Friday, January 30, 2015

The Unexpected Benefits of Unit Theory

Over the past few days, I’ve been spending a lot of time planning next year’s homeschool curriculum for my son. Part of that planning has been organizing my own thoughts about which “school” of homeschooling I plan to follow. Some theories involve teaching whatever the child is interested in at the time (He builds Legos? Let’s study architecture and geometry! She loves to paint? Let’s learn about primary and secondary colors!). Others involve having set schedules for set topics (9:30-9:40am, penmanship; 9:40-9:55am, American history; 9:55-10:10am, math flash cards). Still others involve following a purchased curriculum. But the one that most appeals to me is the idea of using a single general topic as a jumping-off point to study a number of other topics across a whole range of subjects. In other words, using units.

For example, yesterday I made chicken soup with my son (home economics). He helped me to read the recipe (following directions, reading comprehension) and prepare and measure ingredients (units of measurement, math, counting, fractions, fine motor skills), and we talked about why we use each ingredient (chemistry, nutrition) and where the ingredients come from (geography, biology). We saved the carrot tops and set them up to sprout (botany). I’m having him write up a label every morning with the date and the day # of the experiment (penmanship, counting) and then take a photo to document our progress (photography, art composition, fine motor skills, the scientific method). I’ll also have him periodically make a sketch (drawing) and write a few sentences about his observations (composition, grammar, penmanship, the scientific method). We’ll find some books in the library (research methods) which I’ll have him read aloud to me (reading) and then explain in his own words (reading comprehension, conversational skills). And maybe at the end of the experiment, we’ll put them out in our yard for the local bunnies or use them to start a compost pile (environmentalism, good citizenship, biology, chemistry).

As you can see, a simple pot of soup can lead to education in a number of different areas. But even though I’ve thought through dozens of topics I can cover based only on a couple of carrot tops, I discovered this morning that there are also more subtle lessons to be taught that I hadn’t even thought of; namely, patience and faith. I forgot how slowly time can go when you’re five. But this morning, when my son painstakingly wrote out the “Day 2” label and got the camera ready to take today’s photograph, he looked at the carrots and informed me rather dubiously, “They haven’t started growing yet.”

My adult mind immediately thought, “Well, of COURSE they haven’t started growing yet; it’s been less than 24 hours!” But I stopped and reminded myself that my lifetime of experience in watching – and waiting for – various things to grow or change has taught me to be patient and trust that things are happening that I can’t yet see. My son, in his mere 5 years on this earth, does not have that experience. And that is why one of the most important things he will learn in this experiment is not how to keep a lab notebook, or what plants need to grow, or why carrots are good for you, but rather he will learn to be patient. He will learn that being faithful and continuing to do something good even when you don’t see results right away is a good thing to do. He will learn that good things come to those who wait. He will learn the reward of being patient and having faith.

And all because of a couple of carrots.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The 2015 SAG Awards Red Carpet: Who Wore It Better?

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!!

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mom Cocktails

I’m not a heavy drinker by any means, but I do enjoy a good cocktail now and then, especially when I have something to celebrate. And as a parent, I find that there are a number of small (and not-so-small) parenting milestones that can – and should - be celebrated. So I put together this list of cocktail recipes for some of those parenting celebrations. I’ve tried to stick with fairly basic ingredients that are already in the average home bar, because after all, with children (of any age) in the house, who has time (or money) to run to the liquor store for all that fancy stuff?

The Big Sleep

The first time that your little one sleeps through the night (defined by this particular mixologist as 6 hours in a row), you’ve earned yourself the right to a little celebration. This cocktail is a variation on an old classic aptly called the Suffering Bastard. Pour one ounce each of bourbon, gin, and lemon juice, plus a dash or two of bitters, into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass, then top with chilled 7-Up. Garnish with a mint sprig. One of these and you’ll be sleeping through the night, too.

Mother’s Milk

Some milestones are more bittersweet than others, and any mother who has nursed then weaned a child knows that weaning is often more bitter than sweet. However, enjoying a nice cocktail after many months of abstinence can help bring out the sweetness. First, make some honey syrup by mixing equal parts honey and hot water, stirring till dissolved (extra may be stored in the fridge). Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and gin, then add a generous splash of honey syrup and fresh lemon juice, shake hard, and strain into a champagne glass (which, as legend has it, was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s perfect breasts). 

The Potty Trainer

This cocktail can be used to celebrate both the beginning and the end of potty training. Hopefully those two celebrations are very close together, but if they’re not, mix yourself a double the second time. Maybe even a triple. Shake 3 parts vanilla vodka (or regular vodka plus a shot of Tuaca, or even a few drops of vanilla extract) and 1 part each Chambord and crème de cacao over ice. Strain and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with chocolate shavings or jimmies.

(And yes, I did give very serious thought to making this one a variation on a lemon drop martini. But I decided to take the high road.)

