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Academy Awards®: Pondering “THE DRESS”

Production

(This post is by Marcy Page, producer of Academy Award®-nominated, Me And My Moulton)

Maybe it’s karmic kickback for my never bothering to go to my high school prom—it was the sixties and we were too cool for such conventions. And for my wedding, we insisted everyone dress up in their favourite historical costumes. This conveniently sidestepped the whole inappropriate bridal white dress fantasy; we had been living together by then for 12 years.

But at some point in a gal’s life, you just can’t avoid that important rite of passage involving THE DRESS. So for me it is the Academy Awards® red carpet that has the power to unravel any of my carefully constructed feminist indifference.

On the plus side there is often bonding in this shared panic. This won’t be Torill Kove’s first rodeo either, as one might say. I have seen her transformed for the red carpet, shimmering in white the year that My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirt was nominated… and elegant in sleek black when The Danish Poet got her to the stage to claim the trophy.

Torill Kove, her THE DANISH POET Oscar®, and THE DRESS

Torill Kove, her THE DANISH POET Oscar®, and THE DRESS!

So I had to laugh when Torill recently e-mailed me while she was frantically shopping in Montreal, not only for THE DRESS but also for the many outfits for related receptions. The e-mail read, “It’s hard to find anything that doesn’t make you look like a hooker!” She then wrote that she has succumbed to buying something in that vein (this I have to see) but clearly had second thoughts as she was out shopping the very next day, with the message, “I bought a kind of Michelle Obama type outfit.” She added, “I clearly don’t know who I am. But I’m ready for sleaze and/or the White House.” I finally relaxed when she wrote that she had what she needed for the “Annies” and the Academy Nominees’ Luncheon and had sorted out THE DRESS—the dress for that final red carpet.

I was born and raised in the U.S., so the pageantry of the Academy Awards® is not lost on me. It really seems that the stars of screen at the Academy Awards® must stand in as our royalty (and the Obamas must take their fair share of fashion scrutiny in a similar displacement). And those of us lesser mortals in the humbler Academy categories must somehow not shame our respective countries by their high bar of comparison. [ed. Shame? The video below shows we're well beyond shaming]

 

The first time I went to the Oscars®, when My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts was nominated, I scoured Montreal stores in absolute terror. On a particular rack of a store (now out of business) were dresses that the salesman said were barely worn, but were recycled from galas and stage presentations. There I found one I liked. It had a very full black satin skirt and a geometrically beaded bodice that could stop a bullet. Miraculously it was not a size 6 like every other dress I liked. It actually fit. This was it… my very first rite of passage dress.

It was a year before she died when I tried it on for my mother, and she said the right thing… that it was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. I know it is in the unwritten Academy rulebook to never wear the same dress twice, but my mother liked it, so it was the same dress I wore at the Academy Awards® when Chris Landreth’s Ryan won the Oscar®.

Marcy Page admires the RYAN Oscar®

Marcy Page admires the RYAN Oscar® in THE DRESS!

When I tried it on again in my current panic, I noticed the label for the first time… Bob Mackie. I had to Google the name, and was delighted to find that he had not only conceived Cher’s scandalous Academy outfit of the late 80’s but he also designed gowns for Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Joan Rivers! He also designed the famous “curtain dress” complete with curtain rod, worn by Carol Burnett in her comic parody sketch of Gone with the Wind. And the final cherry on top of my delight was that he “was known for his exclusive dress designs for collector edition Barbie dolls”! Well too perfect. Barbie—the acquisition of whose wardrobe taught all young North American girls of my generation the seductive lexicon that included such mysterious and tantalizing phrasing as sheath dress, pencil skirt, fitted bodice, cowl collar, scoop neckline, fashion pumps… and that led us all astray.

I also discovered that if I sold my vintage Bob Mackie dress on ebay now, I could probably make back all the money I ever spent on Academy gala wear, including this year’s investment! But could I ever do that to my rite of passage dress?

So what will I wear to the Academy Awards® ceremony this year? Even I know that you can’t get away with wearing the same dress to the event a third time, even if it still fits, but especially if you have posted the possible infraction on the internet. Stay tuned.