Redefining Red Carpet Fashion: Sharon Stone's Unforgettable Oscar Moment

Redefining Red Carpet Fashion: Sharon Stone's Unforgettable Oscar Moment
Image credit: Legion-Media

A Gap shirt and a Vera Wang skirt — here’s why Sharon Stone's Oscar look was a revolution.

Sharon Stone's appearance at the 1998 Oscars is remembered for one of the most striking and controversial red carpet looks, along with Bjork's swan dress and Celine Dion's backward suit.

It might seem that Stone's seemingly traditional combo doesn't have much in common with the other stars' crazy outfits — and yet, it's no less avant-garde than the other looks. Here's why Sharon Stone's appearance revolutionized the red carpet fashion.

Today, even the most formal events become increasingly democratic in terms of their style code. Perhaps you can't show up at the Cannes Film Festival without high heels, but at Oscar Awards, you can wear sneakers, last year's dress, and no special hairdo — just think of Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand's looks at this year's ceremony. Twenty-three years ago, that was simply unthinkable.

The dress code at the awards night was about as strict as for a royal reception, and no liberties were allowed. Of course, stars weren't kicked out from the ceremony, but they were criticized in the press for their fashion misconduct — and, back in the day, celebrities did worry about those things. This fate befell Sharon Stone.

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You may wonder, why was the Basic Instinct star shamed for her incredibly elegant but otherwise perfectly normal look at the 1998 Oscars? At the ceremony, she wore a simple white shirt and a beautiful Vera Wang lavender skirt — a combo that's considered classic by today's standards. In the contemporary fashion world, Valentino, Chanel, Prada, and Miu Miu readily combine T-shirts, shirts, and turtlenecks with evening skirts, and the result often looks more effective than any pompous formal gown.

But back in the 1990s, the mix-and-match principle was only just emerging in fashion, and the luxury and mass-market segments almost never mixed — especially on the red carpet.

Sharon could perhaps avoid the criticism if she wore a shirt by Versace or Vera Wang to match her skirt. But the actress chose the simplest garment by Gap from her then-husband's wardrobe.

Surprisingly, the iconic gown was on Sharon Stone's mind for a couple of years before the ceremony. In 1996, she planned to go to the Oscars wearing a Vera Wang evening gown, but the courier delivering the dress dropped the box off from the trunk and drove over it. The outfit was ruined, so the actress enlisted the aid of Ellen Mirojnick, the Basic Instinct costume designer: they rummaged through the actress' wardrobe and put together a stunning look made of a Valentino skirt, an Armani jacket and… a Gap turtleneck. That worked, so Stone decided to try and repeat the trick again in 1998.

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And though, at the time, her choice wasn't appreciated by some fashionistas, it appears fresh and stylish even today — unlike many stars' outfits from the 90s.