Monday, June 11, 2018

The 2018 Tony Awards: Red Carpet Review

I watch a lot of awards shows, but the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart is, of course, the Tony Awards. I'm a huge theatre geek. I adore live theatre, I love to follow the careers of Broadway performers. I always check out the shows that are running in NYC, both Broadway and off-Broadway. And being a theatre performer myself, I have a deep appreciation for the subtle craft of performing in front of a live audience - over and over, 8 shows a week - and still keeping it fresh and new. So watching the red carpet for the Tonys is like watching a parade of friends.

This year's hosts were first-timers, Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban. Those names (and faces) are probably familiar even to the less theatre-savvy watcher. Groban was well known as a singer long before his Broadway debut, and Bareilles, as well as being a popular singer and songwriter, played Mary in the recent televised production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live! With 10 Grammy nominations between them plus a Tony nom for Groban last year, these two were clearly qualified to host.

Plus, they're fabulous.

Their opening number set the tone for the whole evening, which was truly a celebration of the Broadway community more than just the nominees and winners. Here are the beginning lyrics (transcribed by yours truly, so my apologies if there are any inaccuracies):
So it begins...these are the Tonys, the theatre tournament.
Find out who wins, who gets to go home with that glorious ornament.
We are your hosts, perfectly suited to be because - did you know?
Neither one of us has ever won anyything.
So let's take a moment for all of us, before all our winners shine bright.
Lest you forget, about 90% of us leave empty-handed tonight.
So this is for the people who lose!
'Cause both of us have been in your shoes!
This one's for the loser inside of you,
And this is for the people who don't get to take the trophy home.
Work so hard and you look so pretty,
Got your butt to Radio City.

It goes on, so watch the whole thing here if you missed it.

The two had a lovely chemistry and found a really nice balance of interspersing humor and background information with getting out of the way and letting the show do its thing.

But to circle back around to fashion, Bareilles had an impressive number of costume changes and a whole collection of fantastic outfits, starting with this stunning red carpet look.
I'm not generally a fan of ruffly tulle skirts, but the layers of increasingly larger ruffles paired with the gracefully layered silhouette really worked for me. The coppery bronze was a great color on her, and the snug bodice with plunging neckline was really flattering on her slight figure. The narrow black belt really made the whole look pop. A terrific start to what was to be a great series of looks.

For the opening number, Bareilles opted for a tux that mirrored Groban's look. Her slim-fitting cropped pants and low black corset added a touch of femininity and style, and worked really well for the two starting at the piano and then moving to center stage.

I was a bit less of a fan of this gold gown. The skirt was just a hair too clingy, and although I loved the petal-like shape of the cap sleeves and the pretty inset in the bodice cutout, the lower part of the bodice was too fitted to be bloused and too bloused to be fitted. Not a bad look, but not a great one. 

Sadly, I had to leave the room for a moment and missed these hilarious costumes. I'm not sure quite what the context was, but based on the rest of the ceremony, I'm sure it was funny and appropriately brief.

I really liked this red number. The way the skirt is fitted to the hip then magically becomes full and draped is just lovely, and I'm intrigued by the way the panel at the front of the bodice is gray rather than nude, so it's clearly not meant to look like plunging cleavage. It's a very simple and elegant look. 

I did catch this hilarious tribute to each other's Broadway shows, with Bareilles dressed as Groban's character, Pierre, from Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (complete with beard), and Groban dressed as Bareilles's character, Jenna, from Waitress (also complete with beard). Again, a mercifully brief and funny bit that really added to the levity and celebratory air of the night.

My favorite look of the night, however, was Bareilles' final dress, a black strapless cocktail dress covered with gold stars. It had a very retro 1950s prom feel to it, and like the whole evening, had an air of both elegance and fun.

But what about all the other stars? Whose look was award-worthy, and whose needed to get the hook? Let's go through the list, in alphabetical order.

Uzo Aduba can be hit or miss on the red carpet, but she really hit it out of the park in this golden yellow halter column. Not everyone could pull off this color, but it just makes her skin glow. I love the wrapped lines of the bodice, the not-too-deep slit, and the hem that perfectly brushes the carpet. Add on great shoes and fabulous chandelier earrings and this look deserves an award.

Kristen Anderson-Lopez (with husband and co-nominee Robert Lopez) was luminous in a deep purple wrapped gown with dark purple beading. The shape of the neckline and the slight gathering in the skirt made for a lovely silhouette that looked great on her, and the deep color set off her gorgeously shiny dark hair. She looked gorgeous and happy, and was just so fun to watch.

