I thought I’d take a slightly different approach to my review of the red carpet fashions from the recent 2015 SAG Awards. I don’t often pay attention to the designers, but this year I was curious to see if similar gown styles were by the same designer or whether the trends were across the board. And I discovered that although there were a number of design houses that only dressed a single A-list celebrity, there was a good handful of designers who were responsible for two or more looks on the red carpet. So I thought it might be fun to see which actresses wore their designer’s work the best.
Armani: Sarah Paulson, Emmy Rossum, Reese Witherspoon
Paulson often lands on my worst-dressed list, so I’m giving her credit for a nice look here, even though it’s certainly not great. Although the rounded neckline and sleeveless cut are a bit boring, the bodice has a nice shape without looking stiff, and the flow of the skirt in a long column ending in a soft, graceful train makes a lovely and flattering silhouette.
Rossum’s gown was a winner based on the stunning fabric alone. This photo doesn’t do it justice, as the fabric caught the light as she moved and subtly changed color from metallic silver to metallic gold. The gown clung in all the right places and flowed in all the right places, with subtle and elegant detailing at the hem. The simple diamond choker and understated hair and makeup balanced her look beautifully.
Witherspoon pulled off this unusual one-shouldered gown relatively well, although it was one of many looks of the evening which was less flattering when its wearer was walking or moving. The shoulder tended to creep up along Witherspoon’s neck and looked stiff and uncomfortable in close-up, although the wide beaded detailing was lovely, and the clingy fabric was surprisingly smooth.
The Winner: Emmy Rossum, hands down. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and I was disappointed when the camera cut away.
Balenciaga: Felicity Jones and Naomi Watts
Both of these looks were slightly bland, in my opinion. Although the silhouettes were flattering on both slender, petite figures, the bodices on each seemed to flatten out their curves. The color of Jones’ was lovely but a bit pale for her – a brighter lip color or contrasting bag might have helped. And the waist seam of Watts’ was just a hair too low – cinching the waist in just a tiny bit would have balanced the slight flare of the skirt and made for better-proportioned lines. The trim across the top was a bit too reminiscent of a cheap plastic lei or a Christmas tree garland, and it looked itchy.
The Winner: Felicity Jones, if only because she looked less uncomfortable.
Christian Siriano: Mayim Bialik and Alysia Reiner
Other than the colors, from the shoulders down these gowns are remarkably similar: princess seaming, fitted at the waist and hips, with a generous mermaid flounce from the knee. The bodice of Bialik’s black gown was a simple V-neck with three-quarter sleeves, whereas Riener’s bodice was a strapless plunging double flounce. Bialik accessorized with striking jade-green drop earrings, a tiny black clutch, and sleek, shiny locks; Reiner channeled old Hollywood with a diamond choker, bright red lips, and retro waved hair. Much like Sarah Paulson, I am often not fond of Bialik’s looks, although I appreciate that she covers her shoulders and does not reveal a lot of skin (I believe for religious reasons), and within her personal parameters this is a very successful and flattering look for her. I even love the pale makeup and the solitary pop of color in the earrings. Reiner also plays to her strengths, the main ones being that she is approximately 7 feet tall and has gorgeous hair.
The Winner: I have to hand this one to Alysia Reiner, for channeling old Hollywood glamour so beautifully.
Dior: Rosamund Pike and Emma Stone
Dior often features classic, glamorous looks, but neither of these designs fell in that category: they were both very much cutting edge couture. Pike’s bell-shaped lace mini-dress with voluminous long train looked bulky and reminiscent of maternity designs to me. Stone’s looked striking when she was posed on the red carpet, but the see-through skirt looked lumpy and tangled when she walked, and from the waist up the outfit looked very casual and out of place. But the rich textured black against Stone’s lovely pale skin and glorious sleek red hair, with perfectly thick lashes and bright coral lip, was a striking look for her.
The Winner: Emma Stone, who turned heads for almost all the right reasons with this gown.
Donna Karan: Camila Alves, Emilia Clarke, Sofia Vergara
These looks were all very different from each other, and very obviously either designed or chosen for the wearer’s body type and personality. Alves is often fond of gravity-defying, figure-hugging, trained gowns in jewel tones, and this gown was no exception. The fabric had just a hint of texture or nap which gave the color a bit of variety as she moved. I loved the way the drape of the bodice became a side train.
Clarke’s gown was much more structured; a simple black column with wide navy bands criss-crossing the bodice and falling to a short, capelike train. Not unflattering, but somewhat bland, and lacking the striking makeup, statement accessories, or elaborate hairstyle needed to bring it to life.
Vergara, much like Alves, chose a clingy strapless style to highlight her va-va-voom figure. Her scarlet gown was a soft, draped fabric that fell gracefully into a short train, and exposed just a tiny bit of skin with see-through corset panels at the waist, modestly covered by a narrow sash. Her hair was a bit pale and limp, but her bright red lips struck the right note. Her look is often a bit over-the-top for my taste, but this look was just toned-down enough to be both sexy and tasteful.
The Winner: Camila Alves by literally a hair over Sofia Vergara, since her softly waved hairstyle polished off her winning look.
Escada: Anna Chlumsky and Andrea Riseborough
Chlumsky’s deep orange velvet gown with silvery-white bodice overlay had a hint of a medieval look to it. The overall line of the gown was lovely, but the edge-of-the-shoulder straps and wide keyhole of the bodice made her look a bit too broad at the shoulder.
