There are myriad ways to make a splash on the red carpet: You can leave your knickers at home, like Cher; concoct your own outfit; wear made-for-you-haute couture; or, simply, wear gloves, à la Amal Clooney. There’s also the risk-taking vintage route, which, if Oscar winners Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, and Penélope Cruz are any proof, can be worth its weight in gold.
Found, not offered, a vintage gown is as exclusive as a custom-made ensemble. Plus—and this is a bonus—it has a history, its own narrative. The actress wearing vintage must invent for it a new role (a sequel if you will), giving it fresh expression just as she would inhabit a character’s life. Here, we’ve cued eleven actresses—from Lauren Bacall in Fortuny’s pleated Delphos dress to a radiant Renée Zellweger in a strapless chiffon Dessès the color of a sunbeam—who’ve rewritten the past on the Oscars red carpet.
2006: Jennifer Lopez in a 1959 Jean Dessès dress
2006: Reese Witherspoon in a 1955 vintage Christian Dior dress
2011: Marisa Tomei in a 1950 Charles James dress
2012: Natalie Portman in a 1954 Christian Dior dress
2001: Julia Roberts, with Benjamin Bratt, in a Valentino Haute Couture dress from 1992
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