A lot of us have that cocktail dress, satin cape, or piece of diamond jewelry we pull out again and again for special events. As the years roll by, these pieces become our signature, a mainstay we depend on to make us look and feel our best.
Living legend Rita Moreno has a few of these for sure. And she rolled one out recently for the 90th Academy Awards. Moreno stunned attendees and fans by sashaying down the red carpet in her red-letter dress – the very one she wore to the Oscars almost 60 years ago.
Let’s rewind for a moment.
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The year is 1961. Rita is 30 years old when she stars in the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical West Side Story. She played Anita, which one would think would find her overshadowed by Natalie Wood’s starring role as Anita.
Rita was used to getting supporting roles in major productions. She had previously appeared in classic films like Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I, although she later admits she wasn’t really enamored by the film industry. In fact, by the time she filmed West Side, 30 was considered rather old for the caliber of dancing required.
Yet no one could argue that she really nailed it. So much so that she was nominated for and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress early the next year. She did so in a very fashion-forward black and gold garment designed and sewn in the Philippines, constructed mostly of obi fabric used to create kimonos.
Moreno’s 1962 win was a very big deal. As a native of Puerto Rico, she was the first Latina to ever win the award. Her shock at the honor was plain as she took the stage to accept the award, exclaiming, “I can’t believe it! Good Lord…I leave you with that,” before making a hasty exit.
Rita would go on to become one of the first performers to EGOT; that is, win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. She is one of only 12 people to achieve this.
Fast forward to 2018, and Rita reminds us how she won her O.
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Even more impressive than the fact that she still pulls it off at age 86, is the way she’s updated it. Gone is the dated satin boat neck in favor of a saucy strapless bodice. The turban headband and gold collar necklace smack of royalty, which at these ceremonies, she certainly is.
Rita recalls that in 1962, the Oscars didn’t feature a red carpet. How wonderful that after 56 years, the dress finally got its due.