How Oscars style on the red carpet lands in our closets long after ceremony is over

Brittaney Wilmore Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Oscars style: From the red carpet to our closets, here's what to know
There's not an Academy Award for 'Best Dressed' but if there's one thing the Oscars faithful look for - it's who will be the next to create an unforgettable fashion moment.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Lady Gaga's ode to it included the names of celebrated designers including Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo, Valentino and Manolo Blahnik.

A suit and tie, blue suede shoes and a little black dress all allude to it.

And even David Bowie danced around it, calling on people to turn to the left, turn to the right.

We're talking about fashion.

And though there's not an Academy Award for "Best Dressed," if there's one thing Oscars faithful look for, it's who will rule with their fashion on the red carpet.

Still, that doesn't just happen by chance.

The stunning looks at awards ceremonies often take a lot of coordination and effort to be seen, particularly on the part of the designers wishing to catch the attention of a celebrity whose star power can give them their big break.

"In the past it was a lot harder. You really had to know someone," said Suzette Brimmer. "You really had to work with their managers or their stylist, and you still have to do those things, but what has made it a lot easier is Instagram, all of the social media because if a young person put their clothes out, there are influencers who are looking at the clothes, then the stylists of the managers look at them. Also what I think is really cool now, celebrities are looking at younger designers and want to rise them up."

Brimmer, an educator and longtime leader in the fashion industry, is the Dean of Consumer Arts and Sciences at Houston Community College's Central College. The discipline includes the fashion program.

Brimmer notes that there are several celebrities who use their platform to introduce the world to up-and-coming, lesser-known designers through their sartorial choices.

"Beyoncé does that. We saw Michelle Obama do that, and she's still doing it, and she publicizes who these designers are and really helps bring them forward for general consumption," she said. "So I think it's a little bit easier, but if a new person really wanted to get their clothes on a celebrity, you really need to find out who their stylist is, who influenced them, what kind of clothes do they wear. If that celebrity really fits your brand, you do whatever it takes to get your clothes out there, and it happens. It really does happen."

Of course, while we might dream of being on the red carpet and rocking designer garb, that's not a reality for a lot of us. But it doesn't mean the dream is out of reach.

Fashion can go from the red carpet to our closest in multiple ways.

"One of the big seasons that takes a lot of influence from the Oscars are proms. I think a lot of young ladies are taking a look at what shows up on the red carpet, and they want to get that copied or really similar," Brimmer said. "And then there are a lot of people we call the knock off kings and queens of the business. So right that same evening, they are knocking off those garments and having them so that they're in places we call 'fast fashion.' So young people can go in and get them, and look as glamorous as the celebrities did on the red carpet."

And if there's anything the Oscars doesn't lack, it's glam.

The ceremony has given us several iconic fashion moments such as Halle Berry's sheer mesh embroidered Elie Saab dress with a train she wore to the 2002 Academy Awards. The moment was also historic. She won best actress for "Monster's Ball," making her the first Black woman to take home that award. She is still the only Black woman to receive it.

"The dress she wore to me was the quintessential dress," Brimmer said. "It was sexy, she looked strong, she looked healthy, she looked athletic. She looked very feminine, but it was still a very sexy garment. Everything was covered, and the bottom of her dress and her short hair all just balanced it off. It was just like a perfect song."

And though another memorable moment of Brimmer's didn't involve the Oscars itself, an Academy Award winner is at the center of it.

"Even though Meryl Streep didn't win, it was for 'The Devil Wears Prada.' That's just such a fashion moment, like a tidal wave," she explained.

Streep played the intimidating, powerful, editor-in-chief of "Runway Magazine," Miranda Priestly, who sent subordinates scurrying with fear as she prowled in her stilettos through the publication's offices.

"Everybody loved the movie. Everybody saw it five, six times if you're in fashion. Every bag, the way she walked, the way she put clothes together," Brimmer recalled. "Even the behind the scenes, (Meryl) was the one who came up with, in the middle of the night, 'You know what? I should have a white wig, a platinum wig, I should wear big sunglasses.'"

