DARING: Gwyneth Paltrow wears an Alexander McQueen gown in '02. (Sebastian Artz / Getty Images )
Though his creations were tailor-made for the fashion-forward runways of Paris, the late Alexander McQueen's vision often translated seamlessly onto the red carpets of Hollywood, creating some of the most memorable sartorial moments at major award shows. From Gwyneth Paltrow's controversial goth-glamour gown at the 2002 Academy Awards to Cate Blanchett's bell-shaped mini- dress encrusted with Swarovski crystals at the London premiere of " The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" in 2008, McQueen's dresses shook up the red carpet, raising eyebrows while inspiring many to be more daring.
"The red carpet is not really a place to find creative fashion. It's very stereotyped for that old-fashioned glamour with a lot of goddess gowns," says Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "As a result McQueen has not been conspicuously represented. He's never been a demure or conventional designer, but rather bold and aggressive. The actresses who wore him were moved by a real feeling for fashion and daring enough to go with this high level of fashion."
The stars who have worn McQueen recently have exemplified the designer's range on the red carpet. Sandra Bullock donned a sleek, relatively conservative black McQueen gown for the SAG awards, showing that the designer wasn't always out just to make a splash with something over the top. At the same time, Anna Paquin's multicolored, reptilian print mini-dress worn to the same event defied the traditional dress code and attracted mixed reviews from critics and fashion insiders. "Any actress who wore him would attract criticism," Steele says. "Anna Paquin was especially daring and fabulous to wear that dress on the red carpet, as it deviated so much from the convention."
Bullock also wore McQueen at the 41st NAACP Image Awards on Feb. 26, just weeks after the designer was found dead, an apparent suicide, on Feb. 11. But for Sunday's Academy Awards, the question lingers: Which, if any, actresses will glide down the red carpet wearing McQueen? "The major coup for any actress going to the Oscars is to be in McQueen and preferably a seminal archival piece," says Cameron Silver, owner of Decades boutique. "For the intellectual fashion world, that's the ultimate in cool."
Steele predicts that someone will use the opportunity on Sunday's red carpet to wear McQueen and pay tribute to his legacy. If that happens, it will certainly be overwhelming, visually and emotionally, for his fans. But, Silver says, "It's got to be someone who can handle it fashion-wise. It's not like throwing on a Bill Blass. If someone does wear McQueen, it will be the most revered moment of fashion at the Oscars."