For some Oscar observers, you can forget lead actress, forget lead actor. That’s the sideshow.
This year, designers, stylists and a coven of magazine people are all anticipating what they hope will be the Anne Hathaway fashion show.
It’s all about the persistent rumors that the Oscar co-host, in a flurry of changes, will drape herself in one glam gown after another from Armani to Marchesa to Chanel to Jason Wu to Valentino to Marc Jacobs to Oscar de la Renta to Carolina Herrera.
“Every designer is at her feet right now,” exclaims “Entertainment Tonight’s” red-carpet guru Cojo. “All of her houses must be filled with flowers and sketches with people of all different tongues calling her, bowing at her feet, offering her the world. But the power is on her side because this is such mega exposure. She will be a walking billboard.”
“I don’t even care if she’s a crappy host,” adds InStyle’s fashion director Hal Rubenstein. “It just means that I’m going to get to see a lot of great outfits.”
For any designer, at any awards show — Golden Globes, SAG or Oscar — there’s a significant difference between an Angelina Jolie wearing your dress and a Kim Kardashian.
“There’s a celeb hierarchy,” says stylist and commentator Robert Verdi. “First, the designers focus on the girls who are nominated or the big stars. They are the most important. Then there’s the second tier — the presenters and anybody who’s going to be on the red carpet and on camera.”
And, contrary to popular thinking, there’s not a plethora of great dresses out there.
“That’s just the way it is,” Verdi says. “Designers are picky too. They’re major divas and they don’t want to be in competition with each other. Sometimes when a stylist calls a designer they’re told, ‘Sorry, we have an exclusive.’ That means there will be only one person appearing on the red carpet wearing Valentino.”
As seen at SAG and the Golden Globes, this season stars are paying less attention to sparkle and shine and more to cut and color.
“This is not a season to wear black,” cautions Rubenstein. “Designers want to put women in bold contrasting colors. It’s red! It’s yellow! It’s chartreuse! It’s turquoise! It’s green! There’s intensity here. And it will force actresses to take risks. So if a star is going to wear black, it better be something architecturally amazing.”
Along with Hathaway, the other big fashion ticket is Natalie Portman, known for her edgy style.
“I like that she wears lesser-known designers. That Viktor & Rolf dress she wore to the Globes was very Natalie,” observes Verdi. “But that SAG dress had a towel on the beach quality to it. I pray she does Rodarte for Oscar.”
Her royal fashion quirkiness, Helena Bonham Carter, took a fair amount of heat for that Vivienne Westwood ensemble she wore to the Globes.
“Helena’s a hybrid between Johnny Depp and Bjork,” moans stylist Phillip Bloch, author of “The Shopping Diet: Spend Less and Get More.” “She’s the only woman in the world who would buy the same Miu Miu shoe in two different colors and then wear one of each color. You can’t put on two different colored shoes once you’re past the age of 2.”
“But it’s her vibe,” counters Cameron Silver, owner of the vintage clothing store Decades. “It’s who she is. She doesn’t need to look like Grace Kelly.”
And rather than tone it down, stylists are betting that Bonham Carter will amp it up for Oscar and stick with the Brits, wearing either Alexander McQueen or Stella McCartney.
Nicole Kidman, once considered the best-dressed woman in Hollywood, has the pros lamenting her recent fashion choices.
“She fell flat in that disastrous Nina Ricci, that failed negligee look, she wore to SAG,” says Cojo. “I don’t think she’s working with the right people. Maybe there are no gay stylists in Tennessee.”
And all the pundits agree that Sandra Bullock must ditch her “Get Smart” bangs, vixen smoky eyes and baggy dress for Oscar.
“I was stunned by that dress and the endless parade of ill-fitting terrible dresses at the Globes,” Cojo says. “I felt like I was at somebody’s bar mitzvah in Encino.”
Annette Bening was a style hit both at the Globes and SAG. The pros hope that she will keep her intellectual glam look for Oscar and wear Armani.
“Not every actress has to be a fashionista, but they get to embrace having style and be proud of being beautiful for an awards show,” Silver says. “Both Annette Bening and Melissa Leo are beautiful inside and out. Jennifer Lawrence and Hailee Steinfeld are getting lots of buzz. Everyone is obsessed with the fresh meat. And they’re taking cool risks.”
But fashion’s most popular blood sport is not really about the best and worst dressed. It’s about the exposure and being a chameleon.
“If a star does a girl-next-door Natalie Wood at the Globes, then she’ll do a sexy Marilyn Monroe at SAG, and then an elegant Audrey Hepburn at Oscar,” Bloch says. “There’s no consistency. These girls are changing it up all the time because they realize that’s what gets them the attention.”