(L-R) Best Supporting Actor Mark Rylance, Best Actress Brie Larson, Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander pose with their Oscar in the press room during the 88th Oscars in Hollywood
(L-R) Best Supporting Actor Mark Rylance, Best Actress Brie Larson, Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander pose with their Oscar in the press room during the 88th Oscars in Hollywood

Oscars 2016: The awards are for men and women, so why is it just her style that matters?

Fashion editor discusses why the world cares more about gowns than tuxedos

Alexander Fury
Monday 29 February 2016 20:51

I always find it strange that the Academy Awards take place in the midst of the fashion show season. Was that by accident, or by design? On the one hand, it's fortuitous – it means you can get dresses straight off the anonymous bodies of models and on to the backs of celebrities, sometimes in a matter of hours. How's that for a double-whammy, of wares on both the fashion and showbiz pages? Although often those lines are increasingly blurred anyway.

Nevertheless, it does mean that fashion coverage is often bumped in favour of the award ceremony of the year, trumped by the combination of the fashionable and famous; these days, many houses are relying on them to promote their wares (see Jennifer Lawrence in Dior dresses and advertising campaigns, Kristen Stewart in everything Chanel – including a Karl Lagerfeld mini-movie and probably a seat at next Tuesday's show).

Notice that both the celebrities I mentioned were women? It tends to be women who get the attention, sporting instantly recognisable dresses – such as the ruffled and ribboned, unmistakably Gucci number Brie Larson wore to accept her Best Actress award on Sunday night.

By and large, men are relegated to second string at these kinds of events, to an anonymous tuxedo that, we are reliably informed in retrospect, come from fashion houses such as Prada or Tom Ford, in subtle variations of grosgrain and grain de poudre. They're generally indistinguishable on the night, though – the key option being black or white for the obligatory bow tie.

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Fittingly, Alessandro Michele, Gucci's designer, whose shows have been notable not for gender-blurring so much as inclusivity from the get-go, appeared on the red carpet. Men appear in his womenswear shows, and in womenswear-ish looks – and vice versa. Michele himself is soft-spoken, somewhat shy – so it was surprising, to say the least, to see him appear at the awards as a celebrity plus-one, something afforded to no other designer I can think of.

The star he walked alongside wasn't Larson, but the actor Jared Leto. It marked a new level in fashion's love affair with celebrity, but also in the fashionable visibility of the male leading man, even if Leto was presenting rather than receiving an award. Of course , he wore Gucci – and, kudos to him and the house, it was a red-piped jacket with a rose at the neck, teamed with distinctly Michelian embroidered velvet slippers, rather than another tux redux.

That's possibly the untapped resource of Academy Award dressing: after all, don't men make up roughly half – if not more – of the nominees? That's an awful lot of celebrity skin you could be shovelling your brand message on to, if it's identifiable enough.

Gucci got very lucky: Leto is heart-throb handsome and a fairly directional dresser, meaning he can pull off a full Gucci look without looking a) like a plank (see Neil Patrick Harris in try-hard Thom Browne at the 2014 Met Gala), or b) as if he's been paid to wear the full Gucci look. Even if he has been.

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