I'm not a huge fan of pantsuits on the red carpet, but Christine Baranski's actually wasn't bad. She's tall enough to pull off the severely squared-off shoulders and deep neckline, and the slight flare of the cropped pants was cute. I don't love the shoes (the line across the toe is very straight and makes her feet look like they're a weird shape) and I would have loved a small pop of color in the bag or some jewelry, but generally it's a pretty cute look.

The rose wall backdrop to the red carpet was not the best way to set off Rachel Brosnahan's pink floral dress, but I'm not sure a more neutral background could have saved it. Although the colors were pretty and the silhouette (other than the weird shoulder things) was good, the overall look was disproportionate and matronly. Giant floral prints aren't for everyone and they certainly don't work with every style of dress or with lumpy 3-dimensional added flowers. Maybe it was a good thing she faded into the backdrop.

Deborah Crowe, wife of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child star Jamie Parker, caught my eye on the red carpet with this beautifully structured silver dress. I love the narrow strips crossing the bodice and creating lovely lines down to the hips, I love the way the top is fitted, and I love the semi-sheer cascading skirt. She looks like a statue of a gorgeous Greek goddess, and the lovely rolled retro hairstyle and deep red lips are the perfect finishing touches. Who says you have to be a performer to stun on the red carpet?

Claire Danes is another celebrity whose red carpet fashions are very hit or miss, but her Tony look was a definite miss for me. The shiny animal print fabric could have had potential, but the clinging style paired with oddly-placed ruffles at the hip, a clownish-looking ruffled collar, and a skirt that was too full just didn't work at all. A few judicious snips of the scissors would have vastly improved this look. To be fair, she still looks gorgeous, she just looks like a gorgeous woman wearing an ugly dress.

Cynthia Erivo worked this black lace and fringe column. I'm not generally a fan of fringe, but the really long fringe on this gown worked almost like a sheer outer layer, giving a wonderful sense of movement without looking too flapper-ish. I loved the scalloped neckline and sheer lace sleeves, and the tiny puddle of train at the bottom was fabulous. Bonus points for her super-short and chic platinum 'do.

Although I didn't love the eyelash fabric at the hem of Tina Fey's skirt, her overall look was still a win for me. I loved the button-down front, the stand-up collar, and especially the detailing where the eyelash joined the skirt. Get rid of the foofiness and this look is perfect.

One of the most fun looks of the night came from Wayne Coyne (of the Flaming Lips) and Katy Weaver. Her adorable white dress was trimmed with bright aqua ribbon and multi-colored paint splotches, and his tux shirt had matching paint splotches. Bonus points for her sequined Spongebob bag. Best tie-in to a show of the night, as well as best couples' costume. I would love to own this dress.

Renee Fleming wore a vivid bubblegum-pink gown with long bell sleeves and a pretty flared skirt. The graceful lines and vivid color were eye-catching enough, and Fleming was wise to avoid fancy details and accessories. Simply lovely.

I did not love Tiffany Haddish's clingy silver jumpsuit. The high round neck and plain long sleeves were boring, and the pants were just a hair too long (and looked uncomfortably tight at the top). The fabric was pretty but didn't have enough visual interest to work with such a boring cut. She needed some kind of detail, like an elaborate hairstyle, or a plunging neckline, or amazing shoes to make this look pop. It's not horrible, it's just very ho-hum.

Nikki M. James used texture to make this simple gold empire-waist dress work. The simple silhouette, with its slightly curved v-neckline, wide straps and belt, and just barely flared skirt is simply stunning, but could have been boring without the sparkly, crinkly texture of the fabric. This is a really great look.

I'm not a big fan of the pink-and-orange combo that has appeared on the red carpet frequently of late, but the silhouette and structure of Taylor Louderman's gown is so perfect that it works for me. The smooth, perfect fit of the bodice, the width of the sash, the thigh-high slit, the beautiful soft trailing pink and orange sashes, all work together beautifully. I can't take my eyes off this dress. Well done!

When I first saw Tatiana Maslany's dress close up, I didn't really like it. The texture of the fabric looks amateurish and lumpy. But boy, take a step back and I adore this dress! I love the flared sleeves, the hint of red, white, and blue, even the sheerness of the skirt that's hidden by embellishments at the thigh. It's a great length for her and the overall silhouette is so flattering. Another really well-done look.

Another example of a very simple dress that absolutely works due to a single element, Katherine McPhee's black ballgown is a fairly standard design. Strapless with a bit of pleating at the bodice, very full skirt with a moderately long train, but I love the way the fabric at the waist and hips is pulled toward the front and embellished with tiny white flowers. The lines are graceful and interesting, and the dress fits her perfectly in a way that looks structured yet still comfortable. Another really nice look.

