Cover Story

The 1999 Oscars: The Fashion

See what we thought of the red carpet at this year's ceremony

Memo to The Academy: Don't rain on our fashion parade ever again! In an effort to trump E! (and keep Joan Rivers' sometimes too colorful comments to a minimum), the Academy created its own Oscar preshow this year — and pulled the rug out of the entire red-carpet, "Who are you wearing?" experience. ABC and preshow hostess Geena Davis kept the fashion questions to a minimum (asking only Helen Hunt for a perfunctory twirl) and instead concentrated on more important things, like how they make the Oscar statuettes. (Hello!) By the time the Davis preshow ended, fashion fans had seen very few non-nominee outfits and gotten a feel for only one dress — Geena's.

Even without the nonstop play-by-play, it wasn't hard to spot the night's biggest trends. Pink — the color that designers have decreed the ultimate shade for spring — got a major Hollywood seal of approval, thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Griffiths, and Davis herself. And big, full skirts made a comeback on everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Uma Thurman and Kim Basinger.

If you're still sore about missing out on your Oscar fashion fix, relax. Here's a chance not only to size up the night's outfits, but also compare your take with EW's expert panel of fashion critics: E! Entertainment's Melissa Rivers; designer Allen Schwartz, whose ABS clothing company makes good by copying the best Oscar looks; and Old Navy's fashion lady, Carrie Donovan. Also see our picks for most loved and hated looks, and discover the real story behind Robert De Niro's hair. Now that's wall-to-wall coverage.

(Additional reporting by Leonard McCants, Clarissa Cruz, Daneet Steffens, and Anna Holmes)

Jewels on the aisle Even before she won, Gwyneth Paltrow got choked up. Her $160K Harry Winston diamond necklace was among the many spotted on Oscar night — a change from '98, when gems were kept in solitare-y confinement. This year, Joely Richardson (3) and Liv Tyler (4) stuck their necks out in, respectively, vintage diamonds by Asprey & Garrard and a diamond collar. Drew Barrymore (2) bucked the trend with a $1,000 gold bracelet by Iradj Moini. Whoopi Goldberg (1) had the biggest piece of the rock — a 107.18-carat diamond, also from Winston — worth $15 million. "She asked for lots of diamonds," says Winston's Carol Brodie Gelles. If only jokes had been her best friend.

Can we talk? Even though Joan Rivers didn't think Mariah Carey had "gained weight," the singer fared better in a postshow bordeaux lace gown by L'Wren Scott than the unforgiving white silk Scott dress she wore on the telecast.

What's up with that? For those who voted Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks the most follicularly challenged stars of the night, it's time to call for a recount. Both Oscar winners appeared in front of millions with scary hair for the sake of their art. De Niro's weird pinhead cut is for his gig as Fearless Leader in Universal's movie version of The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle. And Hanks' unkempt beard is for his upcoming role in Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away, about a guy stranded on a desert island. Better lock next time, guys.


The Dresses

Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Lauren
Everybody loves a winner — almost. We think Gwyneth's cue-ball hairdo was too severe; her dress hung too low. (Get thee to a tailor, quick!) But our judges were complimentary. "Perfect," coos Donovan. "Fantastic," purrs Schwartz. Rivers likes her for toting "Oscar... the hot accessory."

Cat Blanchett in John Galliano
From the front, Blanchett's demure gown hardly seemed fit for a queen. But when she turned her back, the dress — with its embroidered hummingbird and flowers — became the night's most regal. Gasps Rivers: "It was worth the price of admission."

Renee Zellweger in L'Wren Scott
She's never gonna graduate into the Gwyneth league wearing things that remind us of prom night. According to Donovan, "[it] looked like a costume." Adds Schwartz, "The fit was terrible." Still, Rivers felt, "the hair and makeup were lovely and soft."

Emily Watson in Valentino
Okay, she didn't set the night on fire. "She was the only one I blanked on," says Schwartz. But with so much focus on Gwyneth and Cate, who can blame Watson for taking a more demure approach? Her lacey dress and chic Jackie O flip were just right for her.

Helen Hunt in Gucci
Never copy a runway look wholesale; it's fashion's No. 1 rule. Hunt broke it, dressing full-on like a Gucci girl (smudged eyes and reed-straight hair). Everyone loved the dress, but the makeup — eek! Scoffs Donovan, "They put on 90 pounds too much mascara."

Geena Davis in Bradley Bayou
Davis went through five fittings to get her preshow '50s-style ball gown just right. And it paid off: Schwartz plans to knock off this number. "A great bridesmaid dress," he says. But Davis should have skipped the matching bag (what the heck was in there, anyway?)

Goldie Hawn in Versace
Goldie never changes. And that's good or bad, depending on the judge. EW feels that at age 53, she carried off the curvy look as well as any new starlet. "A pleasant surprise," adds Schwartz. "The dress was beautiful." But Donovan feels Hawn's in a time warp: "She looked kind of '80s."

Lisa Kudrow in Randolph Duke
Even without a nomination, Kudrow was one of the most elegant belles of the ball. "Very Audrey Hepburn," says Schwartz. But she could turn up the glamour a notch. "I would have loved to see her with more substantial earrings," says Rivers, "maybe a huge diamond ring."

