While Oscar season is one I annually await with bated breath for reasons both cinematic and sartorial, I cannot say I was particularly falling out of my seat with excitement in anticipation of last night’s Academy Awards ceremony. I found the last year in (American) film rather tepid. Despite Edward Lachman’s Edward-Hopper-redolent cinematography (Carol), regardless of the evocations of Degas (The Danish Girl), and even in spite of Emmanuel Lubezki’s virtuosic study in light and the elements (The Revenant), many of the films I did manage to bring myself to see culminated, to my mind, in less than the sum of their outstanding parts. I want to be moved by movies, be it to euphoria or to tears, yet I often left the theatre impressed by individual talents ( I’ve harped on it ad nauseam but that ice blue velvet cape in The Danish Girl will crush your heart), but sans a lasting impression made upon my mind.
I tuned in last night all the same, mostly for the captial-F Fashion, spurred on by the prospect of THE maestro Ennio Morricone’s first Oscar, and also to see how Chris Rock would handle the behemoth task of playing host and cultural critic. My response to that part of the evening is a resounding “meh”. The issue of Hollywood’s “diversity problem” was reduced, by the bunsen burner of a moment, into a black and white (in both senses of the phrase) parade of platitudes. Perhaps there is not enough time in a telecast to tackle the spectral nature of the matter and perhaps we are asking too much of one man in expecting him to please us all. So, I’ll leave that there, because let’s face it, you did not come here for cultural criticism, you came here to make sense of Whooi Goldberg’s gown.
Much to my misfortune, fashion was actually the best part of last night’s reverential shenaniganry: It’s much more fun (and a lot easier, to boot) to ponder why Zuhair Murad is insistent on revealing Chrissy Teigen’s vagina, than to pick apart why she exuded the romance of rose garden as she did last night in Marchesa, par example. But oh ye of little faith, be not dismayed, there are many frock infractions for us to drag the stars down to hellish earth about. Let’s get this show on the road, darlings:
Flashes of Ecstasy:
Alicia Vikander in Custom Louis Vuitton:
My mistress in the making, Ms. Alicia Vikander, has ossified her place in the firmament of movie STARS in this powder yellow Louis Vuitton bubble-hem dress. My loyality to creative director Nicolas Ghesquière aside, what’s not to love about this look? It is playful yet elegant; coquettish and yet sophisticated. The soupçon of silver sequins matched in tone by her dainty earrings are just the touch of intrigue need to turn this frock into a veritable gown. Th asymmetrical cumulonimbus coloud of a hem is a touch heaven itself. Brava!
Margot Robbie in Tom Ford:
We are accustomed to seeing Ms. Robbie in this sort of streamlined column gown and who can blame her? She carries off the look with such dexterity and poise. The texture of the gilded fabric and delicate pliage around the plunging neckline create points of interest to keep one’s mind from wandering. And, with so much dress, her style czar’s edict of minimal jewellery and bare-bones maquillage is the tasteful way to go indeed. To add sweet insult to the devastatingly beautiful injury of this look, it was paired with a velvet clutch whose cascading tassel simply says in its every sway, “Yaaaas bitch!“
Jennifer Lawrence in Dior:
I’m growing quite fond of JLaw’s stylist’s style, even if I can’t get behind the actress’ girl-next-door schtick. There is nothing plebeian about this look which is both edgy and ethereal. The nude illusion and deep V supply the sexy, tiered stygian lace brings the contrast of demureness, and her razor-sharp bob rounds it off with an air of easy modernity.
Rooney Mara in Givenchy:
In this reincarnation of her 2013 Met Costume Institute Gala dress Roonie Mara does what she does best: makes art of alabaster. The muted grey lace is a complement to her otherworldliness in a manner that someone less extraterrestiral could never pull off. The gradients of opacity created in the detailing make for a sexy dress that is anything but vulgar. In the art of juxtapositon, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci is an old maseter: just look at how the pragmatic sleeve cuff is paired with the quixotic ruffle hem; note how the straight-laced crew neck is pit against refined diamond cutout. This is the mind of a tight-rope walker at work! And so, it is only fitting that the paradox continue in the severity of her coiffure (my favourite of the variations on a the theme she has been wearing all season) and colour of her lip. She’s a sprite to quench one’s thirst in a forest parched by uninventive fashion.
Mindy Kaling in Elizabeth Kennedy:
Dare I say Mindy Kaling has never looked better? Let us willfully ignore the clutch and focus on just how delicious that proportion of black and blue is together. The flourish of the knotted train is all the oomph needed to sweep the look out of the terrain of mundane and into the stratosphere of magnificent! (Don’t give me the side eye if you see me sporting a similar cape at a Whole Foods Market near you).
Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein:
Welcome back, Francisco Costa! Now this is what I am talking about. After serving us unforgivable swimwear that drowned my belief in him with Oscar-winner Brie Larson’s 2016 Golden Globe look, Costa returns to his winning formula: clean lines married to audacious fabric. I am especially mesmerized by the turbulent flow of the emerald sequins: a starry night fit for a star, if you will. The choice to go bare-wristed, the wispy blonde tresses and matching drop earrings are all indicators of a style team who are working with mathematical accuracy.
Noami Watts in Armani Privé and Bulgari Necklace:
Here’s a dress that actually photographs more poorly than it looked in motion and still, it is quite pretty in the way that molten metal is. The true MVP here, however, is the Bulgari necklace that crowns Ms. Watts’ suprasternal notch: O.PU.LENCE.
