The Best-Dressed Actresses in Hollywood
The month of September was dedicated to fashion at Movieline. In the 1996 “Style” issue, Diane Clehane made a list of the best-dressed actresses in Hollywood. The list originally included ten actresses, but apparently only seven made it to the archives. So I’m guessing Nicole Kidman, who is referenced more than once, and two others are lost to the internet.
Frankly, we usually find it a lot more enlightening to study terribly dressed actresses, but in the interests of Hollywood’s new dedication to higher style, we have done our humanitarian duty and here present Movieline’s first-ever list of Tinseltown’s best-dressed actresses (in no particular order).
After her break-through role as an underwear-free bisexual novelist in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone single-handedly brought glamour back to Hollywood when she started showing up at award ceremonies dressed like an old-fashioned movie star in glitzy gowns by Vera Wang and Valentino. Stone is a confirmed clotheshorse (as well as a shoe fiend), but what sets her apart is her unrivaled ability to use her wardrobe to enhance her star power. This working-class girl from Meadville, Pennsylvania, has always been dedicated to the notion that glamour is good and, besides, it’s part of the job. Every outfit she wears is a mini-performance. Just a few short years ago, she was still experimenting with her image, showing up as Grace Kelly one night. Gloria Swanson the next. But she is never derivative; she puts her own stamp on everything she wears. This was never more evident than at this year’s Academy Awards, where she caused a sensation by leaving the low-cut, pastel couture dresses to the rest of the pack and opted for head-to-toe black, featuring a $22 Gap mock turtle-neck T-shirt with previously worn designer duds she claimed to have dug up from the bottom of her closet. The Gap quickly reissued their T-shirt and watched it fly out of stores across the country. Stone carries off her well-bred WASP look equally welt when the whole world isn’t watching. She tends to gravitate to clean-lined blazers (mostly by Valentino) and turtlenecks worn with trousers or jeans for less glitzy events, as when she presented Magic Johnson with AmFAR’s Award of Courage. It’s clear that Stone has tremendous influence over what she wears on screen, too. Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct looked and dressed like Sharon Stone in real life (that is, she looked like the real-life Sharon Stone who likes to look a little like Kim Novak occasionally). More recently, in Diabolique, she made a different kind of statement entirely by wearing outrageous chartreuse and animal skin numbers that seemed to parody her other seductress roles. It may not have made narrative sense, but watching her teach geometry in a black cocktail dress was probably the most interesting moment in the film. Stone was recently named to the International Best Dressed List for the second consecutive year by fashion industry honchos who consider her largely responsible for reviving– and in many ways redefining–Hollywood fashion. Now that she has entered the serious actress phase of her career, she is still using clothes to make her point. At the Golden Globes, where she won the statuette for Best Actress for Casino (in which she was a one-woman critique of ’70s fashion excess), she showed up in a strikingly simple Vera Wang tank dress in black and ivory, with almost no makeup, her hair tucked behind her ears, nothing but her Timex watch on her wrist, a cashmere sweater around her neck. The woman whose outfits get more ink than most other actresses’ movies has a way of looking like the reigning queen of glamour no matter how minimalist her sense of style gets.
Even at the early stages of her career, young Winona Ryder was wearing über-designers Chanel and Azzedine Alaïa with confidence and aplomb. It’s not easy having to grow up in front of the entire world, but the notably shy Ryder has done so with enormous style. She has consistently distinguished herself from the rest of young Hollywood by daring to lake great pains to create a look that is always both elegant and cutting edge. She doesn’t fall victim to trends of the moment (although she could probably carry them off), because she sticks with the looks that suit her (Are you listening, Alicia Silverstone?). Her delicate features and tiny frame give her a waifishly romantic quality that lets her wear vintage clothes better than anyone else–on and off the screen. The petite but buxom star adores the styles of the ’20s and ’40s and hunts down the real thing herself in her favorite vintage shops. Ryder may use hired guns on occasion, but she doesn’t need one to tell her how to look good. In fact, sometimes she’s ahead of the hardcore fashionistas. She was one of the first to resurrect Audrey Hepburn’s gamine look (capri pants, sunglasses, jacket, etc.) back in 1990, long before the fashion magazines christened it the next big thing. This year, well before various American fashion designers, including Anna Sui, showed Gatsby-like dresses as part of this fall’s collections, Ryder was already wearing the look at the Academy Awards. She went for all-out glamour in a flesh-colored beaded number from Badgley Mischka, those two soft-spoken guys from New York who make killer evening dresses. Ryder has carefully honed an image that allows us to imagine her setting styles and winning awards (including a permanent spot on Hollywood’s best-dressed list) for years to come.
The daughter of the preeminent American authority on Buddhism and a Scandinavian model who became a psychotherapist, Hollywood’s high princess of hip, Uma Thurman, has an exotic quality to her that comes through no matter what she wears. Thurman often seems like she just doesn’t care (although she has been spotted at New York fashion shows), and even so she ends up looking better than most of the celebrities who obviously do. While she was probably responsible for starting more fashion trends in one year than any other actress with her star turn in Pulp Fiction (Chanel’s “Vamp” nail polish that she wore in the film became an instant best-seller). Uma’s real-life style is laid-back and classic. She doesn’t do trendy. And she’s not one for fussy hairstyles or makeup, either. Her incandescent beauty makes even the simplest outfits glamorous. She does, however, know how to dress up, and when she does, she goes all the way. At 1995’s Academy Awards she officially ushered out fashion’s grunge era by wearing a lavender evening dress by Prada. Prada had been worn mostly by models and fashion editors before that Oscar night; now every-one from Madonna to Nicole Kidman wears Prada’s straitlaced, often puritan-like designs. At nearly 6′ in height, Thurman would make a fashion statement of one sort or another no matter what she wore. Luckily, when she gets down to the business of decorating all those inches, she sets herself apart from the Gen-Xers who worship her.
