41st Annual Academy Awards
Broadcast: April 14, 1969 (ABC)
This was not the first Oscar ceremony that Barbra Streisand attended. However, it was the first Academy Awards show for which she was nominated: for Best Actress for Funny Girl. Also in her category that year were Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter); Vanessa Redgrave (Isadora), Joanne Woodward (Rachel, Rachel); and Patricia Neal (The Subject was Roses).
Barbra chose a bold outfit to wear to the show, designed by Arnold Scaasi.
Scaasi wrote, “I did love the shiny black see-through effect, and as bell-bottoms were all the rage, I wondered why Barbra couldn't wear some kind of pants to the awards. It was a thought that kept germanating in my head.
“Barbra and I finally agreed on a sketch I had done, using the black net, clear-sequined see-through fabric. The bell-bottom trousers were exaggerated and had many godets flaring out widely from the knee down, almost giving the appearance of a trumpet-shape evening skirt when she stood still. The top was a straight overblouse of the sheer embroidered fabric with two patch pockets covering her breasts. It was finished with the basic white collar and cuffs and black satin bow at the neckline. There was nothing overtly sexual about the outfit. In fact, it was insouciant.”
In the 2014 Taschen Streisand book, photographer Steve Schapiro recalled Oscar night. “So, before the show, Elliott [Gould] shows up at her Paramount Studios dressing room in his tux. He was her date for the Oscars. I was on the lot shooting her for On a Clear Day and that night would be a really big moment for her. Everyone was there: the producer, Howard Koch, Sr.; her hairdresser; her publicist; and Arnold Scaasi [...] he loved working with Barbra, and she wanted something really young and modern for the night. She was only twenty-six, after all, so he came up with this outrageous bell-bottom sequined suit.
“[...] But from the back, the pants had a see-through effect even though they were lined. Everyone thought they were seeing her ass, including me, and I was right next to her!”
Below: The 1969 Oscar program, with the page for Best Actress nominees.
When the award for Best Actress was presented by Ingrid Bergman, the audience was surprised when she announced, “It's a tie!” Director Anthony Harvey accepted for Miss Hepburn, who also won, but was not present.
Scaasi died in 2015, and Barbra posted on her website: "I was very saddened to hear of Arnold Scaasi's passing. Arnold was a wonderful designer who knew how to combine fantasy and craftsmanship. He made many fabulous outfits for me over the years and unfortunately, only one of them stole the headlines. I had no idea when I wore it to receive the Academy Award that the outfit would become see-through under the lights! I was embarrassed but it sure was original at the time."