Beyond Best Dressed Clip: Angeline Jolie, Two Ways
If you asked someone to name an iconic Angelia Jolie Oscar dress, you would probably get one of two answers. Even though Jolie has been to the Oscars many times…since she was a child and attending with her dad named Jon Voight in 1986 – there’s a pair of ensembles that have permeated the pop cultural landscape in a way that none of her other looks have. The first dates back to 2000, when she was nominated and won for her performance in girl interrupted. Jolie showed up in a tight black dress designed by Marc Bouwer, covering every inch of her body in fabric but leaving little to the imagination. Her hair was dyed almost black and lengthened with extensions. Most people compared her to Morticia Addams. Elvira could also work as a description.
Years later, there’s Jolie’s other most famous Oscar look. In 2000, Jolie looked malleable, her body sliding across the carpet and, notoriously, into her brother’s arms. She looked like she could wither if she wanted to, dissolve into liquid. Not so in 2012. Jolie arrived at Atelier Versace almost as if she had been cast in stone. She was the embodiment of sculpture. His head was straight, his arms strong and, of course, his right leg sticking out of a thigh-high slit. This leg became an immediate meme, affixed to all sorts of images, including the Statue of Liberty.
If Jolie in 2000 was all spontaneity, declaring to the shock of many how “in love” she was with her brother, Jolie in 2012 was practiced. She was no longer the goth girl who talked about wearing vials of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck. She was a director, activist and mother of children, biological and adopted, with Brad Pitt, the other the greatest living movie star. They were the king and queen of this place. And she looked majestic, almost waxy, like she must be in a museum.
Arguably, no star has changed more drastically during her time in the public eye than Angelina Jolie. When she rose to fame in the late 1990s, she was known for her unpredictability. She married Jonny Lee Miller in 1996 in rubber pants and a T-shirt with his name written on it in blood. A 1999 rolling stone profile opens with her showing off her tattoos and discussing her bisexuality. She was, yes, the daughter of a very famous actor, but she was as dangerous as few ingenues were.
His role in girl interrupted capitalized on it. Blonde-haired, she’s alluring as sociopathic rebel protagonist Winona Ryder meets in a mental hospital in 1967. Despite a cast of some of the most compelling actresses of her generation, like Lisa, Jolie is the most captivating on screen, naughty and teasing, but someone you can’t help but be attracted to.
Lisa was also the kind of person the public assumed Angelina Jolie was at the time: uninhibited, maybe a little unstable. And Angelina Jolie did nothing to dissuade people from this idea. On the red carpet, when asked by Tyra Banks how she “transformed” for the role, she replied “all those dark secrets. I went to a scary place and stayed there for a while. Which brings us to her Morticia Addams look. She looked like a harbinger of evil, not fame. One newspaper called the outfit “strange but memorable”; another called it a “victim of fashion.”
Her outfit was odd, but not outrageous. What has been outrageous was the fact that she seemed determined to profess her love for her brother, which culminated in a kiss at the vanity lounge party after the ceremony. In the photos from the event, it looked like they were kissing, which wasn’t really the case.
“Angelina had a reputation as a rebellious young actress, so I think the kiss was seen in the context of her being a bit of a wild child,” the Hollywood Life founder said. Bonnie Fuller said Restlessness for an oral history of that time. “Apparently it was a very quick kiss, which you can’t tell by looking at the photo.” The combination of the look and the kiss qualified Jolie as a blood-obsessed incestuous sexpot.
But Jolie quickly began to evolve her image. A year after winning the Oscars she became a UN goodwill ambassador. The following year, she adopted her first child, Maddox, from Cambodia, the country where she focused the majority of her humanitarian attention. His relationship with Pitt started as a gossip affair while he was still married to Jennifer Aniston, but by the time 2012 rolled around, it felt like a lot of ancient history. Pitt and Jolie weren’t married yet, but he had become the legal parent of her adoptive children, and they had three of their own together. She was slowing down her film appearances, moving into directing work. The previous year, she wrote and directed her first feature film, In the land of blood and honey. It didn’t make a mark at the Oscars, but it did earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
In some ways, the 2012 Oscars was her debut not as an actress, but as a filmmaker, striving to tell stories in war-torn lands. She later explained that she chose the Versace dress because it was more comfortable than her other option. It’s a curious reasoning because Jolie didn’t look very comfortable. She posed constantly. While “showing off your leg” can often be sexy, in this case it wasn’t. It almost seemed obligatory. Even naked, she felt protected. The position was less one of seduction than one of power, as if she could wield that leg at any time and step on your neck.
In 12 years, Jolie went from being a woman whose lack of a filter was one of her defining characteristics to someone who seemed to be all filter. She started out as a joker who would blurt out everything she thought, wearing an outfit that resembled every kid’s idea of someone scary. She ended up becoming a matron, fiercely protective of her image, never a hair, or a leg, out of place.