Barbra Streisand. Cher. Elizabeth Taylor. Sharon Stone.
Each made style history at the Academy Awards. Who can forget Streisand's seemingly see-through sequined pantsuit at the 1969 Oscar show, or the certainly see-through sparkling creation Cher wore in 1988? How about Taylor's 1970 periwinkle chiffon gown that matched her eyes, or the Gap T-shirt Stone built an outfit around in 1996?
These red-carpet contributions and those of two dozen other stylish female stars were recognized Tuesday at the film academy headquarters with "A Celebration of Oscar Fashion," a retrospective of iconic Oscar wear. The private runway show, curated by Andre Leon Talley of Vogue magazine, was designed to inspire this year's nominees and presenters to express their personal style and "create their own memorable moment" at the Oscars, said telecast producer Laura Ziskin.
The Academy Awards are about movies, but "Oscar night is also arguably the biggest and most scrutinized fashion event of any year," said Ziskin, who transformed the academy's annual fashion forecast into a trip through style history.
Talley, a veteran fashionista who helped dress Nicole Kidman for the 1997 Academy Awards and consulted with current supporting-actress favorite Jennifer Hudson for this year's show, called the Oscar red carpet "a gridlock of haute couture."
It has been that way since the awards' inception in 1929, he said.
The oldest dress on display Tuesday dated back to 1942. Jamie Lee Curtis wore the ivory beaded confection, which originally belonged to Marlene Dietrich, to the Oscars in 1984.
Legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head created three of the show's featured gowns: a silver beaded sheath worn by Janet Leigh in 1960, Taylor's 1970 stunner, and the embroidered, cream-colored strapless dress she wore herself to the 1959 Academy Awards, where she celebrated her 15th costume-design nomination.
Other timeless looks included Carol Channing's rhinestone-encrusted number from 1968, which Talley said weighs 50 pounds (22.5 kilograms), and a champagne tulle dress designed by Arnold Scaasi (who created Streisand's news-making pantsuit) worn by Mitzi Gaynor in 1967.
Cher is "one of the most original Oscar red-carpet sweepstakes winners," Talley said, calling her sheer, beaded Bob Mackie dress "bold but brilliant."
"Cher chic does not get any better than this," he said.
Hilary Swank's midnight-blue backless gown from 2005 is "one of the great Oscar dresses," Talley said, and Stone's T-shirt/designer skirt/velvet coat ensemble is "history at its best."
Stone plucked the items from her closet at the last minute after deciding she did not like the dress she had chosen, he said.
Another modern style maven is Renee Zellweger, who "perhaps single-handedly reinvented Oscar style with her love of vintage couture," Talley said. Two of Zellweger's dresses were shown: the pastel yellow strapless column she wore in 2001, and the ruby-hued mermaid gown she wore in 2005.
Charlize Theron also had two gowns on the runway: the jeweled nude sheath she wore when she won best actress for "Monster" in 2004 and her ice blue tulle dress from the following year.
Other memorable best-actress styles included Julia Roberts' black-and-white vintage Valentino dress from 2001, when she won for "Erin Brockovich," Gwyneth Paltrow's pink princess dress from 1999, when she won for "Shakespeare in Love," and Halle Berry's embroidered burgundy gown from 2002, when she won for "Monster's Ball."
Not every dress made its way down the runway. A few of the more fragile creations including Lizzie Gardiner's one-of-a-kind minidress made from American Express Gold Cards and Ingrid Bergman's floral Chanel "party pajamas" were modeled by mannequins, reports AP.
What should fashion fans expect to see come February 25? Sleek, sexy, old-school glamor, said Talley, who will host the fashion portion of the Oscars pre-show.
"The ladies are going full speed ahead for soigne elegance with a taste of the top from the greatest designers," he said. "It's a global moment for the world to see the stars, so they have to take it seriously. Actresses have to give hope to the people watching TV."