Kelly Preston dresses like a ’90s version of Holly Golightly. The high-maintenance, young Beverly Hills matron look is one she has mastered to perfection (not without a great deal of practice). She clearly loves clothes and knows how to have fun with them while still looking–most of the time–quite polished and patrician. Can’t you just see Preston, a la Eva Gabor in “Green Acres,” come home to husband John Travolta, arms laden with shopping bags from Rodeo Drive, and him smiling indulgently while she models dress after dress? Marrying Travolta proved to be a seminal fashion moment in Preston’s life. She left the aspiring, undistinguished starlet/girlfriend of George Clooney and Charlie Sheen behind and became a hip Hollywood wife who wears clothes by Vera Wang (who did her wedding dress), Badgley Mischka and Gianni Versace. She has, over lime, become more sure of herself, and it shows. Now she pulls out all the stops for important evenings–the Belle de Jour hair, elbow-length gloves and, of course, diamonds. But while someone like Mira Sorvino looks like she’s playing dress-up in this intensely glamorous couture, Preston looks modern and fresh. Her girl-next-door looks soften up the diva dresses she frequently favors, and when she goes with understated gowns, her no-rough-edges blondeness make her look like she was born a Rockefeller. Like Nicole Kidman, Preston’s even more glamorous when she appears with her husband, both dressed to the nines. That’s what we call accessorizing.
Let’s face it. Michelle Pfeiffer probably looked great back in Orange County in her supermarket smock. She is arguably the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. Why then has she made herself a walking billboard for Armani? Well, why not? The drama of Pfeiffers presence resides in her face, not her personality, and Armani’s somber hues and magical tailoring tend to look stunning on her because they throw attention toward that pale, exotic face. It’s no surprise that Pfeiffer favors monochromatic suits (black is a favorite), serious tweeds, sleek hair and low-key makeup. On anybody else this would be boring; on her it’s unfailingly elegant. One look at the fashion industry bible, Women’s Wear Daily, the day after a big premiere and it’s obvious that few of the flock of actresses who wear Giorgio Armani manage to look nearly as alluring as Pfeiffer. Except maybe for Richard Gere in American Gigolo, she’s the best thing that has happened to the designer. She’s even more of a stunner when she does show a little skin (shoulders and arms, mostly), but she doesn’t have to bare anything at all to look dazzling. Notoriously private, Pfeiffer uses her antiflamboyant, often androgynous clothes to avoid disclosing anything about her personal life, and the result is that she retains an air of sultry mystery. She seldom turns the volume up, unless she’s on the big screen. If you doubt that she can bring off a totally sexed up, sizzling look, glance again at her “Makin’ Whoopee” number from The Fabulous Baker Boys–or any of her in-costume scenes in Batman Returns.
As the only woman on this list that is an actress-slash-model, Elizabeth Hurley‘s got a well-toned leg up on the competition when it comes to knowing what becomes her. She wears them all, from Chanel to Gucci, long white shirt hanging down, and long, straight ’70s hair. Kidman can also go down the middle of the road. A less self-possessed actress would have certainly looked ridiculous rather than fetching in the straw hat and flowing floral-print dress she chose to wear when her husband got his star on the Walk of Fame. Kidman assumes all of her fashion incarnations with the same utter self-assurance that made her Mrs. Tom Cruise and a star. It’s precisely that confidence that made the intentionally hilarious candy-adored suits she wore in To Die For look like the latest fashion. Perhaps the greatest testament to Kidman’s high-powered style is the way it has affected her husband. He’s traded in an Irish yuppie, fresh-scrubbed look for a style that’s hipper and more complementary to hers. The transformation was fully evident at the Oscars, where Kidman was overheard proudly telling a friend that Cruise had planned on wearing something else to the ceremony, but she had convinced him instead to go with the designer of her dress (Prada).
You can tell from the clothes she wears that Teri Hatcher really wants to be a movie star. She’s not overly demure, and she’s not camera shy. In other words, she’s not the most frequently downloaded image on the World Wide Web for nothing. On screen in Heaven’s Prisoners, Hatcher proved she can make a fabulous femme fatale, and offscreen she plays up the same smoldering sensuality every chance she gets. The whippet-thin, size two actress has said her favorite outfit is a T-shirt and the Levis 501s she wore in high school (they still fit), but she has a real penchant for skinny gowns from Badgley Mischka. Hatcher is one of the few actresses who actually look comfortable when done up in high-octane glamour–not many stars could get away with the vampish satin gown with a Gilda-style train she wore to this year’s Golden Globe Awards. She tones it down for everyday dress with sportswear (that’s still body-conscious) from Calvin Klein and the J. Crew catalog. Hatcher obviously wields some influence on the wardrobe of her TV character. Not so coincidentally, as Hatcher’s star has risen, Lois Lane has gone from a prissy executive in ’80s-throw back power suits to a sexier, more confident woman with hipper hair, shorter skirts and chic suits that give new meaning to dressing for success. It’s really the public Hatcher who’s most appealing, though–glammy and willing, and absolutely unafraid of seeming eager.
Diane Clehane has written for The New York Times, Town & Country, and New York magazine. This is her first piece for Movieline.
Posted on September 16, 2016, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged elizabeth hurley, Kelly Preston, michelle pfeiffer, sharon stone, Teri Hatcher, Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.