Culture Trips

Bjork’s swan dress: A reviled Oscars outfit that’s now iconic

If Billy Porter’s theatrical looks recall the spirit of Björk’s egg-laying Oscar appearance, it’s no coincidence – his stylist, Sam Ratelle, cites the swan dress as a huge influence. “It’s one of the first fashion moments that I ever experienced that left a mark in me,” he tells BBC Culture. “I grew up in a religious cult called Branhamism, and I wasn’t allowed to watch television or have any sort of media. No internet, no cell phone, no tabloids or magazines. But I did go to public school, and I just remember everybody at school freaking out about the dress.”

Though it would be many years before he was working in fashion himself, Ratelle says the dress taught him a valuable lesson about the importance of first impressions. “If you’re going to go to a massive event like that, the best way to get attention and have people talking about you is by saying something with what you’re wearing. It also really taught me that the people that break barriers and don’t go with what everybody else is doing, they are the ones that are iconic.”

Due to Covid, the past year has seen awards ceremonies – and the red carpet – largely played out virtually. Some celebrities have taken this as a cue to dress down – see Jodie Foster in her pyjamas for  the Golden Globes. But others, perhaps due to a pent-up desire for glamour, have taken a few more fashion risks than they might usually. For the Golden Globes, Rosamund Pike donned a red Molly Goddard dress with combat boots. The Crown’s Emma Corrin wore a Pierrot clown-inspired gown by Miu Miu. For the SAG awards, Leslie Odom Jr wore a technicolour Berluti suit while Kerry Washington posed in a pool in a custom Etro dress and matching sparkling swimming cap.

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