Colgate Couture – Despite Bad Times, Hollywood Shines

Laura Stoloff

Hollywood’s triumphant event of the year, the Academy Awards, gathers the most valued celebrities and the latest fashions they carry. Whether it was the angelic goddess, the sexy villain or the pretty in pink, Hollywood starlets delivered stunning gowns without surprise. And for an unfortunate few, a Razzie award in fashion was probably more appropriate than an Oscar. What happens at the Oscars most definitely does not stay at the Oscars, and that’s why a fashion crime committed on the red carpet will stay remembered forever.

A downsize of the 81st annual Academy Awards called for a revitalization of Hollywood glamour. The downscaled show featured a personal yet enchanting setting of Swarovski crystal curtains that framed the smaller-than-normal stage. And the charming, Broadway-style entertainment of Hugh Jackman left the crowd in laughter rather than embarrassment, as with previous comedic hosts. It was a show of surprise, song and dance, intimacy and a return to the past. For its annual fete, Vanity Fair favored a cozier venue and smaller guest list at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles, similar to its first party held 15 years ago.

But the scaled-down version of such a grandiose event left the stars unaffected, as they graced the crimson carpet in vintage gowns that showcased a yearning for the days when the king of the awards, Bob Hope, hosted. There was no deprivation of stunning diamonds and couture gowns. The elegance of Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor reappeared, but with a modern charm. The old-Hollywood glamour came from Nicole Kidman, who led the pack in elegance á la Grace Kelly in a cr??me L ‘Wren Scott dress and Edith Weber antique jewelry, her hair swept back in the soft, feminine curls of the 1930s.

Nicole had a following of white dresses from Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Aniston and Penelope Cruz (in vintage Balmain). Some critics thought bridal and others regal, but there’s no doubt that the look of pure white and cr??me against angelic, clear skin looked anything but celestial. Anne Hathaway, who never disappoints although tends to pick safely, broke out with an Armani Privé dress and Cartier jewelry. Hathaway resembled an Oscar herself, casting a glow over the room with her ornate detailing of crystals and sequins.

White innocence dominated the style of dress at the Oscars, but a surprising punch of fuchsia shed vibrancy on the evening’s monochrome palate. Natalie Portman, who always dresses in the least expected, looked pretty in pink in a fuchsia gown by Rodarte. And coming from the Rodarte sisters, Laura and Kate Mulleavy, Portman looked both avant-garde yet vintage with pulled back hair reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn.

The women who turned to the dark side still managed to glow. Angelina Jolie moved gallantly in a perfect black couture dress by Elie Saab. A tad villainous with teased hair at the crown, Jolie stood out in her emerald teardrop earrings by Lorraine Schwartz, adding a punch of welcome color. And Winslet was fifties-inspired in a one-shoulder Yves Saint Laurent gown by Stefano Pilati. These women seemed to hide rather than make a statement, which seems ironic as Kate Winslet was the leading star of the evening.

It was the after-party guests at Vanity Fair that made the statement – that turned away from the traditional red-carpet-looks and took a more daring dive into fashion. Gwen Stefani, whose style blurs the edges between art and utility, wore a structured yet delicate Chanel couture dress in black. With cherry lips, the strapless cocktail dress appeared whimsical. And the always-beaming Kate Bosworth opted for a shorter, knee-length hemline in iridescent sequins. The combination of the Alexander McQueen dress (from the designer’s resort collection), tightly pulled back hair and nude makeup represented both classic Hollywood and the avant-garde.

And a personal favorite: Amy Adams, who didn’t seem to fit the trendy styles in white, black or fuchsia but went for distinction. Although Adams graced many of the worst dressed looks, she looked effortless — oh, to be a redhead. Adams sparkled in a flowing, bright red Caroline Herrera dress that looked radiant against her porcelain skin. But it was the bib-necklace that made her look effortlessly glamorous. The Fred Leighton jewels featured 39 carats of diamonds and 630 carats of sapphires, emeralds and rubies. Fit for a queen.

One thing’s certain — during times of economic hardship — Hollywood will always serve up glam in the face of gloom.