Pin It
Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Piers Brosnan
via YouTube (@oscars)

The Oscars needs to bring back its supermodel fashion show format

From Tyra Banks in Regency-era costumes and Tyson Beck in intergalactic spacesuits, the abandoned segment deserves a comeback

Every so often a video surfaces from the 1968 Oscars. In it, a hairy-toed actor from Planet of the Apes leaps from the auditorium, onto a lucite catwalk, and delivers some kind of improv dance performance – all jitterbug hands and janky hip movements. Decades before Angela Bassett “did the thing”, awards ceremonies were already thinking of weird and off-putting ways to entertain their audiences. The only difference between past and present is that people now speak about these cameos as if they’re (solely) an attempt to go viral, and not in fact part of a longstanding tradition within Hollywood ceremonies. 

That particular clip was part of a now-abandoned segment where the Academy would honour the year in costume design with a behemoth fashion show spectacle. When a Twitter user recently rediscovered some of those videos, the quote tweets were swamped with comments like “bring it back!” and “the way I now envy something I didn’t know existed!” Perhaps the most galvanising example of the axed format was when, in 1996, producers invited Tyra Banks and Tyson Beckford to walk down a catwalk flanked by fake journalists and photographers. Hosted by Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Pierce Brosnan, and staged at the height of the supermodel era, the segment brought fashion and film into rare unison – Sense and Sensibility gowns, Braveheart kilts, and 12 Monkeys spacesuits.

The same happened in 1978, when a phalanx of Stormtroopers piled onto stage with a stand-in Carrie Fisher draped in a hooded gown. And in 1985, when models sauntered through replica set pieces plucked from Amadeus and A Passage to India… before a real-life elephant handed the winner’s envelope over to the presenters. Lest we endorse animal cruelty – and the same goes for that tap-dancing ape – there is clearly an appetite for this kind of showboating. And given just how boring everything has become (The Oscars’ red carpet, for example, is now beige) it tracks that people would feel nostalgic for the berserk tricks of pop culture past. Plus, when the actual fashion on show at The Oscars leaves much to be desired, a simulacrum of a runway might just give people something to really celebrate.