Thursday, August 28, 2014

Emmy Award Fashions 2014: The Year of “Almost But Not Quite”

I’m not a big television watcher (other than, obviously, all PBS kids’ programming, Nick Jr. On Demand, and everything on Sprout), so the Emmy Awards don’t particularly interest me. I do, however, love covering red carpet fashions, so although I didn’t watch Monday night’s awards show, I did very eagerly look through the red carpet photos the next morning. And I have to say that for the most part, I was unimpressed.

But what was surprising is that so many dresses were almost wonderful, but not quite. They were 95% of the way there, but then took a horrible wrong turn somewhere. Here are a few examples of “almost but not quite.”

I love Mayim Bialik, but she has no fashion sense. Her natural tendency is to dress like a homeless person – a cute homeless person that you want to hang around with and talk to, but definitely one who doesn’t have a lot of clothing options or much of a sense of style. She always looks vaguely uncomfortable on the red carpet. But this bright blue lace dress really has a lot going for it. The neckline and sleeves are feminine yet simple enough to suit her style. The color is absolutely stunning on her. Her choice of hairstyle and accessories are unfussy and appropriate. But it’s just too voluminous. If the bodice had been paired with a sleeker, narrower skirt, it would have been much more flattering. Almost…but not quite.

Betsy Brandt’s dress was similarly close. The watercolor printed fabric is lovely, and the general lines of the dress from the top down to the hips are lovely. But the stiff crinoline paired with the too-long-for-tea-length but too-short-for-floor-length hemline made it look clunky. Almost…but not quite.

Katherine Heigl’s dress had some lovely features – gorgeous, champagne-colored fabric, a soft geometrically curved neckline, lovely panel detailing at the waist. But the hem was too long, the three-quarter-length sleeves were too casual, and the overall style was a bit too retro wedding gown. Almost, but not quite.

Sarah Hyland’s two-piece outfit looked cute on her, but it also looked a bit like a 10th grade sewing project. It was not well-fitted, with wrinkles along the darts, a baggy waistband, and a wildly uneven hem. Almost, but not quite.

Hayden Panettiere had perhaps the most potential of any of the gowns that just barely missed the mark. Maternity wear can easily go awry, but this gown started off beautifully: crinkly, draped, silver pleating; just the right amount of cling to flatter her burgeoning figure; diagonal lines making her look like a sweet starburst. But then a giant fake (note the obvious modesty panel) plunging neckline clinging oddly. Almost. Not quite.

Teyonah Parris came pretty close in this two-part gown. Gorgeous color combinations, with a simple striped bodice in striking contrast to a pale lime green skirt, all the colors setting off her lovely skin. But the structure of the skirt is just a bit…off. Is it a long pencil skirt with an overlay? Is it a stiff, lumpy ballgown skirt? In other photographs, it appears that the overlayer of the skirt can be lifted to form a long narrow cape of sorts that is attached at the back of the waist rather than the back of the neck. Nice try, but still only almost.

Julia Roberts’ source of “almost” is hard to identify. I like the cut of the bodice, with its deep V-neck, fitted sleeves, and asymmetrical peplum. I even like the bumpy, textured, vaguely sparkly fabric. But something looks disproportionate. Maybe the skirt is a bit too short, or perhaps it’s a bit too full. Maybe it needed one more layer under it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s definitely an almost but not quite kind of look.

Kerry Washington’s orange column with silver seaming and black lace underskirt just barely made it into the not quite category for me. The lines of the dress are lovely, but some of the details are just wrong. The black peekaboo looks too much like bike shorts, the bodice is not smoothly fitted or supportive enough, and the placement of the waist seam is not flattering. A few fixed details and this would have been a winner, but as is? Almost, not quite.

Vanessa Williams landed in this category merely due to an overblown peplum. The color, the wrap bodice, the trumpet skirt – all gorgeous, and gorgeous on her va-va-voom figure. But the stiff, overblown peplum made this dress look more like a flower costume from a third-grade play than a red carpet gown. Almost, not quite.

There were, of course, a few complete disasters. No almost about any of these gowns.
Oh, Lena Dunham. I love that you love to be eclectic, but you can do better than this fluffy, multi-layered, multi-colored monstrosity of a skirt paired with a demure private school uniform blouse. Worst of all, the outfit doesn’t even look comfortable. But your platinum locks are a knockout and your makeup is flattering and balanced. Just get a gown to match and we’ll all be happier.

Sarah Paulson often lands on my worst-dressed list, and this outfit was no exception. Although I like the concept of a slimmer gown with a floaty, ethereal overlay, the execution in this case fell flat. The double peplums on the underdress ruin the smooth silhouette that could have been, and the red dots look too much like so many bits of lint from the red carpet hovering like a slo-mo explosion. Like Lena, Sarah does redeem herself with lovely hair and makeup, at least.

And lastly, Amy Poehler chose a gown that undoubtedly looked stunning on the runway where it debuted, but it just doesn’t work on a lesser mortal. The clinginess of the fabric and the waist seaming which should be emphasizing a small waist instead calls attention to her thick (NOT FAT!) waist and hint of belly, and the way the fabric falls together below her knees is reminiscent of a wide-legged pantsuit from a production of Mamma Mia. Poor Amy could have – and should have – and has – done so much better.

But there were a few true winners who hit the nail right on the head, fashion-wise. Here are a few of my favorites.

Danielle Brooks’ stark white column with lace halter bodice and high slit was a stunner, and her choice of a circle bracelet echoing the halter was spot-on. Love the contrast of her slightly-mussed 'do, too.

Edie Falco’s cobalt blue crushed satin with wide straps and a tiny train was feminine, sexy, age-appropriate, and brought out those gorgeous eyes of hers.

William H. Macy could have used a haircut, but other than that, he and wife Felicity Huffman were the perfect pair: she in a simple but elegant black column with a square neck and the tiniest of flares at the hem, accessorizing with an adorable plaid bag and understated hair and makeup, and he in a shiny charcoal gray tux with black lapels, hand-tied tie, and impeccably polished patent shoes. Perfection.

Allison Janney was another stunner in this magenta velvet concoction. Ruched velvet often looks bulky and clumsy, but somehow the lines of this dress still manage to look smooth and sleek, with just the right amount of structure in the bodice and just the right amount of soft swing at the hem. Top the look with long wavy locks and a hint of silver bling in jewelry, bag, and shoes, and voila! This is how it’s done.

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss rarely misses on the red carpet, and this dress was no exception. A delicious reddish-coral column with tiny details like a hint of gathers at the neck, a slim belt, dart detailing, and a barely-there flare at the hem, and the simplest of hair, makeup, and jewelry made the perfect package. 

Melissa McCarthy vacillates between terrific and terrible when it comes to her red carpet looks. While this isn’t the best gown I’ve ever seen her in, it’s so much more flattering than what I’ve seen her in at times that I had to include her here. The jet black against her fair skin, bright coral lips, and new darker hair color is a knockout. And the wide sequined belt shows her curviness in a way many of her gowns don’t. It’s not easy for a large woman to pull off a full ball gown, but the soft bell shape of the skirt balanced by the square shoulders and high round neck of the bodice is perfectly proportioned and flattering. And those happy dimples – often absent when photographed in her less-successful red carpet looks – show that Melissa agrees.

Octavia Spencer can also be hit or miss on the red carpet, but when she does hit she hits perfectly, and this deep red sari-inspired gown was a definite hit. I love the way the one-shouldered chiffon drape over the bodice twists into a knot at the waist then spins out into a hip-skimming (but not clinging) skirt with a small train. Utterly lovely.

See you all at the Golden Globes in January!! 

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