1992: When picking up her second Best Actress award (for The Silence of the Lambs), Jodie Foster flouted tradition in a tailored pink grosgrain jacket and beaded pants by Giorgio Armani, who has dressed her since 1990. “Jodie,” says the designer, “was a Katharine Hepburn for the ’90s.”
1993: For Foster’s return to the podium, “she wanted to go for a more striking, old-Hollywood glamor,” says Armani, who filled the bill with a strapless black silk gown accented with a deep purple flower. Matched with a swirl of soigné curls, says Armani, the dress “was all about sophistication and elegance.”
1987: The Best Actress winner (for Children of a Lesser God) was an Oscar first-timer when her publicist suggested that costume designer Theoni Aldredge make her dress. Matlin requested her favorite color—lavender—and accessorized with a spray of baby’s breath in her upswept hairdo.
1988: The following year Matlin, who had split from her boyfriend, actor William Hurt, and moved from New York City to L.A., bought a strapless formal off the rack at Neiman Marcus. To reflect a new attitude, she says, “I wanted a more modern look. I wanted to be completely different from the year before.”
2000: “It’s very me,” Angelina Jolie said of the jet black Versace gown with matching hip-length hair extensions that she wore to receive her Best Supporting Actress award for Girl, Interrupted. But the goth getup conjured up images of “Morticia Addams” for the Los Angeles Times and “Bride of Frankenstein” for Fashion Wire Daily.
2001: For her return engagement Jolie did an about-face with a white satin pantsuit by Dolce & Gabbana and slicked-back hair. “It was her idea to have a white, very relaxed, simple suit to wear to the Oscars,” says a spokeswoman for the designers. But when it was pointed out that her new look still bucked convention, Jolie replied, “Uh-oh, I’m gonna get in trouble again for something.”
1974: After nabbing the Best Supporting Actress award for Paper Moon, Tatum O’Neala, 10, explained that her custom-made Nolan Miller tux was inspired by her good friend (and father Ryan O’Neal’s then-girlfriend) Bianca Jagger. “Tatum knew exactly what she wanted,” recalls Miller.
1975: As a presenter, O’Neal asked for something “sensuous with slits up the sides and high heels to show off her legs,” says Nolan Miller. “I got very worried, so I called her father. He came in, looked at her in the dress and said, ‘That’s fine.’ I wanted to dress her like an 11-year-old, but mentally she was not 11.”
1994: Eleven-year-old Anna Paquin won the hearts of the crowd as well as Best Supporting Actress (The Piano) in a beaded blue beret and full-skirted taffeta frock designed by fellow New Zealander Chrissie Potter. Fashion critics took to the child star, deeming her outfit “endearing,” “cutest of the evening” and like an “Elizabethan princess portrait.”
1995: For her second appearance, Paquin exchanged her floppy cap for grown-up gloves and wore a gown with a bold geometric bodice by New Zealand artist Rhondda Greig. “I wanted to reflect the vivacity, intelligence and thoughtfulness of Anna’s personality,” said Greig. “She wore it with great style.”
1996: For her first appearance as a nominee (Best Supporting Actress for Mighty Aphrodite), Mira Sorvino wanted “the aura of a princess,” says Giorgio Armani, who met with Sorvino in Milan to create this beaded pearl gray Cinderella gown.
1997: The next year Sorvino unleashed her inner bombshell and let her hair down in this low-cut, curve-hugging ivory dress by Hervé Léger. Britain’s Daily Telegraph deemed the gown “so tight it apparently restricted her ability to recite the names of the nominees for Best Supporting Actor.”
1999: “I just wanted to look very sweet,” said Gwyneth Paltrow, explaining her choice of Ralph Lauren bad gown with matching chiffon stole. Her tearful Best Actress acceptance speech (for Shakespeare in Love) charmed fans, but New York’s Daily News questioned her “Pepto-Bismol pink ill-fitting bodice.”
2000: For her encore as a presenter, Paltrow turned minimalist in a sophisticated but subdued Calvin Klein sheath in embroidered beige silk tulle. One Women’s Wear Daily editor pronounced the design “very New York, cool and downtown but not for the Oscars.”