I must admit that I look forward to the CMAs every year with a bit of guilt, because what I love most about them is that there is inevitably at least one person wearing a ridiculously over-the-top, look-at-me-I’m-a-cowboy outfit. I’m rather disappointed not to have seen any of that this year, although I was fortunate enough to tune in early enough to catch a number that featured all the singers and an inexplicable 20-member snare drum band wearing costumes trimmed in color-changing LED rope, so I did fill my “weird and outrageous” quota for the evening. But on to the fashion critiques!
The biggest fashion trend this year can be summed up in three words: Black is back. Seriously, of all the dresses I saw in the red carpet photos, about six of them were not black, and of those six, only two were not a shade of white or champagne. So I’ll begin with kudos to Connie Britton for bucking the trend!
Her bottle green lace dress over a black underlay was striking, and the length was just perfect for showing off those gorgeous legs. Her face seemed a bit colorless, but her simple strappy sandals and dark pedicure were a great choice.
Surprisingly for such a casual event (in red carpet terms, at least), Britton was among very few attendees wearing short dresses.
Another attendee rocking a shorter dress was Martina McBride, in a flared black-and-gold frock.
The skirt would have been more flattering had it been just a few inches shorter or a bit less full, but it was helped by being slightly see-through toward the hem. I’d have gone with flashier gold (or at least black-and-gold) shoes instead of boring pointy pumps, but her gorgeous chestnut locks and hint of coppery lips drew attention up toward her lovely face.
Carrie Underwood, one of my personal fashion favorites, split the short skirt-long-skirt difference by wearing an asymmetrically-hemmed, glittery champagne-colored gown with matching pumps (and matching hair, come to think of it).
Something about where the waistline falls is not terribly flattering on her (at several months pregnant, what is?), but the cascading ripples of bedazzled fabric tempered by a plain underskirt is so feminine and pretty that I can’t complain too much. (I did watch enough of the awards themselves to see that she changed her outfit at least ten times, and I will refrain from commenting on her other dresses except to say that it might have been easier on all concerned if she’d just worn the dress she wore to the Grammys in 2013 and let them project a different pattern on it every time she came on stage.)
But here’s something that I CAN complain about: Oh, Kacey Musgraves. My children adore your song “Heartache Song,” and your voice is as cute as a bug’s ear. But WHAT IS UP WITH YOUR HAIR????
Did you lose a bet? Are you smuggling contraband up there? Did your hairdresser have an unfortunate break with reality? Because, honey, no. Just….NO.
The next “Just…NO” outfit is credited to Lily Aldridge. Yes, dear, you’re a Victoria’s Secret model. However, you should probably still wear more than your underwear when you’re not at a VS shoot.
Also, what does this dress look like when you’re standing like a normal human being instead of crossing your feet and sticking you right hip out six inches? Just…NO.
A slightly unconventional dress that I did love, however, was sported by Clare Bowen.
The bodice is just vaguely reminiscent of an old western saloon girl, topping a huge froth of white speckled with black. This gown manages to be effortlessly sexy, cute, and fun all at once, and Ms. Bowen is obviously having a wonderful time in it.
Rachel Holder and Kelli Pickler wore similar spangled black columns with varied degrees of success.
Holder’s gown features a plunging neckline with metallic discs covering the bodice and unfortunately emphasizing (or possibly even creating) a bit of a pot belly. The tiny flared train, loose waved ‘do, and feminine makeup were nice details; the studded biker-chick clutch not so much. Pickler’s gown was a bit more unconventional yet conservative, with narrow modesty panels separating fabric with different patterns of rhinestones. The perfect tailoring of the gown, slicked-back platinum locks, silver clutch, and subtle train all added to one of the loveliest looks of the evening.
One of the fun parts of the CMAs is the number of married couples who are both in the business.
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw went for old-school glamour; her in a slim, studded retro gown that reminded me of Barbra Streisand’s famous Bob Mackie pantsuit from the 1969 Oscars, and him in an impeccable and classic shawl-collar tuxedo with hand-tied bow tie and a black Stetson.
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert went a bit more casual but equally stunning; she in a champagne-pink Grecian-style gown with ruched bodice, and he in a black jacket and vest over a deep charcoal dress shirt and tie, and tastefully faded dark-wash jeans.
And Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks also looked smashing in unrelieved black; her in a high-necked, long-sleeved gown with a generous train that was just tailored enough to avoid looking frumpy, and he in a black suitcoat over a black collarless shirt, black jeans, black cowboy boots, and of course, his trademark black hat.
I’d also like to call attention to a few groups who caught my eye.
The Eli Young Band gave the impression of some grunge guys who worked really hard to clean themselves up for the evening. Shined shoes, crisp coats of various textures, and just enough color and variation in their shirts to give them personality, and washed and neatly combed hair. Nicely done, gentlemen.
Lady Antebellum looked cutting edge with the men in fashionably slim-fitting suits and skinny ties, and the lady in a gown that showed off her voluptuous figure without looking trashy (never an easy feat).
Little Big Town was all over the map, with one gentleman in a modern, slim-fitting eggplant suit and another in a black-and-white tuxedo; while the ladies also split the look with one in a simple (perhaps slightly too simple) pale copper dress and matching shoes and the other in a spangled white gown covered by a wrap that appears to be made of muppet fur. Any one of the looks alone might have worked, but put them all together and it’s just a discombobulated mish-mash.
Parmalee was another all-male group that looked like they had made a concerted effort to clean up for the CMAs. Their look was a bit more casual and country than some others, but they looked much more natural and at ease than many other groups. The dark wash jeans and overall dark colors worked to tie their looks together, but still allowed for the individuality of a bright cobalt shirt and plum velvet jacket here, an oversized belt buckle there, and some gold chains on another. Good job unifying what appears to be very different personalities and styles.
But now let’s move on to a category that hit it out of the park at the 2014 CMAs: the men. Their styles ranged from tuxedos to jeans, from 10-gallon hats to baseball caps, from classic black and white to vivid colors and textures.
Once I was able to pull my focus away from Dustin Lynch’s 10,000-gigawatt smile and adorable dimples, I noticed the beautiful detailing of his deep blue tuxedo, from the satin collar to the crisp, open-collared dove-gray shirt, to the perfectly fluffed pocket square, to the satin hatband that perfectly matching the satin piping on the jacket pockets. This is a man who knows how to dress for the occasion.
Jon Pardi went with an informal look, but I had to mention him for the charm of this unusual single-button wide-wale corduroy jacket featuring feathery appliques perfectly coordinated with his pocket square. It worked nicely with the crisp white open-collared shirt, fashion-forward jeans, and just a glimpse of a giant belt buckle. Very western and very fun!
Darius Rucker has come a long way since his Hootie days, and his fashion has come a long way as well. He looks like the professor all the girls have a crush on in this deep blue velvet jacket, long tie, blue jeans, trendy glasses, and just a hint of grey in his neatly-trimmed beard.
And last, but certainly not least, kudos to Josh Turner for this beautifully-tailored subtle plaid 3-piece suit with bias pockets worn over an open-collared dark plum dress shirt. Classic and dressy without being formal, it’s a perfect look for the CMAs.