jenny bevan’s first oscar win was part of the weirdest fashion moment in TV history
In 1987 the Academy Awards decided it was finally time to sex-up the costume design nominations.
Screengrabs via YouTube
On Sunday night Jenny Bevan won her second Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road. She wore a leather jacket to the ceremony, starred in that Vine, called bullshit on wearing heels (she has a bad back), drew attention to climate change and forever made it okay to wear a leather jacket to formal events. It was a big night.
29 years ago might have been an even bigger night, when Jenny won her first Academy Award for her work on A Room With a View. A million miles—and a couple of hundred years—away from Mad Max, it was a turn of the century Merchant Ivory love story starring Helena Bonham Carter. Think long layers, lace, gloves, romance and a lot of future Erdem inspiration. It was a very beautiful classic movie, and the costumes she made for it were, well, beautiful and classic.
On the night it was up against The Mission, an18th century set drama about a Spanish Jesuit priest; Othello, Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of the Shakespearean play; Pirates, an adventure comedy and commercial failure starring Walter Matthau; and Peggy Sue Got Married, the best movie of all time.
You don't have to see those films to know it's pretty standard stuff. A lot of historical recreations, hours of work, hundreds of meters of fabric and not a lot of skin showing. But remember, this was in 1987—and 1987 was apparently a very sexy year.
The segment, hosted by an insanely good looking Lauren Bacall, opened with Lauren explaining how movies often influence fashion. Referencing how the costumes of Annie Hall, Bonnie and Clyde and The Great Gatsby were so influential they changed mainstream streetstyle, she explained that costume designer Theoni Aldredge had taken the nominated designs and reworked them into contemporary 80s outfits. A couple of things to note: Theoni Aldredge (who won an Oscar for her work on The Great Gatsby) wasn't nominated in 1987, nor had anything to do with the nominated films. Also, even if Gatsby did influence style, it wasn't about pirates or priests.
The next eight minutes is the most bombastic song-and-dance-meets-fashion-design musical number ever attempted in a global television broadcast. One costume from each nominated movie is shown, then several lithe, very 80s looking models, strut back and forth wearing what 1987s thought was a cool interpretation on the actual movie look. Oh, this is all accompanied by a trio of wiggly dancing men. It is even more bizarre than the sum of its parts.
To be fair, some of the outfits are kind of cool. Especially the glittering column dress inspired by the jewel tones of The Mission's costumes—though t's safe to assume they didn't want to get too crazy with a priest's robe in prime time. Most of the updated looks are basically sexy halloween costume versions of the nominated outfits. If you were looking for a saucy pirate outfit this year, the pantaloon/boob-tube combination could be for you. I personally like the Room With a View lace maxi and matching cap—complete with massive fake flower.
Everything concluded like all totally normal and respectable fashion shows do, with an Othello inspired bride. Watch it all below and don't look away until you spot Jenny accepting her oscar in a tux. At least one look in the clip stood the test of time.