The New Red Carpet Trend? Actresses Buying Their Own Dresses

We never thought we'd see the day: Both Edie Falco and Hayden Panettiere purchased their own Golden Globe gowns. Are the days of the designer short list behind us?
Hayden Panettiere, left, and Edie Falco
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

The whole red carpet discretion of major designers has reached major proportions. For the Globes this past weekend, if you noticed, every actress wore a different designer -- there were only a few overlaps. This was no accident: actresses and their stylists now want exclusives on their gown brands. Each designer's list of whom they want and will dress is getting shorter and shorter. Even actresses on major TV shows had trouble getting major designers to loan them next season's dress, we hear from insiders, which means they resort to less important designers. But one thing is clear: A main part of an actress' status is tied to how big a designer she can wear. Sad -- but true.

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What are these neglected actresses to do? Well, two from this past Globes weekend -- Nashville's Hayden Panettiere and Nurse Jackie's Edie Falco -- broke down and bought dresses by Tom Ford and Lanvin, respectively. They personally wanted to wear these designers (meanwhile, other, more A-list stars were dressed up by these labels). When asked about her Lanvin red silk gown with a bow at the neck, Falco said, "I went into Jeffrey on West 14th Street, talked to my personal shopper there and bought it. Why not? It's the least I can do."

Sure, why not, indeed. These actresses can afford these multi-thousand-dollar dresses a lot better than the rest of us can. But the dress Falco wore was from the fall 2013 collection, while all the actresses who borrowed or had clothes custom-made for the awards ceremony were wearing spring or pre-fall 2014. Being over 40 and not especially known for fashion, Falco would not be on the designers' A-list short lists. So she took matters into her own hands. No doubt, she had a great night and felt she looked great. She did.

Now, the Hayden Panettiere debacle is a whole other thing, and has garnered a bit of media attention. She and her stylist Tara Swennen approached the Tom Ford celebrity dressers as Hayden had a dream about wearing Tom Ford to this year's Globes. But the folks from Ford told her the designer had already committed to dressing one woman (who turned out to be Naomi Watts, looking amazing) and his policy is: he will only dress one woman per awards show. So Panettiere decided to simply buy the black-and-white Tom Ford halter gown from the fall 2013 season, still in some stores (and possibly on sale, too). Her stylist, whom Pret-a-Reporter spoke with on Sunday, tried to warn her that this was a bad idea -- Ford would tell the press it was not his idea, that she in fact purchased the dress. Her decision would make her seem -- shall we say -- non A-list. But Panettiere wouldn't change her mind; in fact, she fired the stylist three hours before she left for the Globes.

Panettiere told the red carpet TV hosts she was wearing Tom Ford, saying how much she admires him, and neglected to mention he hadn't made the dress for her. When it turned out that she wasn't on Ford's press release (which said he dressed Watts, Liev Schreiber and other men on the red carpet), people began to talk -- the truth came out and Panettiere was shamed for daring to purchase her own gown.

Despite the fashion drama, Ford responded like the consummate gentleman: He sent Panettiere flowers to thank her for her support, which she tweeted Tuesday.

But this begs the question: Is it wrong for an actress to purchase a red carpet dress? Several parties are making money on it -- the store and the designer. She gets the dress she wants. And the designer loses a little bit of control over his or her name and red carpet image. In a way, it was only a matter of time -- as the list of women the designers will dress is so narrow, they aren't left with much choice but to pick C- and D-level designers (who often make some very nice things, but don't have the "prestige factor"). 

The free dress mentality has been in effect since the early nineties. Perhaps this is the revenge of the actresses, finally -- doing what they want, for a change. It just comes at a cost -- the price tag.

Only in the world of celebrity red carpet dressing does purchasing one’s own gown lead to a scandal.

What do you think?

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