Always popular, often outrageous, and unfortunately sometimes sexist; the best and worst dressed lists have been must-have articles for publishers around award season since 1940. But does success or failure on these lists have any impact on the brand of the celebrity, or the designer?
Why does fashion matter at the Oscars?
Before the winners are announced (correctly most of the time) the entire first hour of the event is focused on the red carpet. And the question every interviewer asks is 'who are you wearing?' Viewers are inundated with different designers, styles and outfits.
And when it comes to the viewers, there are plenty of them. Although only 29.6 million people tuned into the Oscars in 2019, viewing figures reached 43 million in 2014. Furthermore, the Oscars are watched not only by fashionistas, but also by the average consumer, which gives designers the chance to become household names. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow's 1999 Ralph Lauren dress, cemented the brand as a household name.
The likes of Ralph Lauren, Dior, and Tom Ford are not expecting every viewer to suddenly go and buy their clothing, which to the majority is unaffordable. But these designers also stock fragrances, make-up, and accessories which the average consumer may then buy in an attempt to replicate Hollywood glamour. These smaller purchases can quickly add up. Given that the global fragrance and deodorant market is set to hit $92 billion by 2024, it would be foolish not to want a slice of the market. Therefore, for an emerging designer, getting it right on the red carpet can be a key stepping stone to success. Or as the fashion editor of Allure put it, 'for a young designer, a photo of a big celebrity in their design on a best-dressed list can be completely career-making.'
Will it impact the celebrity's acting career?
Similarly, a celebrity can develop a brand and identity based upon what they wear at the Oscars and other awards ceremonies. And in this industry, brand is critically important. Sienna Miller's stylist Kate Young has gone as far to claim that Sienna's screen renaissance was thanks to her style revival.
For the established celebrities, the impact of the list is far less important. However, an emerging celebrity's success on the list can be an effective launch-pad for brand deals. A prime example is Lupita Nyong'o, who won the Best Supporting Actress Award back in 2012 and later went on to win contracts with Lancôme and Prada after repeated success on the best dressed lists. Her brand became synonymous with style and sophistication and as a result, fashion and makeup brands wanted her to promote their products.
It can also lead to further roles for celebrities. Increased media coverage and a growing social media following ensure that a celebrity's Hollywood profile becomes ever more valuable to casting directors. And as crude as it may be, popular celebrities sell cinema tickets.
Does doing badly matter?
The old saying of 'all publicity is good publicity' can hold truth in this context. It is quite possible for a celebrity and designer to build an effective brand from deliberately being known as the worst dressed, as it is may be viewed as rebellious, individual, and authentic. Or as a celebrity stylist claimed, 'being on a worst dressed list is a powerful tool to grab headlines. I sure some people actively look to be on worst dressed lists as it can put you on the map.'
Whatever your opinion may be on the best and worst dressed lists at the Oscars, it is undeniable that they can have a huge commercial impact on the brand of a celebrity or designer. So although on the surface the lists may appear light-hearted and trivial, they also represent an effective advertising tool for establishing brand awareness.