Iconic looks strut down the red carpet

Originally published in Eastside’s February 2020 issue

The Academy Awards, commonly known as The Oscars, stretch all the way back to 1929. For the first time, a plethora of the countries most respected actors and actresses flooded into the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, ready to receive that beloved golden statuette.

As the years passed, The Oscars dished out more awards and collected more esteem. With the elegant red carpet laid out before each celebrity, all eyes would be glued and all cameras would be pointed toward the expensive garments draped around their bodies. The question on everyone’s mind: who are you wearing?

The Oscars have grown to be a staple for American fashion, creating some of the most iconic looks to date. With the rise of award shows emerged a new market for designers to advertise. Jessica Pastors, stylist for actress Emily Blunt, told The Cut that designers are willing to pay celebrities $100,000-$250,000 and their stylists $30,000-$50,000 if their clothing appears on the red carpet.

In some cases, instead of contacting designers on an event-by-event basis, celebrities opt to long-term brand collaboration. Actress Jennifer Lawrence accepted a $15 million contract from Dior, which expired in 2017. For three years, Lawrence was required to wear Dior fashion to each red carpet event.

The process of choosing what to wear, however, only begins when nominees are announced. This year’s Oscar nominees were revealed on January 13th, and The Oscars are held on February 9th. No time is left to dawdle; the celebrities and their stylists must get to work. The stylist’s job is to work with designers on behalf of their clients. On rare occasions, a celebrity will be made a custom piece, but most commonly will borrow from a designer’s collection. Because only one person can wear each item, the race to win your favorite piece can get competitive. Announcers and nominees are prioritized by designers when determining who they loan their clothes to.

Celebrities do not just borrow clothes, however. Practically everything on their body, from shoes to purses to jewelry, is given to them by brands. All accessories and articles of clothing are usually returned in one to two days following the event.

In recent years, a celebrity’s fashion choice has usually gone beyond money or vanity. At the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, for example, many celebrities wore black in support of Time’s Up, a movement protesting sexual harassment.

Actor Billy Porter told Vogue, “My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up. To challenge expectations.”

At last year’s Oscars, Porter wore a revolutionary tuxedo and ball gown hybrid, made custom by Christian Siriano. The femininity of a long velvet gown was intertwined with the masculinity of a black suit jacket and bow tie.

Danielle Kaplan (21’) is fascinated by these evolving trends, and from a young age began sewing her own clothes and creating her own accessories. Kaplan pays attention to the fashion showcased in events like The Oscars, which serve as inspiration and add to her understanding of the fashion industry.

“[Award show fashion is] usually fancier and everyone tries to wear something that you’ve never seen before, so it’s interesting,” said Kaplan.

With the 92nd Oscars quickly approaching, stylists and designers work frantically behind the scenes in preparation. Undoubtedly, a number of hefty contracts with large checks are in the midst of finalization, as celebrities secure their favorite outfit.

It all comes back to the big question: who are you wearing?