Lynn Redgrave in Amsale
She's this year's Minnie Driver. In the middle of a nasty split, Redgrave embraced the adage that looking good is the best revenge. "I loved the color, the sophistication," effuses Rivers. Donovan was disappointed, finding the dress "traditional," the hair "old-fashioned."

Catherine Zeta-Jones in Versace
In a year with so many skinny Grace Kelly wannabes, she delivered full-bodied sex appeal. "Lots of va-voom there," says Rivers. We think the Zorro actress' dark locks perfectly set off the gown's vivacious red, which also made Schwartz swoon. "I loved the color."

Uma Thurman in Chanel
She set a bench-mark for style in 1994 in a lavender Prada. But by pairing this sumptuous couture gown with bangly bicep cuffs this year, Thurman could have been an escapee from a harem. "The bracelets were a big mistake," sniffs Donovan.

Geena Davis in Randolph Duke
For the main telecast, Davis went for a more 1920s feel, in this Art Deco-inspired beaded dress. We found it precarious, but Donovan disagrees: "It was daring and beautifully made." Schwartz gives her high grades: "Incredible on both. The winner of the evening."


Loved It

Jennifer Lopez in Badgley Mischka
Eschewing her usual booty-baring dresses, Lopez was out of sight in a gown worthy of Truman Capote's famous Black & White Ball. "Magnificent," says Schwartz. "We'll be doing our own version [since] it's an easy dress to wear. It hits in a flattering part of the hip." Rivers believes it lets Lopez move beyond "that starlet thing." Only Donovan differs, calling the frock "too debutanty."

Hair and Make-up: "She didn't want to be so obviously sexy," says hairstylist Oribe, who pulled Lopez's hair back in a simple chignon. Makeup artist Matthew Van Leeuwen enhanced the gently elegant look by using creams instead of powders to create, in his words, "a seamless, glowy beauty."

The Jewels: An Art Deco diamond bracelet, a 9.6-carat ring from Fred Leighton, and a 100-carat diamond necklace from Harry Winston added to the Cinderella effect.

The Dress: A loyal client, Lopez had worn Badgley Mischka's gowns to the Oscars in 1997 and 1998. "We'd always done fishtail siren gowns for her," says Mark Badgley, "but this year she was interested in a different silhouette. She wanted to go real high-style." So the design team paired a romantic ball-gown skirt with a tightly fitted bodice. As Lopez told Joan Rivers on the red carpet, she wanted a "princessy" look. She succeeded — no ifs, ands, or even butts about it.

The McDermotts
Practice makes perfect Dylan and wife Shiva Afshar win our vote for most-put-together couple. They're well suited in Gucci.

Laura Linney
In the bag Sporting J.P. Tod's fashionable satin tote (as did Whitney Houston and Anne Heche), Linney looked every inch the lady.

Sandy Powell
Ahead in red The Shakespeare in Love costume designer made poetry of her own with her unique 1940s-inspired heavy silk suit.

Charlize Theron
Va-Va...Varoom! We don't know where she's going with this latex number from Syren, but Theron is sure to burn rubber getting there.

Anne Costner
It's a wrap Kevin Costner's 14-year-old daughter sported a sweet Indian wedding shawl that went perfectly with her Saks dress.


Hated It

Celine Dion in Christian Dior
In a white-bread, dyslexic pimp outfit, celine became the night's biggest fashion faux pas. "She looked like a female Al Capone," says Schwartz. Not everyone loathed it: "I thought, well, why not?" says Donovan. "She was the only one who did something outrageous." Adds Rivers: "It was so insane, but she got the humor in it." And ensured that her hat will go on.

The Hat: The topper was Dior by Stephen Jones, and "she was very into [it]," says Dior publicist Wayne Jesus. "I was so excited when I saw her on TV because I didn't know if she'd actually do it."

The Sunglasses: In return for Dion wearing these Ray-Ban shades, studded with diamonds by jeweler Martin Katz, the eyewear company made a $50,000 contribution to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. But even Dion's own stylist, Annie L. Horth, objected. "She really did it for the good cause," says Horth. "But I wish I could have given $50,000 for her not to wear those glasses. They looked pretty ridiculous."

The Suit: While Dior's Salvador Dali-inspired backward tuxedo may have drawn plaudits on the rarefied runways of Paris, it bombed in Hollywood. Dion couldn't care less about the criticism. "She's taking a long break at the end of this year," says Horth, "and she said, 'Why not try something different?'" Too bad she couldn't tell different from off-key.

Minnie Driver
Cher and Cher alike Gee, and you thought Celine was gunning for worst dressed. Looks like Driver takes parting of the waves seriously.

Rachel Griffiths
No relief The Hilary and Jackie nominee shimmered in iridescent Richard Tyler — but went too far with her kitschy purse and gloves.

Madonna
Haus Frau She certainly doesn't evoke Evita this year — maybe her housekeeper? Rollers in her hair would have completed the look.

Andy Garcia
Check, please! In this white Armani tuxedo, Garcia might as well have been serving hors d'oeuvres at the Governors Ball.

Meryl Streep
Meryl's Choice? The industry's most respected leading lady deserved better than this years-adding embroidered Valentino.

Originally posted Apr 02, 1999 Published in issue #479 Apr 02, 1999 Order article reprints
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