"That's why she's Meryl Streep. She thought of how Miranda Priestly should look, and I think people are still watching that movie because it was just so cool," she said.

Cool -- and quotable.

Indeed, who can forget Priestly's biting remark to Anne Hathaway's character, Andi Sachs, in what has become known as the "cerulean monologue?"

In it, Priestly hushes Sachs after the latter said two belts the team was comparing looked exactly the same to her, chalking it up to still learning about that "stuff."

To be fair, the difference, if any, was slight. But certainly not a sentiment to be expressed in front of a woman with the sharpest tongue in fashion, however fictional she is (though it's believed she's based on the very real Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour).

Priestly monologues that the journey of the color cerulean began with the haute couture collections from designers displayed on the runway before it "filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars of countless jobs, and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room... from a pile of 'stuff.'"

Those who wish to have a career in fashion will likely run into far less fire at Houston Community College.

According to Brimmer, the college's program attracts talented and creative students and faculty, minus the attitude of the Miranda Priestlys of the world.

"We've got the design part of fashion as well as the merchandising part and the styling," Brimmer said. "We are interjecting a lot of VR, AI into these courses so that we can teach them online. We can also teach when a professor is not in the classroom. (Students) can get that lesson again because it's all recorded."

"We have courses from teaching you how to buy, how to design, how to actually make patterns, from teaching you how to style a store, how to style on set," she continued. "We've got a really talented professor who actually does commercials, actually works on movie sets."

WATCH: Focused on fashion? See what these programs have to offer in Houston

From the latest industry trends to a journey through the archives, HCC says it has various options for students interested in fashion.

But you don't have to step foot on campus or be enrolled in a program to boost your fashion knowledge.

HCC's Fashion Archive is digitized as part of Google Arts and Culture. The archive itself exists in its own building at HCC's Central Campus, but you can access it online, learning about the styles and design from different eras as far back as the 1740s.

The archives have a Texas emphasis and are also a teaching tool for the college's students, especially when exposing them to garments that are no longer made such as a corset made with whalebones.

"You can get the design and the framework from the original garment. We have beautiful shoes from many, many years ago and to see how they were constructed, and to know that during that period, shoemakers for a woman only made one shoe to fit one foot and the other shoe was a duplicate of it. So we kind of got the raw end of the deal, but as we progressed, we started making our way in designing our own shoes," Brimmer told ABC13.

But just as in any industry, what you showcase outside of the classroom is also extremely important.

HCC students have the opportunity to do that through events such as Fashion Fusion, a show put on at the Museum of Fine Arts that allows all of Houston to see their talent.

Students draw inspiration from an exhibit and artists featured at the museum to create their own looks.

The program has even caught the attention of the Pierre Cardin brand.

Cardin's grandson, who now runs the company, worked with students, showing them everything from the business side to the art of sketching.

In 2022, one HCC fashion design student was one of six finalists selected for Cardin's Young Designers Contest, where the grand prize was an all-expense paid apprenticeship in Paris with the company's design team.

And just as Brimmer looks forward to seeing the success of her students and faculty, she's also looking to see who will take home an Oscar come March 10.

"'American Symphony', since it's Jon Batiste," she said, referencing the musician's documentary that focused on his art, creative process and his partner's battle with cancer.

And the blockbuster that dominated last summer, "Oppenheimer," is also top of mind as a predicted winner.

"Even though I've only seen snippets of it.... it's a huge production," Brimmer said.

March 10 is Oscar Sunday! Watch the 2024 Oscars live on ABC.

Red carpet coverage starts at 1 p.m. ET 10 a.m. PT with "Countdown to Oscars: On The Red Carpet Live." At 4 p.m. ET 1 p.m. PT, live coverage continues with "On The Red Carpet at the Oscars," hosted by George Pennacchio with Roshumba Williams, Leslie Lopez and Rachel Brown.

Watch all the action on the red carpet live on ABC, streaming live on and on the On the Red Carpet Facebook and YouTube pages.

The 96th Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, begins at 7 p.m. ET 4 p.m. PT, an hour earlier than past years.

The Oscars are followed by an all-new episode of "Abbott Elementary."

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