Academy Awards A Big Night For Fashion Industry

The Academy Awards is Hollywood's biggest, most glamorous event and movie stars turned out looking the part, last night. The ceremony is watched not only by fans but by designers and clothing retailers as well. To understand what the Oscars mean for the fashion industry, host Michel Martin speaks with fashion correspondent for the Daily Beast website, Isabel Wilkinson, who was at last night's awards.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Now to last night's Academy Awards and the looks that got noticed, not just by the fashion industry, but by fans. Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry presented a tribute to the late Lena Horne last night and before the program, though, she described why the style of display at the Academy Awards matters.

Ms. HALLE BERRY (Actress): I just love to see everybody all dressed up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERRY: You know, I really am a slave for fashion and I love it, and I love to see everybody's interpretation of glamour or their interpretation of themselves and how they want to present themselves on this night. I love it and I think it says a lot about how people are. And I like that aspect of it.

MARTIN: Here to offer a debriefing of the red carpet and the significance of what we saw, Isabel Wilkinson, a fashion correspondent for the Daily Beast. She was up late last night covering the awards in Los Angeles and she's with us, today, from NPR West. Welcome, thanks so much for staying up late and getting up early.

Ms. ISABEL WILKINSON (Fashion Correspondent, Daily Beast): Hi, Michel, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: The co-host of the program changed outfits eight times. ABC offered a 90-minute red carpet special for the three-hour program. Fashion was very much a part of all of the conversations. Has it always been that way or is it my impression that fashion has really become inextricable from the event itself?

Ms. WILKINSON: People have always cared what stars wear to the Academy Awards. From Barbra Streisand's see-through pajamas in 1969. But more than ever before, the red carpet segment of the evening is so important to people. It starts, here, at 3 PM, and everyone is just talking and looking at what people wear before they even take their seats.

MARTIN: What trends might we see, off the red carpet in the coming seasons, that we mere mortals might be indulging in?

Ms. WILKINSON: Well, one trend last night and certainly throughout awards season as well, was this idea of minimalism. Last year we saw these very big architectural dresses. This year was a much more pared down silhouette. You had Michelle Williams in a Chanel beaded gown that was very form fitting. And Jennifer Lawrence of "Winter's Bone" was in a very sleek Calvin Klein collection dress. Likewise, with Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein, just very simple and to the point.

MARTIN: Were there any, sort of, exciting surprises?

Ms. WILKINSON: There were a couple fashion risk takers on the red carpet. We had Cate Blanchett in a beautiful Givenchy, purple gown with big beads and shoulders and that dress was loved and hated, but it was mainly just risk-taking, which there wasn't a whole lot of. And likewise, Anne Hathaway in her eight outfit changes definitely took some risks. So I think that people are just talking about the fact that she stepped outside of the box.

MARTIN: And I noticed that Annette Bening's dress was made by the Indian-American designer who dressed Michelle Obama at the state dinner with the Indian prime minister. We're in Washington, so we're excited by stuff like that. But what about that? How do people out there feel about that?

Ms. WILKINSON: Yeah. I think that people were excited to see a designer, you know, Naeem Khan isn't represented on the red carpet every single year. He's widely established and well liked and is very well known for his beautiful beadwork and obviously his gown for Michelle Obama in the 2009 state dinner was a major fashion moment. And I think the Annette Bening dress was beautiful. She wore a Tom Ford dress to the Golden Globes from his new women's collection. And everyone thought that's what she was going to wear again. So people were, I think, nicely surprised to see her in a dress by Naeem Khan.

MARTIN: Was there anything just - that was just blah? Don't come out the next day, you know, what were you thinking?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Is there anything that gets the what-were-you-thinking award?

Ms. WILKINSON: I don't think there were any major mistakes the way there have been in past years. I definitely heard that people were a little shocked by Mila Kunis' dress, which was Elie Saab. It was very revealing. So I think that there is debate, rather, of whether or not that was appropriate for the Oscars. There was a point when she was presenting and leaning down and everyone was sort of uncomfortable about whether or not she was showing too much.

MARTIN: Let's just say not everyone was probably uncomfortable.

Ms. WILKINSON: Yeah, that's true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And, finally, you know, we can't let the men off the hook, so were there any men who struck a particularly interesting note or a particularly elegant note that you want to highlight?

Ms. WILKINSON: Colin Firth, who won Best Actor looked phenomenal in Tom Ford. And aside from that, I personally loved Anne Hathaway's tuxedo. She wore a Lanvin tuxedo with gorgeous crystal custom-made Brian Atwood heels and a ponytail and just channeled this androgynous trend that has really taken the fashion world by storm this year.

And, of course was joined on stage by her less well-dressed host, James Franco, who dressed in drag for that segment in a Marilyn Monroe wig and a pink gown. So I wouldn't call him the best dressed in that segment for the evening.

MARTIN: Maybe that was the only thing about that hosting duo that people could applaud, you know what I mean? That was risky.

Isabel Wilkinson is a fashion correspondent for the web news site for the Daily Beast, and she was with us from NPR West. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. WILKINSON: Thanks for having me.

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