying a fur.
New York provided the worst-dressed runner-up: Stockard Channing, who arrived in a short — too short — rust metallic Richard Tyler suit with a skating skirt.
The Hollywood hairdos seemed under control this year, but too many actresses had grease in their locks. Among the men — especially the young and hot — there were two trends worth mentioning: fuzzy facial hair and tuxedos without bow ties. Johnny Depp, however, in the midst of a major image overhaul, showed up in a classic Armani tuxedo with a bow tie and stole the men’s style show.
Daniel Day-Lewis looked ridiculous as usual, but he protected his designer — if there was one. “I’m not telling,” he announced to the press corps when asked who had made his outfit. Equally mum was Ralph Fiennes, whose wife Alex did admit, “Ralph is wearing Calvin Klein underwear.”
For the record, here are some others the designers dressed:
- Calvin Klein: Goldie Hawn, Madeleine Stowe, Alec Baldwin, Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurence Fishburne, Tommy Lee Jones, Kurt Russell and Ralph Fiennes
- Valentino: Sharon Stone, Debra Winger, Joan Chen, Rita Wilson and Elle Macpherson
- Versace: Ellen Barkin, Tia Carrere and Claudia Schiffer
- Vera Wang: Holly Hunter, Nancy Kerrigan, Marisa Tomei, Patty Scialfa and Lyndall Hobbs
- Richard Tyler: Janet Jackson and Laura Dern
- Donna Karan: Natasha Richardson
- Herve Leger: Kate Capshaw
- Escada: Angela Bassett, Shirley MacLaine and Deborah Kerr
Not every actress succumbed to the courting designers. Winona Ryder donned a beaded white Forties gown, which she bought herself at Lily’s, a local vintage clothing store. She looked spectacularly fresh.
Still, when all is said and done, it was Goldie Hawn who proved that, in Hollywood, it’s what’s underneath the dress that counts.