You can rarely go wrong with black and white, as Laurie Metcalf proves in this simple and elegant white column with wrapped off-the-shoulder bodice trimmed in black satin and accented with a long black satin sash trailing from the waist. She looked every inch the award winner that she is.

Carey Mulligan would look lovely in a potato sack, but I wish she'd worn something less matronly. The background color of her dress fades into nothing, and yet the yellow flowers manage to clash with it. The lines of the skirt aren't bad, but the high-necked, slightly blousy top with gathered sleeves is very aging and unflattering. Too bad she didn't bring back her pretty floral dress from the royal wedding.

Laura Osnes also rocked a bubblegum pink gown. Although I didn't love some of the individual elements, like the double puffs on the sleeves and the multiple ruffles wrapping the skirt, somehow it all worked together to create a pleasing silhouette.

Perhaps it was because this dress bears a remarkable resemblance to the dress I wore to my senior prom in 1986, but Condola Rashad's dress felt very dated to me. The off-the-shoulder neckline was low enough to appear in danger of slipping off, particularly given the weight of the ruffled sleeves, and the full skirt of the gown looked bulky and wrinkled, and didn't seem to hold its intended shape. This might have been a pretty gown on paper, but the execution fell short.

Lauren Ridloff's satin gown was quite pretty. I loved the flare of the skirt and the way the bodice was wrapped. At certain angles, the wrapping at the front appeared to not fit well and made her seem a little flat-chested, but it moved well and she looked lovely in it.

 Chita Rivera (with her daughter, Lisa Mordente), looked every bit the diva she is in a lovely red satin sleeveless gown with long lace over-jacket. I especially loved the asymmetrical neckline, chunky purse, and super-red lipstick. She's still got it.

Amy Schumer always look uncomfortable in her red carpet clothes, to me. Maybe it's her posture, but her red carpet photos never show her look to its best advantage. I did like the way the bodice fit her as she was seated and moving around in interviews, but something about the way the skirt flares isn't especially flattering on her. I'd love to see this dress in a more column style, possibly even a trumpet silhouette. But it did look better on the telecast than in this still photo.

Kerry Washington's outfit had some nice elements, but the look overall didn't work for me. Not many people can pull off pants with a train (exception: Emma Watson), and shiny, skin-tight, spangled pants are even more difficult. The waistline is a hair too high, the deep v-neck with side opening is a hair too Star Trek, and the pants are a hair too cropped. The basic concept might have worked with some minor changes, but as it is here, it doesn't work for me.

Ming-Na Wen, on the other hand, rocked the criss-cross bodice in this striking burgundy satin ballgown. Immaculately tailored, it moved beautifully and was perfectly proportioned. It's an eye-catching dress, yet somehow you still found yourself looking at the wearer and not just the dress. One of the best looks of the night.

And finally, Marissa Jaret Winokur wore a lovely bright aqua dress with huge elbow-length bell sleeves and a wide round neck that was adorable in its simplicity. It was almost too casual for the Tonys, but her great silver platform sandals and big curly hair gave it the air of fun that pervaded the entire evening.

Congratulations to the nominees, the winners, and most especially, "Here's to all the people who lose!" We were all winners last night.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Solo: A Fashion Story

I was very excited to see the new "Solo: A Star Wars Story" movie last weekend. Having grown up in the '70s and '80s, the original trilogy is near and dear to my heart, as are all the characters in it. So it was exciting to get to see a glimpse of the backstory of a few of them. And the best part of the decades-long wait since the original is that the crew members involved with the film are also people who grew up watching and loving the films and the characters. They GET it. The original Star Wars era was THEIR era. So I was particularly intrigued to read this article from and this one from, which include interviews with the costume designers of "Solo," discussing their inspirations for the costumes in the film - which, in my humble opinion, were extremely well done and true to the characters as well as the overall style of the film.

Now, if you haven't yet seen the film and want to remain completely pristine and unspoiled, you should probably stop reading right now. If you haven't seen it but you don't mind a few mild hints, go ahead and read on. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, although I will (out of necessity) include a few character descriptions and, of course, some photos. So if you're still with me, let's take a look!

Where else to begin than with Solo himself? In the original films, Han Solo (as played by Harrison Ford) wore a loose white shirt with a black vest and later a black canvas jacket, and in the most recent films he was seen sporting a similar cropped military-style black leather jacket.

In "Solo," the title character is portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich. At the beginning, the film is quite dark, in a very literal sense. Most of the clothing we see well into the story is blacks and browns and grays. So Han's cropped brown jacket with black yoke is worn over a black shirt rather than a white one, and paired with black pants. The jacket has a wonderful worn look to it: the leather is wrinkled at the elbows, the stand-up style collar has begun to wilt a bit at the front, the black yoke has a dusty look to it. This jacket - and presumably Han along with it - has seen some action. 

