This study investigates the red-carpet phenomenon from a historical perspective, seeking to understand how the Academy Awards’ red-carpet became the most prominent fashion show in media culture. The connections between Hollywood and the fashion industry predate the inception of the ceremony, and so does the role of Hollywood actresses as trendsetters. However, this pseudo-event epitomizes precisely this liaison. This research focuses on several historical constellations to account for the influence of media shifts, the public relations dynamics of the event, the changes in the fashion and film industries, and the role of key players in the dissemination of fashion discourses in relation to Hollywood. By delving into archival sources, and tracing discourses of fashion, stardom, and celebrity surrounding Hollywood and the Oscars, this dissertation shows how the red-carpet gained such status, functioning today as a marquee for celebrity endorsement of high-end fashion brands.
This transdisciplinary study concludes that WWII marked a turning point in the history of the Academy Awards. The postwar culture was characterized by the power-shift towards television, the emergence of celebrity culture, the expansion of consumer culture, the reactivation of transatlantic trade, the growth of fashion journalism, and an increasing circulation of national and international designer names in the media. In this context, promotional practices that put Hollywood designers and stars at the forefront turned into an optimal platform for the proliferation of fashion discourses around the Oscars. This has been momentous for the conceptualization of the Oscarcast as a fashion show since its inception in 1953.