How much do Award Show dresses cost and do celebrities pay for them?
Awards ceremonies like the Oscars are a showcase for designers and most are happy to pay to dress stars like Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence.
The nominations for the Oscars have been finalized and the cinema industry’s awards season is about to start in earnest with the 94th Academy Awards ceremony to be held in the Dolby Theater, Hollywood on 27 March. Before the stars walk the red carpet in LA, the awards circuit will alight in London for the BAFTAS on 13 March, Santa Monic Pier for the Film Independent Spirit Awards a week earlier, with the Critics’ Choice Awards taking place on the same day as the BAFTAS. The Golden Globes, traditionally considered a barometer for Oscars consideration, held a muted ceremony in January after boycotts of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association by numerous actors and media companies. The event was not televised and there were no stars on parade, which will make attention on the BAFTAS and Oscars red carpet even more pronounced this year.
Among the nominees for the acting awards will be some of the biggest names in the business - Jessica Chastain, Olivia Coleman , Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Kristen Stewart will vie for Best Actress – while Don’t Look Up’s nod for Best Picture ensures the presence of a red carpet favourite, Jennifer Lawrence, who carved out ger own piece of awards ceremony history in 2013 when her elaborate Dior Couture dress caused her to trip up the stair on the wat to collect her Best Actress statue for Silver Linings Playbook. The dress reportedly cost $4 million, but Dior were happy to hand it to Lawrence as she was the brand ambassador at the time. They were probably even happier with Lawrence’s tumble, which swiftly filled the upper reaches of every celebrity website in the world.
How much does an Oscars dress cost?
Lawrence’s $4m number may seem a little extravagant but in reality, fashion houses and luxury brands are tripping over themselves to drape their wares over the biggest stars in the industry. Lawrence, the star of the Hunger Games franchise and a four-time Oscar nominee as well as a three-times Golden Globe winner, was the highest paid actress in the world in 2015 and 2016 and reputedly her Dior dress holds the record for the single most-expensive piece of attire ever worn on a red carpet.
As might be expected, awards ceremony dresses don’t come cheap. Six figures is fairly standard, although of course not every attendee chooses to go down the haute couture route. Kim Basinger designed her 1990 dress herself, Björk’s bizarre swan dress will not be forgotten swiftly and Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame) rocked up in 2000 wearing dresses themselves. Male stars don’t need big budgets to attend an awards ceremony, where a decent tux or suit might cost between $3,000 and $5,000, but any watchmaker or shoe smith worth their salt will be looking to get their products on wrists and feet for the cameras.
By contrast, the most expensive ensemble ever is thought to be Cate Blanchett’s Armani Privé dress and Chopard jewellery from the 2013 Academy Awards, which came in at a cool $18m.
So who foots the bill? Unsurprisingly, the stars are not expected to fork out for their gowns and baubles, with many designers happy to pay for their dresses to be put on show. Stylist Jessica Paster, who has worked with Blanchett and Emily Blunt, told Vogue that actresses can pick up anything up to $250,000 to wear a designer’s creations on the red carpet.
What happened to Oscars dresses after the ceremony?
Generally, the gowns worn by the stars on awards nights are the property of the designer, and as such the vast majority are returned when the cameras stop flashing and safely stored away. But as Tanya Gill, who has worked with Jane Fonda, Hilary Swank and Kate Winslet, told Vanity Fair in 2017, occasionally a designer will be happy enough for their muses to keep their creations.
One such example is Jennifer Lopez’s revealing green Versace dress that the singer and actress wore to the Grammys in 2000, which was lapped up by the fashion media and celebrity websites to the extent the fashion house felt compelled to let her keep it. They could hardly say no: Lopez's look led to the invention of Google Images.
Some fashion houses may also take a punt on a long-term relationship with a particular star and therefore seek to sweeten the deal by making a gift of a dress. When an actor and a brand team up, it is much like any other commercial arrangement, with the star expected to wear what the company provides to awards ceremonies for the duration of the contract.