This week the Siren succumbed to a coffee-table volume, despite a recent vow to trim my book purchases: The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion: Variety's 75 Years of Glamour on the Red Carpet. What I discovered made me glad I got it for 70% off.
Gorgeous pictures fill this book, and many of the photos were new to me (not something I often encounter). Unfortunately, the text is atrocious. The warning bell rings on page 23, where actress Evelyn Venable (Death Takes a Holiday, Alice Adams) is identified in a caption as "Evelyn Wanable," leading me to wonder if wavishing Kay Fwancis wrote this thing from beyond the grave.
More howlers follow. The ermine tails adorning Natalie Wood's stole on page 53 are called "feathers," I guess from an unidentified but awfully furry bird. On page 79 we have a picture of Leslie Caron (who looks fantastic) as she "holds her Oscar high." I adore Caron, but since when did she win an Oscar?
Page 70: A picture of Cher arriving with Sonny at the 1968 ceremony says this "was probably the most covered up Cher has ever been at the Oscars." Fine, except that there are three pictures of a clearly more covered-up Cher at subsequent ceremonies. The author says that when Cher reached the podium to receive her Moonstruck Oscar, she took off the wrap concealing her famous outfit. She didn't. She took it off backstage for the press (and the picture in the book is obviously a press-room pose). At the podium she was still wrapped up.
While we're at it, can we lay off Cher's outfits, please? I love them. Look me in the eye and tell me you'd rather see Gwyneth in another princess dress than Cher in another wild Mackie creation. Cher defies the taste arbiters every time she steps out. For that we should thank her. Every feather headdress she wears strikes another blow for the right of other women to wear see-through-mesh-sequined thingys in front of a billion people. Jennifer Lopez, write Cher a thank-you note, pronto.
Back to the book, where the author makes many boring choices. Enough about Uma Thurman's lilac Prada (it did nothing for that famous figure) and there is just too much Audrey Hepburn. (More on that in another post.)
The bitchiness mars Oscar Fashion the most. On page 63 you have Joan Crawford, in a beautiful beaded sheath at the 1963 Oscars, described as "aging" and her necklace identified as "the same one she had worn to several ceremonies in the 1940s." Horrors! the same one? Imagine having a fabulously valuable diamond necklace and wearing it more than once. Call M. de Maupassant.
Shirley MacLaine's pink Oscar acceptance suit is charmingly characterized as a "shade favored by many Florida retirees." That's funny, it was favored by Nicole Kidman one year, too. We encounter the adjective "aging" again later, in reference to Ingrid Bergman. Note to fashion writers everywhere: We are all aging. Even you.
[Pause as the Siren delicately sidesteps a Conde Nast stampede to the plastic surgeon's office.]
All in all, go ahead and buy this book if you see it on the remainder table. But buy it for the pictures, not the insight.