Cate Blanchett in Armani Privé:
My wife, Cate, and I received many congratulatory messages this morning. “Your wife looked great,” texted on friend, adding, “but she would look great in a bin bag.” “Your Cate Blanchett in Armani last night kilt it,” Facebook messaged another. Thank you, thank you. We live for the applause applause applause. I told her this fresh mint would be a dream on her and I am glad she listened. Perhaps my favourite thing about Ms. Blanchett’s doctorate-level dress wearing ability is that the dress never wears her. This Armani number (which, let’s face it, is quite referential to the Armani she won the Oscar for Blue Jasmin in) would overpower less astute dressers. But when Cate Blanchett wears a confection which is about as subtle as my sentences are short, and whose asymmetry is achieved by varying the height of its shoulder appliqués, you say to yourself , “yes, this is poetry in a dress”; you don’t mistake it for broken syntax and a poor command of sartorial language. Well done, wife. You’ve yet to let me down, frou frou flowers and all.
Heidi Klum in God Knows What
Here’s a dress is dire want of an editor. Who knew purple prose could be rendered in tulle? Ms. Klum should actually be futher down this list, amongst the souls that caused me torment last night, but I’ve placed her here as an example of why we we all need to heed Madame Chanel’s advice to “Look in the mirror and take one thing off ” before you leave the house. (Or in this former model’s case, three of four things). Let’s reimagine the monstrousity without the bishop sleeve and strip off the garden on her chest and waist in our mind’s eye. What remains would have been beautiful striation and sensual detail, unmarred by a childlike inclination to “do the most”. Instead, we are forced to abide cheap wedding drapery and the entire bridal party’s floral accouterments all on one person’s frame. Heidi, you “coulda been a contendah…” But, the road to hell, as they say…
Chrissy Teigen in Marchesa
I applaud Chrissy Teigen for breaking half of her mold and deploying only one out of the two staples of her arsenal: the bling. She looks quite lovely. The hair is a bit of a mystery to me though, but we aren’t meant to understand everything.
Olivia Munn in Stella McCartney:
I should actually move this look to the section above. I have no quibbles (as long as the fabric of this tangerine column is not stretch jersey– it is difficult to say– which has no place on any carpet, much less a red one). She looks perfect.
Rachel McAdams in August Getty:
You know it’s a new day when even Rachel McAdams is giving us something fresh and unexpected to talk about. A very Muiccia Pradaësque silhouette, whose simplicity is its triumph, and a colour of such sexy, sotto voce gravitas really come together to make this look sing. But the only way to get to a red carpet event in silk charmeuse, apparently, is to walk, darling. No fault of hers but , sadly, the wrinkles across her hip interrupt what would have been mellifluous magic.
Jennifer Garner in Versace:
Torrents of Torment:
Whoppi Goldberg in Danes of New York
Now. What are we doing shopping in The Colour Purple costume closet,
Ms. Cealie Ms. Goldberg? See, ugly chic might be a movement but this dress is not quite ugly enough to be considered chic, and well it’s just not chic enough to get away with being ugly. I love you, Whoopi, I really do. I so respect your brand of irreverence but the LA Philharmonic chorus called about a missing dress and I am giving you the side-eye on this one. (P.S. You were dead wrong for telling Harpo to beat her!)
Lady Gaga In Brandon Maxwell:
When Lady Gaga’s stylist, Brandon Maxwell, took to designing clothes, his first collection intimated that things would go one of two ways: either in the direction of the structural brilliance of the Toni Maticevskis and Ashi Studios of the world or in the cartoonish lane of a Pixar story board. You be the judge.
Kerry Washington in Atelier Versace:
Brie Larson in Gucci:
Listen, ultimately the beauty of a dress is a Stendhalian rather than Platonic determination, that is to say: “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder” and there is not set parameter blah blah blah… Or, as Stendhal put it: “Beauty is the promise of happiness.” If this dress makes last night’s deserving Best Actress winner, and even my trusted and beloved Guncles, Tom & Lorenzo, happy, so be it. But to my untrained eye, this is nothing but a sad disaster. A disaster with which my delicate heart refuses to believe a maestro like Allesandro Michele had anything to do. From the awkward width of the bodice triangles, to ruffles that might have worked in isolation, to the inclusion of a belt that on its own is a work of art but in conjunction with everything else seems overwrought, je n’approve pas. Colour is the gown’s only shot at redemption and the perfection of her makeup is her saving grace. But this farrago of ideas in one dress is heresy.
Jennifer Jason Leigh in Marchesa:
Best Dressed Woman Not At The Oscars:
Diane Kruger in Reem Acra:
I know Riccardo Tisci must be mad. How did Reem Acra –not exactly your most envelope-pushing house of needle and thread– beat him at the game he started? (See Cate Blanchett’s Golden Globe gown). Now, you know, I am damn tired of naked as the new black, but if there is a way to execute the nude excess to which the worshippers of Zuhair Murad strive, this.is.it. This is how you throw in the kitchen sink, with water still running and not disturb the balance of the universe. I’m not sure if we’ve already conferred the PhD of Dressing upon Ms. Kruger but someone call the provost. And someone get her to teach a seminar: The Minimalistic Agglomeration of Fringe, Jewels and Nakedness in the Kruger Context. Kareem Khubchandani, can we cross-list with your department? You are welcome!
That’s it for Red Carpet season, folks. See you at the Met Ball. And thanks for sitting through my armchair critiquing.