Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Fashion 2012

The red carpet fashions at the Academy Awards this year were, much like the awards ceremony itself, memorable only in being unmemorable. There were no over-the-top dresses, no cutting edge styles teetering between the ridiculous and the sublime. Where was Helena Bonham Carter in her mismatched shoes? Bjork with a fake dead swan draped around her neck? Lady Gaga in a dress made of bacon? Yes, there were some lovely fashions, but nothing that hasn’t been done before – and better, or at least more dramatically.

In fact, instead of merely rating the hits and misses as I did with the Golden Globes earlier in the year, I want to compare this year’s red carpet to red carpets of Oscars past, to remind us all of who did it before and who did it better.

 Showing Skin
There weren’t a lot of overly-revealing fashions this year, and Jennifer Lopez definitely was at the forefront of the double-stick tape contingent in this sartorial concoction, which could have been improved if the modesty panels on the shoulders didn’t keep wrinkling up like sagging pantyhose.

But when it comes to an avant garde, memorable showing of skin, the award definitely goes to Cher for her legendary Bob Mackie spiderweb gown from 1986.

Or, for sheer beauty and subtlety of showing skin, how about Halle Berry’s elegant 2002 peekaboo gown with the strategically placed hand-painted flowers?

Looking Like Oscar
Several attendees this year wore lovely gold gowns reminiscent of Oscar himself. Stacy Kiebler managed to be noticeable even on the arm of George Clooney in this draped column with a giant rosette on the hip and a subtle puddle of a train:

Best Actress winner Meryl Streep took gold lame in a very different direction in this wrap dress with a plunging but age-appropriate and flattering neckline.

Both of these gowns are lovely, but no-one will remember them a few years down the road. But I bet most of us remember Lizzy Gardiner’s (who? I have no idea, either – but I remember her gown) sheath dress made entirely of gold American Express cards.

Maybe not the most beautiful dress that ever graced a red carpet, but it’s creative, it’s interesting, and it makes a statement.

 Plunging Necklines
Both Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep wore lovely gowns with plunging necklines, but Elizabeth Taylor did it first – and better – in 1962:

Basic Black
Judy Greer (who?) chose a very simple, basic black gown with a metallic insert down the center. Pretty, flattering, and showing off a lovely figure, it still pales in comparison to Julia Roberts’ similar gown from 2001.

Basic Blue
I’m not generally a fan of Penelope Cruz’s looks or style, but she was at the top of my ”well done” list last night in an understated, old Hollywood glamour gown, a soft, marcelled bob, and subtle makeup and jewelry.
But even so, the styles of the Golden Age of Hollywood are best carried off by those who created the Golden Age, including the divine Grace Kelly, who won a statuette in this elegant blue gown in 1955.

Fantastic Flops
We all enjoy seeing gorgeous gowns on the red carpet, but let’s admit it: we love the spectacular disasters even more. As the saying goes, “If you must sin, sin boldly.” And there have been some very bold fashion sins over the years. The top of the list has got to be Bjork’s infamous swan dress from 2001:

Or how about Demi Moore’s self-designed biker shorts in 1989?

Or Tilda Swinton’s one-armed oddity from 2008?

Sometimes even a celebrity known for her spectacular gowns has a spectacular disaster, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s unsupported shapeless dress from 2002 or Uma Thurman’s frothy white mess from 2004:

These ladies all missed the mark, but at least they took a risk with a bold fashion choice. This year’s celebrities played it safe and didn’t give themselves a chance to succeed spectacularly because they didn’t risk failing spectacularly.

Most Improved
I do want to call out a few actresses who stood out a bit in the dull crowd this year. The above-mentioned Penelope Cruz was my favorite of the night, but the actress who caught my eye was Melissa McCarthy, for being most improved over her Golden Globes gown. Some of you may recall my Golden Globes blog, where I scolded her stylist for putting her in this unflattering sack:

Apparently she took my advice because she shone in a much prettier and more flattering gown last night, with a more elegant and flattering hairstyle to go with it.

Meryl Streep also gets credit for improving her look over the Globes, where she donned this cowboy travesty (pockets, Meryl? Really? POCKETS??!!??):

A few actresses get a couple of lashes with a wet noodle for dressing better at the Globes than at the Oscars, most notably Emma Stone, who went from this beautiful, flattering gown:

To this gorgeously colored but ultimately overwhelming dress:

Note to all starlets: When people notice your gown and not you, it’s not a success.

Even the dog from “The Artist” knew to up the ante from the Globes to the Oscars by adding a bit of bling:

The bottom line from this year’s Oscars, in my opinion, is that it was a year for playing it safe. There were no spectacular flameouts, but no spectacular successes, either. Let’s hope that next year a few more celebrities decide to take some fashion risks. After all, fashion is what the Oscars are all about, right?

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