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If you think any actress can score any kind of gown, you’ve been living under a rock in Calabasas. There’s a major pecking order, as proven when Hayden Panettiere wore a store-bought Tom Ford to the Golden Globes this year, and Ford disassociated himself by tweeting that he hadn’t personally dressed her. Every designer has their faves and shortlist, but it gets even shorter when it comes to couture, which means “one dress made for one woman.”
Couture gowns start at $50,000, and are all handmade by true couturiers. They are only shown in Paris and created by Dior, Valentino, Armani, Versace, Elie Saab, Chanel, Gucci, Givenchy and just a handful of others. Chinese star Fan Bingbing broke the mold in Cannes 2013, when she showed up — during the daytime! — to an event in Elie Saab couture (pictured above), but most every other fashion-loving actress has had to wait in line for her turn at any kind of couture.
Chastain has worn couture by Givenchy and Armani Prive — lots of it, as she has a strong relationship with the Armani teams in L.A. and Europe. Her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, procured her this purple Givenchy couture for Cannes 2013.
The 2012 Cannes jury member stunned crowds with never predictable nor overdressed style, all without a stylist. When she chooses couture, it’s usually by good friend Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, including this short dress worn after dark.
With stylist Leslie Fremar, she has risen to the top ranks: Tom Ford makes her one-of-a-kind dresses. After she wore a yellow Dior gown to the 2012Emmys, she ascended to evening couture by Chanel, Givenchy and more Dior at Cannes.
She has great relationships with most designers, but she doesn’t always choose couture. The late L’Wren Scott made her a number of one-of-a-kind dresses, as has Jean Paul Gaultier. At Cannes 2013, she donned this long lace Valentino.
She was dressed by Prada when she first appeared on the scene, but now Mulligan is spreading her wings. For the premiere of The Great Gatsby, she and stylist Ryan Hastings chose an oyster blush plunging Christian Dior Couture 2013.
Alexis Mabille is one of France’s best-kept secrets, a great couturier who isn’t well-known in the States. Bejo, living in Paris and known for wearing French labels, is the perfect person for him to dress. (He’s also dressed Zoe Saldana and other American stars.)
Wasikowska isn’t usually so formal, but her stylist, Ryan Hastings, has great relationships, and at Cannes in 2011, she donned this Valentino spring 2011 couture gown. Since Valentino is so ethereal, it was perfect for her.
A true fashionista and favorite of Prabal Gurung, Saldana can wear almost anything, but in Cannes for 2011, she turned heads in this “candy striper” red and white Armani Prive couture gown.
Being married to Francois-Henri Pinault has its perks: His company Kering owns Gucci, YSL, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta. But at Cannes, MadamePinault tends to go for Gucci Premiere couture gowns.
For the past several Cannes, avant-garde Paris designer Haider Ackermann has made most of BFF Swinton’s gowns to order. Ackermann is not technically a couturier by Paris terms — but he did create them for only her.
WEARS COUTURE, BUT NOT TO CANNES
A face of Dior, Lawrence wears the brand most of the time, including couture. But not to Cannes — perhaps she finds it a little too mature for her youthful image.
Cotillard wears Christian Dior most of the time, as she’s also a face of their ad campaign, but at Cannes 2013, she also wore Vivienne Westwood and other designers’ noncouture.
MIGHT GRADUATE TO COUTURE THIS YEAR
She’s almost too sexy for couture, but given that she’ll be at Cannes with boyfriend Ryan Gosling (she stars in his directorial debut, Lost River), we wouldn’t be surprised to see her procuring it now.
This story first appeared in the May 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.