Never mind who designs the stars' clothes for Oscar night. The question is: Do the stars pay for them?
Well, no, not too often.
Kathleen Turner, Jane Fonda, Marlee Matlin and Sigourney Weaver reportedly will attend the March 30 awards in gowns with four-digit price tags supplied by top designers.
The total number of fashion freebies to be handed out to the actresses, actors, screenwriters, songwriters, directors, producers and others who are after an Oscar this year may never be told.
As the designers see it, their lavish donations for such a well-publicized event are good business.
Geoffrey Beene explains: "It's an honor." Here's how the honor was bestowed on Beene:
" She called me ," the New York designer says of a recent conversation with Sigourney Weaver. It was followed by a personal visit.
"I showed her the whole collection and asked: 'Is there anything that pleases you?' " he recalls. "She said 'this,' and went right to the black dress."
Weaver chose a strapless gown of black silk crepe with a white satin peplum. A dress as long and narrow as the wearer herself. "Stately," to use Beene's word.
"There's a coat," he adds. "She needed one for protection." It is a silk faille evening coat in a black-and-white geometric print from his latest collection.
Beene is prepared to withhold the bill. "We haven't even spoken of the price," he says. "If she asks, I will be happy to give her the dress."
Jane Fonda is going to the Oscar gala in an older gown, albeit a giveaway.
"Jane will wear a dress Valentino gave her in 1980 when she was in Rome," Fonda spokesman Stephen Rivers reports.
Fonda has already worn the dress on television, Rivers says. It is a one-shoulder, ruffled style in black silk and velvet that the actress first wore to co-host a Los Angeles Olympics variety show.
Of all the designers dressing the Oscar nominees this year, Valentino deserves a special place for his willingness to contribute so much to so
many. There is his gift to Fonda--one of several dresses he has given
her in the past. Beyond that, both Willem Dafoe and his not-nominated girlfriend, Elizabeth LeCompte, have recently paid a call to Valentino's New York offices.
Dafoe took home two Valentino tuxedos--one double breasted, one single breasted--along with a pleated shirt and several varieties of bow ties and cummerbunds.
"I lent them to him," says Cathy Glendon of GFT (Gruppo Finanzianio Tessile), a company that distributes Valentino fashions in the United States. Once Dafoe decides on the suit, Glendon says: "He can borrow it, or he might want to buy it." She can get it for him wholesale.
Along with Dafoe's Valentino, says Nella Gomez of the Rome-based designer's Manhattan showroom, "he requested that his girlfriend wear Valentino too." She has tentatively selected an outfit that the designer will lend to her, if she decides to wear it, Gomez says.
It seems most actors nominated for awards are wearing a tux to the show. Michael Caine's London tailor, Douglas Hayward, says he imagines his regular customer of 25 years will wear his newest, single-breasted dinner suit, for which Caine has paid.
Caine will wear it, that is, if he attends the Oscar event at all. The actor is in the Bahamas filming "Jaws IV" and might not be free on Oscar-presentations night.
As for the bill, Hayward says: "It's simple, we don't discuss it. He just pays me. Michael isn't into that other game."
Caine's way of shopping is unusual. "He calls and tells me he needs a suit, and I take care of the rest," says Hayward, who keeps Caine's measurements on file in his Mount Street shop. "Michael doesn't care about clothes. I have to drag him in for fittings."
In contrast, Dexter Gordon, the jazz musician who is up for an acting Oscar this year, cares deeply. For the upcoming event, he says he will probably wear the outfit he wore to the New York Film Festival last fall.
"My designer made me a tuxedo that's a little different than the usual," Gordon says. "It has a gambler's necktie."
The tie, Gordon's designer, Arthur McGee, corrects, "is more Lord Byron than gambler." It goes with a black-and-white tweed dinner jacket, a high-cut satin vest and pants with elastic-back waistband like Gordon always wears.
"He wants comfort first," says the New York-based McGee, who says he is also designing a dress to be worn Oscar night by Gordon's wife, Maxine, another longtime customer.
Regarding billing the Gordons, McGee says:
"Everybody who gets clothes from me pays for them. That's the way it's supposed to be."
William Hurt recently bought and paid for a classic tux at Italian designer Giorgio Armani's New York showroom, an Armani representative says. It is likely, though not certain, that he will wear it to the Oscars.