Natalie Portman 84th Annual Academy Awards (Oscars) held at the Kodak Theatre - Arrivals Los Angeles, California - 26.02.12 **Not available for publication in Germany. Available for publication in the rest of the world** Mandatory Credit: Ian Wilson/


We were shooting accessories,  so I didn’t bother about my underwear.

The studio was big, empty and windowless.  A corner was curtained off by a few meters of thin brown stuff, half concealing a shelf, a chair, a mirror, a hair-stylist, a manicurist and a makeup artist.

Half way down the room was the clothes rail and, at the other end, a table laden with bags, scarves, brooches and earrings; beneath the table, rows of shoes.

It was like a Lost Property Office; the shoes jumbled heel to toe; the clothes squashed together like reduced items in a charity shop.

‘How many models for this shoot?’ I ask. Two men straighten up from fiddling with cameras and a lap-top. ‘Only you.’

The dressers are kind and polite. Seeing my M&S slip, they say, ‘what a beautiful slip, where did you get it?’

‘From M&S,’ I answer, uncertain whether I am scoring a point or going to the bottom of the class

To step out of one’s M&S/Mail Order kit and into (or have gently lowered over one’s head) something as beautiful, as finely textured, and as subtle or vivid in colour, as a designer dress is surreal. I try to forget the book about the charlady who wins a prize and spends it on a couture gown before realising how grotesque she looks in it.

It is a long day; from 9.00am to 5.30pm we move up through Chanel Bouclé suits and various other rather odd, but definitely classy confections (the right word, given the frills and boiled sweet colours).

After lunch, I hang on to a shoulder and slip my bare feet into a pair of cream Jimmy Choo’s, then into black Ferragamo’s.  I am clothed, beguiled and bedazzled in turn by Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Valentino and others I am too enthralled to ask about.


We reach the evening dresses, some plain and elegant, some sweetly demure, some seemingly impossible to wear till I am eased and squeezed and bent into bits in order to fit them.Then there are the low-cut, red carpet gowns. All my straps must go. I daren’t ask if this lack of support will spoil the look of the dresses.  I hold my tongue and do what I am told.  Photography is magic and I put my trust in it.

And the Dior? It is scarlet with a long full skirt of floating panels, delicate and transparent as cobwebs. The dressers kneel and drape it round my feet. The make-up artist rushes over and pats my lips. The hairstylist tweaks my hair. It is strapless. This is not a dress; this is most definitely a gown, and it is to die for.