As we enter Oscars season, here’s a chance to take a deep, luxurious dive into the history of red carpet fashion and fame. Dijanna Mulhearn’s Red Carpet Oscars chronicles the biggest celebrity event of the year from its beginnings in 1929, “a quiet black-tie dinner,” to the 94th edition in 2022, when the slap seen ’round the world overshadowed the dresses by a long shot. (That said, Mulhearn keeps her gaze steady and makes no mention of the debacle.)
Photographs offer an incredible parade of silver-screen talent throughout. Modern viewers may find the many black-and-white candids from the first three decades of Hollywood especially intriguing; I personally love the 1970s coverage, too. Mulhearn’s text helps tell the couture story, providing social context and a taste of each evening’s drama and the actors’ personalities. “[Joan] Fontaine’s black midi-length dress,” she writes, “felt mournful, possibly reflecting Fontaine’s mood as she imagined watching [Olivia] de Havilland snare the Oscar.” In sum, what we have here is a fascinating, particular angle on American culture.