If the flash and fashion of Oscar week belong only to the celebs—and the editors who cover them—no one told the rest of usby CAT DORAN
Los Angeles during Oscar week is its very own kind of Fashion Week, only instead of six runway shows a day with their subsequent nighttime parties, there is just one enormous red-carpet fashion show at the end. And there are so many soirees leading up to it it’s a wonder anyone has any energy left to make an acceptance speech, let alone party down with Graydon Carter.
The parties start the week before, and like all marathons, there are peaks and valleys. It’s funny, because it’s the one week of the year that no matter where you go, you’ll find some creature from the seamy underbelly of New York or Paris fashion lurking. Photographers come out to shoot celebrity-based ad campaigns, and designers hand-deliver dresses they’re praying the starlets will wear. My favorite awards season was the year the Kaiser, Karl Lagerfeld, came to town. Every single party, there he was—gray ponytail, stiff shirt collar, tighter-than-tight jeans, high-as-stiletto boots, fingerless gloves and knuckles full of rings—so much more over the top than I could have ever dreamed.
There are always cocktail parties and dinners that go something like this: marquee name designer, corporate sponsor and, say, the Chateau Marmont. There is also Barry Diller’s lunch, which takes place the Saturday before the big night. Invites are supposedly scarce, but from what I understand (I’ve never been invited—hey, Barry, DVF, call me), the biggies are there.
And then there are the night-of bashes. The Vanity Fair party first held in 1994 reigned supreme each year at Morton’s, but when Morton’s closed in 2007 and then the Writers Guild went on strike, editor Graydon Carter took a one-year hiatus before throwing a scaled-down party at the Sunset Tower last year.
The Governors Ball is the official party for Oscar winners, but most golden-statuette holders end up at the Vanity Fair party in the wee hours. And true Hollywood royalty (the Warrens, the Jacks, the Clints) are at socialite Dani Janssen’s über-exclusive dinner party. I can’t imagine it being low-key, but that’s the word on the street, on Nikki Finke’s keyboard and in Brett Ratner’s “Hollywood Rules” piece in this issue. Perhaps it’s low-key because there is a point at which egos reach critical mass and cancel one another out.
For Oscar watchers around the world, the action seems focused on all this red-carpet hoopla, but as on an actual movie set, as much goes on behind the cameras as in front. This night means something to the rest of us, not just the sparkly people in borrowed clothes. In fact, those who have nothing to do with movies and those who have a lot to do with movies but not in front of the camera and not at the fancy parties—grips, camera operators, best boys, et al.—all find ways to celebrate the little gold fellow.
Regular folks dress up and go to friends’ houses—maybe not in full hair and makeup but very often in party clothes. They watch a giant television, frequently with ballot sheets in hand, shouting at the bad outfits, cheering for underdogs. Then one lucky person (usually the one who guessed Best Animated Short correctly) goes home with the pot, a lucrative proposition at a $50 buy-in.
One year, Merchant of Cool Dee Dee Gordon invited me to her annual party. On the invitation, she asked people to come dressed as their favorite Oscar-nominated character from that year’s crop of films. I love a costume party, so I was game. Dee Dee and I decided to pair up as Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci from Monster.
I made a trip to Goodwill for some acid-washed jeans and cut the sleeves off an old sweatshirt. She bought a bad wig. I teased my hair and slid in a set of Billy-Bob teeth. Lo and behold, no one else came in costume; some actually showed up in gowns and furs. I overheard jewelry designer Sharon Alouf telling someone I’d really let myself go. Moral: Even in Los Angeles, costumes only work if you keep them sexy.
Oscar week, for all its hype, hubbub and morning-after disappointment, is truly the time Angelenos live a collective fashion moment, be it of a televised or house-party nature. Mr. Meisel, we’re ready for our close-up.
CAT DORAN loves fundamentalist Mormons, tennis and a hanky hemline...not in that order. She blogs for LA at thenines.latimesmagazine.com