But let's look at another familiar character, whose style is completely different from Han's: Lando Calrissian. Portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the originals, Lando was flashy and colorful. He wore bright colors with fancy trims, and carefully coordinated accessories - including a collection of magnificent capes. 

Not surprisingly, the younger version of Lando, played by Donald Glover, also wears flashy colors and styles. In fact, Lando's flashy wardrobe is such a part of his character that we actually get to see his closet, full of brightly-colored shirts, an entire collection of capes, fur and leather coats, and accessories, accessories, accessories. 

This bright yellow shirt with its wide cuffs and black flap is eye-catching enough, but when you add a black cape with a stand-up collar and blue satin lining...this is a man who knows his sartorial stuff. One of my favorite details is a bit of an Easter egg: the print on Lando's black scarf is actually a still from the scene in A New Hope where Luke and Leia swing across the chasm in the Death Star. 

Now let's move on to some of the new characters, starting with Tobias Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson. 

Beckett is a kind of mercenary, out-for-himself outlaw, much like Han is at the beginning of A New Hope. His wardrobe is more cowboy than military, with a long loose hooded coat worn over a practical work shirt and a bandana-like scarf at his throat. The pale canvas coat blends with his sandy hair and beard and helps him fade into the background, which is very convenient when carrying out a stealth job.

Beckett's literal and figurative partner in crime is Val, played by Thandie Newton.

Val is pragmatic, tough, smart, suspicious, and fearless. Her clothing a designed for practicality and toughness. Like Han, the condition of her clothes prove that she's seen some adventures. She wears a harness with all kinds of tools and gadgets, so she's prepared for anything, and although she takes risks, her helmet, boots, and gear shows she doesn't take unnecessary chances. I love this little pop of rich burgundy at the neck, breaking up the stealthy black of the rest of her outfit. She may be practical, but she's still a woman with style. And yes, she has a cape.

So if Han is the hero, Beckett and Val are the gray areas (are they good guys, bad guys, or willing to side with whomever benefits them the most?), there must be a villain. Oh, but there is, and such a villain he is.

Played with magnificent panache by Paul Bettany, our first glimpse of Dryden Vos is [SPOILER ALERT!!!] as he is killing a subordinate with a glowing red bladed weapon. His face contorts in fury and the long scars running from his forehead down his cheeks darken to a deep red, then fade along with his fury into an even more frightening calm. Dryden's psychotic, murderous nature is all the more terrifying due to his elegant, cultured demeanor. His suits are perfectly tailored, with an open-necked white shirt under an impeccably-cut black suit completed with a single-shoulder cape that sweeps dramatically about as he moves (shades of Darth Vader, anyone?). His accessories include expensive jewelry. Clearly, this is not a man to be trifled with.

Another marvelous (and well-dressed) new character in this film is Emilia Clark's Qi'ra. I won't spoil her character with too much backstory other than to say that she is a love interest for Han, a friend from his youth who now has dangerous ties to Dryden. Qi'ra moves effortlessly from femme fatale to action hero. When Han first meets her after again after leaving Corellia, she is wearing a gorgeously sexy 1940s-inspired black gown reminiscent of Lauren Bacall or Rita Hayworth. The gown has simple flared sleeves and a plunging neckline that sets off a large gold necklace - which we later discover proclaims her ties to Dryden's syndicate. When she sets off with Han on their "mission" (avoiding spoilers!!), she changes to a more practical yet somehow equally sexy cropped, fitted tan jacket with fur lining, flared black leather skirt, and tall boots. Later, she adds a magnificent red cape with black yoke and collar (which she no doubt nicked from Lando's closet), giving her an impressive air of authority and nobility.

Another interesting comparison of the various characters comes with comparing their various fur coats, which nearly all the characters wear at some point or another.

Han leaves his fur coat open, because he's tough, and wears his gun belt over his coat, because he's also smart and wary. Lando's is noticeably better quality than Han's, and with its beautiful lines and artistically-placed zippers, it's clearly meant for both fashion and comfort. Qi'ra's coat is more like an elegant shrug  or capelet, with variegated colors of fur and graceful diagonal lines, still feminine and flattering despite its bulk. Val's coat is practical leather with just a hint of fur at the neck, likely both because she couldn't afford a full coat and because fur is too bulky for practicality. Beckett doesn't bother with fur at all, because he's Beckett and probably hasn't taken off that tan canvas coat in years. And Chewbacca, of course, has his own built-in fur coat.

As a costume designer myself, I love seeing how professional designers create and enhance characters using clothing and accessories, and in this case I think it was done extremely well. Kudos to the costume crew!

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