For many, the Oscars aren’t just about awarding the on-screen and behind-the-camera achievements of Hollywood’s top talent — the ceremony is also about honoring sartorial achievements on the red carpet. And though many a cinephile may be wringing their hands over which film will take home best picture, just as many fashionistas are waiting, breath bated, to see what masterpieces will be worn on the big night.
Journalist Bronwyn Cosgrave, author of “Made for Each Other,” an entertaining history of Oscar fashion, offered her predictions on what looks will grace the red carpet. She notes, “Since 2001, pretty much consistently the winning actresses have been wearing vintage gowns to the Academy Awards. Julia Roberts [in Valentino] and Charlize Theron, who wore Gucci, and Reese Witherspoon wore vintage Dior last year.”
With so many beautiful, new gowns available, why would actresses continually opt for something, well, old? “It’s a surefire way of protecting your individuality, and it lends mystery and allure to an actress," says Cosgrave. “You can’t just look at her and say, ‘Oh, that’s an Armani, that’s a Valentino.’”
And individuality and allure are of utmost importance in an actress’ red carpet appearance. With the glut of armchair fashion critics, intense scrutiny from thousands of bloggers, and the omnipresent paparazzi, a one-night fashion mistake can reverberate for years (the image of Uma Thurman’s dysfunctional Swiss Miss getup from last year may be permanently burned into many a brain).
One can see how it would be a difficult balance, looking original but also playing it safe enough to earn praise. “Rarely is it the time to totally innovate a look,” says Cosgrave. So perhaps vintage is, in most cases, the safest, prettiest bet.
This year, Cosgrave believes that Kate Winslet is one of the stylish ones to watch. “Kate has had so many nominations, and every time she goes, she really pushes the boat out and looks dramatically different every ceremony,” she expains, noting Winslet’s greatest hits are often courtesy of British designers, from pink Alexander McQueen to red Ben de Lisi.
Color is important, and wearing simple black, says Cosgrove, can be “a cop-out.” Fashionistas will also be honing in on Helen Mirren, who has also looked consistently “incredible” this awards season, and Meryl Streep, who has come into her own as well: “She’s never looked better than ever than in ‘Devil Wears Prada,’ and working with Patricia Fields gave her a whole new look and a heightened sense of glamour.”
As for the gents, Cosgrave hears “from very a reliable source” that best actor nominee Forest Whitaker will be wearing Oswald Botang, but beyond that, men stick to standbys from Armani or Prada. It’s hard to get creative with a penguin suit and not look like a disaster, after all.
“I’d like to see more Savile Row,” says Crosgrave, referring to the London epicenter of bespoke tailoring. “It’s just more elegant,” she adds. Go to for more of Vanity Fair’s Oscar coverage, plus updates from its .