The pale pistachio of Riseborough’s gown was lovely with her fair skin and dark hair, and the slightly flared line of the skirt had just enough structure without looking stiff. The unusual loop detailing at the neckline was interesting without being too outrageous. My one objection was that the bodice wasn’t quite loose enough to be bloused or quite snug enough to be fitted, and I would have preferred it go either way instead of being stuck in the middle. I don’t love either of these looks, but I don’t hate them, either.
The Winner: Andrea Riseborough, for taking just a bit of a fashion risk and pulling it off very nicely, if not quite perfectly.
Givenchy: Julianne Moore and Julia Roberts
Moore went somewhat traditional in a striking emerald green gown with beading and tiny tassels clustering at the bodice and fading towards the barely-there-train. A bit simple, but the perfect fit, and the stunning color along with her warm red hair brought the look together.
Roberts, on the other hand, wore an ill-fitting pantsuit. The top was quite pretty, with square shoulders, a tuxedo collar, deep decollete, and just a hint of ruching. But the hips were too tight, the pocket flaps were just plain unfortunate, and the crotch looked like it had faded in the sun in the store window.
The Winner: Julianna Moore. Roberts was never even in the running.
Honor: Joanna Froggatt and Lorelei Linklater
It’s hard to believe these gowns are from the same design house. In fact, it’s hard for me to believe that Linklater’s gown was from ANY design house. It looked more like a home ec project gone horribly awry, with too-long bell sleeves trimmed with lace, a broad boat neckline extending into oddly pointy shoulders, and a hem that couldn’t decide whether it should be a train or not.
Froggatt, on the other hand, shone in a fitted satin mermaid with a pointed bodice and deep cleavage slightly covered with a cascade of lovely blond waves.
The Winner: Joanna Froggatt, who looked absolutely luminous and happy to be wearing her gown (unlike Linklater).
It’s only fair if I call out a few other winners and losers by other designers. A few looks I loved:
Lupita Nyong’o in Elie Saab: The unusual print with watercolor splashes under black and white stripes, the graceful flow of the skirt, the plunging neckline – just a stunning and unusual look all around.
Julie Bowen in Georges Hoebika: I often criticize Bowen for wearing flesh-toned gowns, but somehow she pulls this one off, perhaps due to a slightly more golden and low-lighted hair color. I love the tiny belt, the beaded accents, and the is-it-or-isn’t-it-see-through skirt. A very nice look for her.
Gwendolyn Christie in Giles: When you wear a couture gown, you need to commit to the entire look and Christie does absolutely that. I love the structured drape of the skirt and the halter bodice reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-Year Itch. The marcelled platinum hair and bright red lips complete the retro look beautifully.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Monique Lhullier: Louis-Dreyfus consistently dresses appropriately for her figure and her age. Some reviewers saw this look as dowdy, but I found it lovely and flattering. I like the contrast of the delicate lace sleeves with the heavier velvet skirt, and the graceful scallops of the neckline with the straight column silhouette. Perhaps just a hint of lip color would have livened it up, but I found this a very successful look.
Sarah Highland in Vera Wang: I loved this gown so much. From further back, it was sparkly on top and flowy on the bottom; up close, the bodice had lovely splashes of bright color and beautiful patterning of the stones. It was youthful without being girlish and sexy without being inappropriate. A perfect match of wearer and design.
And a few that I didn’t love so much:
Julianna Margulies in Giambattista Valli: The color is gorgeous on her, and the style might actually have worked had it been fitted to her better. The bodice is too small, causing the fullest part of her bust to be below the darts, making her breasts look saggy and squished. And the fullness and weight of the skirt need to have the perfect length hem to avoid piling up and looking heavy, as it does here. Shortening it by 2 or 3 inches might have made all the difference in the world. Her severe, center-parted hairstyle also doesn’t fit with the style of the gown.
Amanda Peet in J Mendel: I wanted to like this gown. I really did. And in this photograph, it’s not so bad. The lavender is lovely, the Grecian-inspired skirt is beautifully draped, and the bodice seems to be behaving itself. But walking the red carpet, the bodice looked ill-fitting and droopy, and the detailing at the waist made Peet look paunchy. The black detailing was also too severe for the delicate lavender. I won’t even mention her “I threw my hair into a bun during a windstorm” coiffure.
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Thakoon: This dress had he potential to be so much better than poor Maggie’s usual dreck. But the weird center panel was too dark to be a modesty panel and too light to be an accent. If it had been royal purple or cobalt blue or emerald green it might have worked. But as is, it was doing her no favors. I did agree with her, however, that her shoes were FABULOUS – so much so that they nearly made up for the dress.
The ultimate booby prize goes to Meryl Streep in…no-one seems to know who. It looks like off-the-rack Dress Barn to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with Dress Barn; that’s where 90% of my wardrobe is from. But I don’t generally attend red carpet events, and on the rare occasion that I do, I don’t wear my Dress Barn clothes. It’s not ugly, it’s just completely inappropriate. It’s a casual jersey dress, accessorized with plain black pumps, black hose (?!?? IN HOLLYWOOD?!??), street makeup, no bling, and a messy ponytail. I’m sure that Meryl has to attend so many awards shows that she gets sick of dressing up all the time, but seriously? At least make an attempt to dress for the event you’re attending.
Let's hope that some of the ladies at the bottom of this list up their game for the Oscars!!