Getting Oscar Ready Without Breaking Your Budget

How To Two Friends shopping in cute boutique clothing store

When Jennifer Lawrence tripped up the stairs en route to collecting her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, she did so in a voluminous, ballerina-pink Dior Couture gown now reported to be the most expensive Academy Awards dress in the show’s history. Its value? A whopping $4 million when you factor in the endless brand exposure of her acceptance speech and frequently GIF-ed spill.

While Lawrence’s gown may be an extreme example, the cost of the typical Oscar dress can range between $5,000 and $15,000. If you are looking to get dressed up for a special occasion, whether it is a red carpet or an evening out, you don’t need to spend like a Hollywood star. Take a tip from these four frugal fashionistas who have made history by choosing gowns that weren’t just stylish, but also didn’t break the bank.

1. Mix high end with off the rack like Sharon Stone

No recap of Oscar’s most memorable fashion moments is complete without mention of Sharon Stone. The embodiment of high-low style, the star’s 1998 Academy Awards ensemble combined a lilac-hued Vera Wang skirt with a white GAP button-down. Even better? The shirt was plucked straight for her then-husband’s wardrobe giving new meaning to the phrase, “from humble beginnings spring great things.”

But this wasn’t Stone’s first foray into the world of prudent party wear. In 1996, she wowed onlookers by pairing an off-the-rack charcoal turtleneck GAP sweater with a Valentino trumpet skirt. The inspiration for this look? Stone’s pal Ellen DeGeneres, who suggested that she just wear something comfortable.

2. Think beyond designer like Helen Hunt

While Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar gown was breaking records, Helen Hunt was generating equal buzz for an entirely different reason. In 2013, the statuesque star stunned at Hollywood’s biggest event of the year wearing an eco-friendly, frugal frock from fast-fashion giant H&M. Everyone loves H&M for its trend-forward, inexpensive wardrobe staples and with a newly launched red carpet collection, Hunt herself declared the choice to be a “win, win, win.”

When asked how much the gown would cost in stores, H&M head of design, Ann-Sofie Johansson, estimated its price tag at around $650 — a far cry from the surrounding sea of Lanvin, Dior, and Valentino.

3. Consider second hand like Julia Roberts

Speaking of Valentino, the famed designer’s most iconic look may also be his least expensive one. Julia Roberts turned heads when receiving her Oscar for Erin Brockovich by opting for a 1982 vintage Valentino gown.

In skipping out on the couture craze, and opting for a second hand frock, Roberts defied Hollywood convention and made vintage the next big thing on the red carpet. Valentino later described that night as a highlight of his legendary career.

4. DIY like Joanne Woodward

Two weeks, $100, and some serious sewing skills earned Joanne Woodward a spot on this round-up. The acclaimed Oscar winner made waves more than 50 years ago by claiming her Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve in a home-sewn, emerald green gown that she designed herself.

Woodward said, “I worked on it for two weeks. I’m almost as proud of that dress as I am of my Oscar.” Considering that people are still talking about Woodward’s dress today, we’d say her style-over-spending approach was an award winning success.

While one of the many perks of stardom is not having to pay for your own clothing, unfortunately the rest of us do. However, that does not mean you need to sacrifice your own personal style.  The next time you’re headed for a night on the town, why not take inspiration from these sensible style icons and serve up some chic, cheap style of your own? And if you’re wondering what celebs will think up next, tune in to the 87th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, February 22.

Joanna Hughes is a lifestyle writer for all things fashion, finance and more.

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