This week there is one pivotal thing on the mind of many actresses - the Oscars red carpet. As everyone knows, on Oscars night that red carpet is transformed into a runway, a runway seen by millions. Actresses, particularly nominees, become models for some of the best and most promising designers in the biz. In fact, Oscars night could make or break an entire career.
Behind every A-list nominee, there is a team of fashion and beauty personnel clamoring for her love and approval. To win over an actress and have one's design appear on the red carpet is akin to winning one of those shining golden statues.
According to The New York Post, the act of dressing an Oscar-nominated actress is an entire extravaganza unto itself.
Actress Bestowed with Gifts of Liposuction, Facelifts
Stylist Philip Bloch dished to The Post about the darker side of the red carpet. "Some stylists will take gifts from fashion houses," he said. "I've heard of them offering vouchers for liposuction and other nip/tucks. Some designers will just ask 'What do you want?' I've never got involved in that but I always say 'I wouldn't take a bribe, but I love a great thank-you present.'"
Some of the most shocking revelations included offers of "free facelifts" and $5,000 "tokens of appreciation."
Though this might seem completely ludicrous, the publicity a designer can get from an Oscars appearance is unparalleled. And Boch would now. He chose Halle Berry's iconic 2002 Oscars dress - an Elie Saab gown with sheer, embroidered top and burgundy skirt.
"That dress put my career into the stratosphere," said Bloch. "It launched the designer's career, and it changed Halle's life forever. In that dress, she looked beautiful but vulnerable ... it caused people to see her in a whole new light."
That one single dress has made the rankings of "Best Oscars Gowns of All Time" since Berry wore it in 2002. Elie Saab is now not only a household name, but also a red carpet-favorite.
But, Boch confessed, "The industry has become polluted."
Merle Ginsberg, senior writer at The Hollywood Reporter, revealed another tactic in the battle for red carpet reign - cold, hard cash.
"Actresses are very often paid to wear a certain gown," Ginsberg told The Post. "Having Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman or Gwyneth Paltrow walking in your dress is worth an enormous amount of money in terms of advertising and brand, and the designers figured that out some time ago."
"If a designer approaches a celebrity asking to dress them, this agent might say, 'We're looking for a deal that's worth $200,000' - and that figure is on the lower end. You can only imagine the sums that change hands to ensure an actress wears a dress for just one night."
Historic, renowned fashion houses like Chanel "don't pay anyone, because they don't have to," according to Ginsberg, but smaller, newer ones might have to go to extremes.
"Some designers do it the subtle way - the actress gets to keep the dress, she may be flown to fashion shows in Europe and sent free clothes all year round," said Ginsberg.
Actress Charlize Theron is the face of Dior and a paid "spokesperson." The stunner wore a pink Dior frock to the 2012 Golden Globes and will likely choose the designer for the 2012 Oscars as well. Endorsement companies have become an integral part of the overall red carpet process.
This year, labels will be watching top actresses like Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara and Jessica Chastain for potential endorsement deals, Ginsberg told The Post.
Oscars Gown-Picking Process
Stylists will typically choose between 40 and 80 gowns for his or her celebrity client to choose from for Oscars night. Many of these choices come from the latest fashion shows, i.e. Paris Haute Couture or New York Fashion Week.
However, designers can and will turn down even the most popular Oscar-nominated actresses.
"Designers do turn celebrities down, absolutely," admitted Ginsberg. "There are two 'not skinny' actresses who are nominated for Academy Awards: Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer - check out the labels they've been wearing to awards shows: Badgley Mischka and Tadashi Shoji. They might look good, but they're not getting Chanel ... and women over 40 probably aren't getting Chanel."
"It's not just the stylist's relationship with the fashion house that dictates what labels someone is offered, it's much more than that," said Ginsberg. "Even if you look at the difference between Cameron Diaz and Anne Hathaway in terms of what they wear ... you're more likely to see Anne in couture. She's more likely to be in a serious, Oscar-style movie ... Cameron might be in a hit movie, but she has a different image to designers."
If an actress wants a custom-made gown, she must contact a particular designer months in advance of the Oscars.
"If you want a custom gown sketched by a designer with beading and embroidery, that can take many weeks to prepare," Marilyn Heston, head of MHA, an Los Angeles-based international company that pairs celebrities with designers and luxury brands, told The Hollywood Reporter.
However, custom-made gowns are not given out like candy. In fact, they are reserved for the most special leading ladies.
"It's not an overnight deal to get a spectacular Oscar dress. Generally, these tailor-made dresses are only offered to nominees and presenters for the Globes and the Oscars. If a designer spends all that time and money on a gown, they want to make sure that it will end up in Vogue or Women's Wear Daily. This is not an artistic endeavor. The only reason a global designer is dressing an actress is to gain exposure that will raise awareness and increase sales."
"A Dress Can Make the Celebrity"
According to an L.A.-based fashion insider that spoke to The Post, "being pretty and famous isn't enough for some labels." Some actresses make it to the "hit lists" whereas others do not, regardless of how much her movie might have grossed at the box office.
Ultimately, the fruitfulness is a-plenty if an actress picks the perfect Oscars dress for the red carpet. "A dress can make the celebrity, but the celebrity cannot make the dress," said fashion designer Allen B. Schwartz told Reuters.
"An ugly dress will be ugly on anyone. A gorgeous dress will make that actress look that much more exciting." Just like with Halle Berry in 2002, an actress will be transformed into a princess this year.
We cannot wait to see what Cinderlla story awaits.
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