The Academy Awards ceremony is anticipated as much for its red carpet parade of styles as for its recognition of cinematic achievements. This focus on fashion each year creates a special constellation of stars — and the brightest quite often are established veterans, mature women who shine with confidence, style and panache.
From an elegant Jessica Tandy wearing a navy blue beaded Armani jacket to Elizabeth Taylor radiantly defining the color of her red Halston gown to Cher’s theatrical “Titanic” homage, women over 40 consistently deliver Hollywood glamour at the Oscars.
It takes a phalanx of professionals and artisans to deliver the total package of beauty, grace and style these women present. But it is the woman who knows herself and trusts her judgment who will pull off the truly polished look.
“If a star does not have her own sense of personal style, she could end up being a model for the night,” says Patty Fox, author of “Star Style at the Academy Awards.”
Susan Sarandon has a strong sense of personal style. The rust-colored Dolce & Gabbana gown she wore in 1996 beautifully set off her amber coloring.
“Sarandon always seems to have fun with what she decides to wear,” says Kim France, editor in chief of fashion magazine Lucky. “She does do glamour; she does like fashion. There’s always a little bit of a sense of humor around what she’s wearing which I think is really nice.”
Aging brings women confidence with wisdom and experience.
“I think they have arrived at a style that they are comfortable with,” says Candy Pratts Price, executive fashion editor at Style.com. “There is not experimentation. They are mature women going to this event where you are very concerned with looking glamorous on a red carpet and how hard that is to achieve in a subtle way when you are not 20. And they achieve that.”
Befitting her royal showbiz lineage, Anjelica Huston has the poise and utter confidence to look perfectly elegant and stunning. In 2000, she wore a black-and-white Vera Wang with a V-dropped waist. “Anjelica Huston looks completely strong and fit,” says Price. “She is comfortable and always has looked amazingly glamorous.”
Audrey Hepburn was a classic example of timeless grace, always looking exquisite in her Givenchy gowns, as they transitioned from flirty party dresses to elegant columns. “She had a wonderful sense of personal style, always did,” says Fox. “She became a muse to Givenchy. When you saw her aging and still one of the most stylish women on the red carpet, I think that says a lot.”
“They have been noticed for their acting ability. Truly, their clothing has not spoken for them. It really is their talent,” says stylist Jeanne Yang of the true power of mature women.
Judi Dench is a paragon of prodigious talent, and has looked every part the dame at the Academy Awards. She has worn Indian designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla to the Academy Awards the last two years: a red and black chiffon with a lace closure in 2001, a white embroidered dress the year before.
“She has such magnificence, such enormous grace about herself,” says Price. “Everything about her makes things look even better.”
Each year, stunning older women continue to dazzle with confidence and grace.
“The women who have been around a little longer have worn that many more gowns, they have that much clearer a sense of what looks good on them,” says France. “There is a real elegance to some of the older women. They have a much stronger identity than the younger ones.”