Simon Doonan Says: You’ll Only See “Stunningly Conventional” Gowns at This Year’s Oscars

At the Oscars this Sunday you can expect the usual breathless media coverage of the red carpet arrivals. But Simon Doonan says we shouldn't expect any fashion surprises like Bjork showing up in a swan dress or Cher in a diaphanous Bob Mackie outfit because these days actresses only wear "stunningly conventional" gowns.

Gowns at Oscars 2013

The Oscars are this Sunday. And you can expect the usual breathless media coverage of the red carpet arrivals. But just how thrilling will they be? Not very, says Simon Doonan, who cautions that we shouldn’t expect any fashion surprises like Bjork showing up in a swan dress (2001, designed by Marjan Pejoski; below left) or Cher in a diaphanous Bob Mackie outfit (1986; below right), as in yesteryear’s Academy Awards.

bjork_oscarsDoonan is Barneys “Creative Ambassador” and contributor whose most recent book is The Asylum; he tells DnA there was a golden age in which high fashion made it from the runway onto the red carpet, and  actresses made their own fashion choices, sometimes delightfully zany and sometimes brilliantly stylish.

But that age has passed he says, as a combination of freebie dresses from the fashion houses and fear of instant criticism in the Twitterverse has numbed actresses into wearing gowns of beauty but also “stunning conventionality,” reminiscent of high school proms and 1950s charity balls (see 2013’s Oscar gowns, collaged in The Sun, above).

cher 1988 OscarsHe also argues that actresses should buy their own outfits, thereby supporting the fashion industry and being free of the compromises that come with wearing free stuff (like the fashion houses having the right to post images of an actress whenever she wears their garments or accessories.)

You’ll also hear who Doonan thinks made the most interesting fashion statement this awards season — apart from Lupita Nyong’o. And it wasn’t a she. Clue: He wore an extremely tall hat to the Grammies.

Listen to him discuss it all with his usual verve, in this interview.


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While we are on the topic of design for the Oscars, don’t miss this NYT article by Brooks Barnes, on the “real behind-the-scenes stars leading up to the Academy Awards. . . the florist who delivers dozens of $600 congratulations bouquets on a single morning, the papersmith whose custom-designed invitations summon the A-list to all the best parties, the spray tanner so in demand that he offers 2 a.m. appointments to squeeze everyone in.”

And check out the goodie bags that “everyone wins” at the Oscars, reported by Darby Maloney of KCRW’s The Business.