Oscar Undressed

The Starmaking Machinery Behind the Popular Gown

Once the free dress and the borrowed jewels have been lined up, it's time for the shoes. Stuart Weitzman, who is also set up at L'Ermitage this week, has upwards of 3000 pairs of shoes in his Beverly Hills shop, a store he'll be keeping open 24 hours before the big night. Twenty-four hours, Stuart? "We almost have no choice. The shoes are dependent on the clothing, and that takes up the actresses' normal hours. We're on call like a doctor. Three thousand pairs won't be enough. We'll always be missing something that they need." More prescient stylists, aware of their clients' shoe requirements, will stop by Weitzman's suite at L'Ermitage, where he'll have 100 samples they can paw over. Whichever ones they pick, "They don't pay for wearing them, and we don't pay them to wear them, either. We might thank them in a cute way, like with shoe candy, or a shoe teapot at Christmas."

Illustrations: Jorge Colombo

Last year a couple of what Weitzman called "established" actresses—Judi Dench and Lynn Redgrave—asked him to design some reasonably comfortable but attractive shoes for Oscar night. "I had three weeks to design something with a two-inch instead of four-inch heel." Sometimes a shoe is so precious only one actress gets to wear it, as was the case of the totally clear Cinderella sandal made of transparent Plexiglas that Minnie Driver donned a few years back. "They didn't have even one screw! We used high-tech microwave adhesion, absolutely great!" Eventually Weitzman gave a pair each to Julie Moran and Mary Hart, hostesses of Entertainment Tonight. "All they did was change toenail color—very sexy." Still, even a fun, seemingly noncontroversial subject like party shoes can be fraught with anxiety. "I have yet to meet the actress who picks her own shoes," Weitzman says. "The stylists tell them what's best. We get the impression that these ladies are the best at looking best, but all of them rely on this guy or gal almost completely."

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