The Oscars are the most glamorous night of the year. But just because you have an invite — or even a nomination — doesn’t give you license to rock the fanciest frock you can find.
In fact, industry insiders tell The Post that wearing a custom princess pouf or glittering gold when you’re not up for one of the evening’s top prizes could be as much of a faux pas as wearing off-the-rack Zara.
Stylist Tara Swennen, who dressed last year’s Supporting Actress winner Allison Janney in a sweeping, sexy scarlet Reem Acra gown, says the best practice for choosing an Oscars outfit is: “Know who you are in the room.”
“Essentially,” she says, “if you’re going because your husband was nominated for best director, you don’t need to have the biggest gown.”
It’s not just the plus-ones who have to worry about ruffling feathers, either.
“Hollywood is weird about their little social rules, and they overinflate the meaning behind certain images,” says Tom Fitzgerald, of the celebrity-fashion website Tom + Lorenzo. “So if you’re showing up on Oscars night as a long shot wearing some gigantic attention-seeking piece of couture, there are people in the room — and people in the press — who are gonna be like, ‘Hmm, that’s a bit much.’ ”
Lady Gaga experienced this last month, when she arrived at the Golden Globes in a periwinkle Valentino confection that required two wranglers to manage the lengthy train — only to lose the acting prize to Glenn Close, dressed in an understated black cape.
Dressing a Best Actress winner in the right outfit starts months before the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences even announces the nominees.
According to a VIP fashion publicist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, brands are paying attention as early as the spring and summer, with film festivals such as Cannes in May and Venice in August.
“I’m looking at what movies are getting buzz that are likely to make it to the Oscars, and we’re engaging with those actors and actresses early and trying to form relationships,” she says.
Being a shoo-in for the grand prize isn’t the only priority, she says, adding that a designer would rather have someone that matches his or her aesthetic and messaging — but it does change the conversation.
“You kind of usually know who the one or two front-runners are,” she says. “The celebrities will never say anything about it, because everyone is too superstitious. But we [at the brand] will talk about it, and we’ll say, ‘OK, we think this person is going to win, and they’re probably going to be on stage, and they’ll probably be walking to the press room,’ so we’ll just think of the functionality of the look and colors that will look good when they’re holding an award in their hand.”
There’s also the question of whether the actor is up for a leading or supporting role award. The former tend to wear belle-of-the-ball gowns or sequinned Old Hollywood numbers.
“A lot of [Best Actress winners] show up in neutrals or metallics, very sparkly looks,” says Fitzgerald. (Think Emma Stone’s golden fringed column from 2017, Cate Blanchett’s embellished blush frock from 2014, or Jennifer Lawrence’s bridal, fishtailed Dior from 2013.) “It’s not often that you see someone in a red gown accepting her best actress Oscar.”
But Supporting Actress winners, he says, “have more leeway.” Think Lupita Nyong’o’s powder blue Prada from 2014 or Viola Davis’ striking ruby sheath from 2017.
Still, designers want to dress their clients in a way that will draw attention to the brand, which sometimes is at odds with what the celebrities — even those who will be on the grand stage presenting an award — think is appropriate.
That has happened to Aliza Licht, a fashion industry executive who previously did celebrity dressing for Donna Karan.
“I was dressing a Golden Globe presenter back in the day, and we had made a dress for her,” she says. “Then, on the day of the last fitting, she brought her boyfriend, who was like, ‘But you’re not nominated. I think it’s too much.’ The dress didn’t happen.”
Designer Christian Siriano, who outfitted a whopping 17 women for last year’s Oscars, including Supporting Actress nominee Laurie Metcalf, says that upstaging a winner is certainly a concern among some of his clients.
“There are definitely actresses that are like, ‘Oh, I’m not nominated, so I don’t want to stand out so much. I want to be a little more subdued, and I want to make sure that the attention is on the people being nominated,’ ” he tells The Post.
But he says that certain stars transcend the politics of the red carpet, such as Whoopi Goldberg, whom he dressed in a voluminous floral gown — and sunglasses.
“She’s like one of the only living EGOT winners. She’s gonna wear whatever she wants to wear,” he says.
Plus, fashion insiders say that the idea of a “winner’s dress” vs. a nominee’s or presenter’s dress is starting to
“When you think about what Frances McDormand wore last year, when she won Best Actress, it was not a typical Oscars gown,” says Fitzgerald of the “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” star’s covered-up Valentino. “I mean, [frontrunner] Glenn Close is not showing up in a princess gown — that’s not who she is.”
Siriano is also seeing a shift.
“I think everybody is about celebrating themselves and their culture — where they’re from or whatever that may be,” he says. “This year, we’re going to see all the amazing people from ‘Black Panther,’ and all those [actors] dress the way they want to represent themselves.”
And while Swennen will caution her clients if an outfit might read as too over-the-top for their station, she says she welcomes rule-breaking.
“Honestly, the best Oscars moments throughout the years have been people who have literally just not cared at all … from Bjork to Cher,” she says. The Oscars “is one of the biggest stages. So I think if there’s a statement you want to make, it’s definitely the place to do it.”
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