The theft of a $150,000 pearl-covered gown worn by Lupita Nyong’o at the Oscars doesn’t surprise Hollywood stylists who have personally experienced the seedy side of red carpet fashion.
Style expert and fashion commentator Mary Alice Stephenson has for years heard stories about similar stolen celebrity items.
“It’s not shocking to me that this would be taken out of her hotel room,” said Stephenson, who once had a nabbed Fendi bag held for ransom.
A dress like the custom ivory one designed by Francisco Costa for the Calvin Klein Collection could fetch a lot of money on the black market, Stephenson said.
“There are a lot of collectors out there who are very private and have private collections of stolen merchandise,” she said. “Some of these dresses have global fame as big as any Van Gogh.”
However, Los Angeles Auction House director Bryan Abbott noted that the black market would be problematic for fetching top dollar in this case.
“Celebrity-related material has additional value because it’s related to the celebrity,” he said. “If this was stolen, you wouldn’t be able to realize that additional value.”
“I can’t think of a harder thing to sell than a high-profile Oscar dress by a famous manufacturer that’s associated with a famous personality. You’d have to bury it for a hundred years,” he added.
The 6,000 disconnected pearls wouldn’t even be worth much on their own, Abbott said.
“Most pearls don’t have much of a resale value to start with, unless they’re from a famous manufacturer such as Mikimoto,” he said. “If the dress were made of Mikimoto pearls, it would be millions of dollars.”
Sheriff’s deputies responded to call late Wednesday from a West Hollywood hotel after the custom dress was reported missing from the hotel room of the actress, sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Bowman said.
Nyong’o was present when deputies took the report, but she wasn’t in her room when the elaborate gown was taken, Bowman said. Her publicists said they would not comment on the theft.
Representatives for the actress reported the theft. Detectives suspect the garment was taken sometime between 8 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff’s Lt. William Nash said.
Detectives were at the hotel Thursday looking for clues, including surveillance video that might reveal what happened.
Nyong’o won an Oscar in 2014 for her role in “Twelve Years a Slave” and was a presenter at Sunday’s ceremony.
The 31-year-old actress has become a darling of Hollywood’s red carpets in the past two years, with commenters and fans praising her fashion choices. She accessorized the dress with Chopard diamond drop earrings and three Chopard diamond rings.
Before the awards ceremony, Nyong’o told The Associated Press on the red carpet, “I’m just wearing my diamonds and pearls. My homage to Prince,” referring to a popular song by the musician.
Nyong’o told a reporter for Yahoo Style that she was involved in the design of the dress.
“We talked about it being fluid and liquid,” she told the site. “I wanted it to be an homage to the sea.”
A representative for Calvin Klein declined to comment. But late Thursday night, the fashion house did tweet a close-up photo of the dress, writing “have you seen this dress?” with the hashtag “freethepearls.”