Has this been the dullest Oscar fashion put on show?
By Mao Shan Wang
I woke up early this morning to watch the Oscars red carpet live stream. Thirty minutes into the ABC presentation, I wondered why I bothered. There I was, in a singlet and pair of netball shorts from Sec 4, staring at my PC screen come not-quite alive with Kirsten Dunst looking like a matron. Her dress could have been something left behind by the Bling Ring after they realized they’ve robbed the wrong house. As stars after stars take their obligatory camera call in front of the over-branded photo wall, I soon realised that there was more variety and taste in my muesli.
Still, I persevered so that I could see who wore what.
Nothing is worse that arriving on the red carpet after hours of preening, and the first thing you encounter is the mirror. That, for some women, is pure horror, even if that is a genre the Academy rarely ever honours.
Poor Michelle Williams, the Louis Vuitton muse. I bet she left the choice of the dress to LV. And I bet she did not guess that a bi-coloured gown would be more bane than sane, nor that Emma Roberts would go to Armani Privé for a similar black and cream number. Even the evil step sisters wouldn’t wish this upon Cinderella.
Silhouettes are always important, and actresses—no fashion plates, really—are known to go for the safest. That is why it’s not surprising that Charlize Theron, even a Dior model, would aim for a sort-of-goddess shape that has also caught the eye of Scarlett Johansson. To be fair to Ms Theron, she looked a tad better in the Dior. Ms Johansson wore Azzedine Alaïa, and I must say I was surprised. You see, even an Alaïa can look nasty on a wrong body. I don’t understand the saggy armhole that from the front made Ms Johansson look like she was hoping to have the breasts of Mae West. Or was it Salma Hayek’s? I wonder if they knew that somewhere on that red carpet, screenwriter Allison Schroeder also looked like them. Okay, let’s not draw her dress to their attention.
Photos: (left) AP and (right) Getty Images
Red lace, too, is always a safe bet, so safe that another actress might have the same thought. Perhaps Ruth Negga didn’t think of that. She’s been busy playing the fashion star of the award season, so it’s not surprising that she did not consider the possibility that another actress would upstage her at the Oscars. Until Ginnifer Goodwin arrives in Zuhair Murad, proving that Valentino isn’t the only go-to designer for some sheer and lace, and lots of red. Why any woman wants to look like they’ve emerged from the carpet really beats me.
Curvy women like big skirts, spread out from the natural waist. If the shape of the skirt isn’t large enough to draw the viewer’s attention, then add surface ornamentation such as feathers or lace or embroidery. Octavia Spencer and Ava Duvernay are perhaps soul sisters, but surely they did not wish to look like mother doves from the same tree?
The Confectioner’s Delight
The tendency to show off is never weak on the red carpet. Sometimes you need the boast to play up something you do not have, such as innate style. Your best chance then is to seek inspiration from the baker of wedding cakes. You’ll be the centre of attraction, waiting to be sliced.
Janelle Monae is an attractive woman, which means she could have offered more with less, but she chose a lot more—an Elie Saab overload. I can understand the desire for embellishment and exaggerated shape on a night like this, but surely all that boob show, embroidered birds, excessive frills are quite enough, even when together they are the stew that won’t sell. But add that pannier and you’re definitely in prom-queen-thinking-she’s-Marie-Antoinette territory. As for the black, have you not heard of charcoal cake?
Although it was reported that Los Angeles was cooler than usual, it was still ideal weather to show that you know spring is near. But, in the case of British actress Cynthia Erivo, she looked like she had just emerged from a flower bath that had tar for water. The dress, by Australian label Paolo Sebastian, appeared to be splattered with flowers, leaves, curlicues, and lattice cutouts from some fey decorator’s garden. Since we’re on the topic of baking, we remember that most cakes decorated with all-over flowers are made of butter cream. Yes, the topping that, after more than a mouthful, is very jelak.
The Fichu And Other Evening Standards
Websites from E! to Elle enjoy trendspotting on Oscar night. Trend—by a simple definition—could mean what is popularly worn, and not on one night, but on those other nights of an annual event. So trends are easy to spot. Unsurprisingly, so many Oscar attendees are on trend.
The one-shoulder of Halle Berry’s Versace gown is, or course, a standard. But what exasperates is not knowing which direction that sheer fabric emerging from the shoulder plans to flow. But perhaps that is less bothersome than her hair. I heard that she decided to go natural this year rather than getting her locks meet Tangle Teezer. But, seriously, a bird’s nest kept by a swiftlet with poor housekeeping skill is never a good do.
The sweetheart neckline is always a safe bet, but one that looks like an outline of shrinking Playboy Bunny ears? Brie Larson chose this Oscar de la Renta to show that it’s alright to salute a certain mascot on Oscar night. The only thing is: the cotton tail has transmogrified into a swirl of black flounces that looks like oversized pencil shavings. Mind you, discards for the red carpet are eco-friendly.
Okay, we know you have a near-backless dress, but do you really have to put chin to shoulder to pose? They don’t even do that on RuPaul’s Drag Race! Or was that a way to create a small ‘i’ with the rest of your just-as-bare arm? Or perhaps that was to draw attention to the withered flowers cascading down your discernible rear? Hailee Steinfeld in Ralph and Russo, as a 20-year-old Oscar veteran, you’re forgiven.
Photo: Getty Images
So this is what it looks like when Meryl Streep ditched Chanel for Elie Saab. Quarrels never end well. Or, as Jimmy Kimmel wondered, “Is that an Ivanka?”
The White That Is Not A Bride
They love white on Oscar night, presumably for the suggestion of purity the non-colour affords. Sure, a pure actress is always more appealing than a slutty one. Still, white isn’t always a vision of wholesomeness, not when it has the same appeal as hotel towels.
I am thrilled that a Raf Simons outfit made it to the Oscar red carpet, albeit in the form of a Calvin Klein dress. Naomi Harris stepped onto the red carpet in a bustier dress by the new guy in charge that made her look she just stepped out of a shower. As she stood for the cameras to feast on her, I really thought that the dress was made while she was having a shoot in a photo studio, and the only material available was the background paper. Unfortunate girl.
So who says a bustier bodice cannot look like the back of a chair made from auntie Elsie’s quilt? Priyanka Chopra, in Ralph and Russo, showed what Hussein Chalayan always knew: a dress can be transformed from a piece of furniture. If it needs to be more convincing, use a quilted fabric. The Chesterfield can have a mate.
The Metallic Shimmer
The fashion police has been quick to identify all the gold (and attendant metallic) dresses a trend of the night. Gold is gorgeous, but as it is often pointed out to me, all that shines is not necessarily gold. It could be champagne, which, as we all know, very quickly becomes flat.
I always pay attention to Nicole Kidman, not because she’s an Oscar regular, but because she did look good in that chartreuse Dior Couture (by John Galliano) dress in 1997, exactly 20 years ago. And I am hoping that could be repeated. Is there a red carpet equivalent of a one-hit wonder? In Armani Privé, Mr Kidman looks lovely, but lovely does not red carpet fashion make. Lovely is easily lost… and forgotten.
For someone who could not dance in a musical for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Emma Stone wore a Givenchy dress that made her look like she was about to break into the Charleston. Or, maybe that, too, would be difficult for her. There’s nothing wrong with the dress, of course. It’s all good for Ms Stone to reign as the American sweetheart everyone loves.
Sofia Boutella wore Chanel. I am sure Karl Lagerfeld did not mean for her to go as a sequinned paintbrush. But who really knows?