The School Daze

It’s probably not a good idea to enjoy this cocktail immediately after delivering your child to his or her first day of kindergarten, but after picking your child up at the END of the first day and then no doubt listening to a long and very excited commentary about everything that happened that first day, by the time you put your newly-minted kindergartener to bed, you will be more than ready to knock back something stronger than chocolate milk. In a rocks glass with ice, stir together a healthy dollop of real maple syrup, a splash of lemon juice, and a couple dashes of bitters, then top with bourbon, stir well, add ice, and finish off with a splash of seltzer. Garnish with lemon peel.

The Biker Chick/Dude

When your child is learning to ride a bike, you spend a lot of time hunched over, hanging on to the back of their bike seat. When you’re finally able to take off the training wheels and let your kid sail free, your back may be paying the price even while you’re cheering. So the Biker Chick (in honor of your daughter) or the Biker Dude (in honor of your son) is practically medicinal. To a tall glass filled with ice, add equal parts whiskey and Chambord; top with lemonade for a Biker Chick and Sprite for a Biker Dude. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

The Freedom Rider

When your kid finally gets his or her driver’s license and you are free from having to drive him or her EVERYWHERE, the Freedom Rider is the drink for you. When it’s your youngest kid, have two or three. Just be sure that before you drink it, you make your kid the designated driver. In a shot glass, combine equal parts Johnnie Walker, Jim Beam, and Jack Daniel’s (or any other combination of scotch, bourbon, and whiskey).

The First Date

There may be no moment that makes you more aware that your son or daughter is growing up than seeing your no-longer-a-child off on his or her first date. Since you know you’ll be waiting up until they come home, it seems appropriate that the First Date would be a coffee-based drink. Brew yourself up a mug of strong coffee, add in a healthy slug of Baileys and a splash of Grand Marnier, and top with whipped cream. After a couple of these, you’ll be pretty forgiving if they don’t make it home until a few minutes after curfew.

The Gold Rush

My father-in-law once said that when his last child graduated from college, it was like getting a $30,000 a year raise. These days, it’s more like getting a $100,000 a year raise. So to celebrate your child’s college graduation, I recommend one of my personal favorite cocktails, the Gold Rush. Shake 3 parts Domaine de Canton, 2 parts bourbon, and 1 part lemon juice over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

The Mother of the Bride

When you are ready to celebrate your child’s wedding, naturally champagne must be involved. And since white is obviously the color for weddings, cream must also be involved. Voila, the Mother of The Bride: Blend an egg white, a splash of simple syrup, a shot of cognac, a generous splash of Cointreau, and a shot of cream over ice in a shaker. Strain into a champagne flute rimmed with gold sugar and top with champagne. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon.

And when your children are all grown and gone, don’t forget to remind them of this every now and then.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Leave Me Hanging

I’ve been having a terrible time finishing things this month. Well, to be honest, I’ve never been very good at finishing things. I’m really good at having ideas. I’m even good at setting up some kind of a framework for how to get them done. Most of the time I get as far as doing some research about how to do them. Occasionally I even start actually doing them. But when it comes to following them through to completion…not so good.

And that’s been a major part of why I haven’t been blogging so much lately. I must have a dozen or more half-written blogs saved on my computer that I’m hoping to get back to someday. I’ve probably started a dozen more that I decided weren’t even worth saving. And that’s not even counting the third dozen inside my head that never made it as far as the computer screen. I even have a few random titles floating around in there that I might like to write about some day.

I think that the main reason I don’t follow through is that I’m a perfectionist. I don’t want to post a blog entry that didn’t come out as well as I thought it would. I don’t like it when my writing starts off strong but then piddles out at the end. If I can’t come up with a clever wrap-up, I feel like the entire post is a failure. Which is a shame, because a lot of the time I have some good things to say even if I can’t tie my thoughts into a nice, neat bow at the end. And sometimes I think people enjoy having to decide for themselves what the point was. I don’t need to make the horse drink, I just need to lead it to water and let it figure out the rest on its own. (Yes, technically I just called you all horses, but please don’t take offense. Horses are lovely and intelligent creatures. Ahem. Moving on.)

So instead of telling you my thoughts on a subject and then giving you a neat little lesson or epigram or witty remark to close things out, today I’m just going to throw out a bunch of topics that I’ve started to write about and never finished. I’m going to purposely leave you hanging and let you decide what the point of each one could be. Chances are, you’ll come up with a wiser point than I would have (if I’d ever found one, that is.)

  • Questionable Classics: I’ve been reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda to my 5-year-old, and I realized that it teaches some questionable lessons about retaliation and revenge and being mean back to mean people. How many other pieces of classic children’s literature accidentally (or purposefully) teach kids lessons that we’d rather they not learn?

  • One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Dealing with small children with the flu…while you have the flu. How do you balance them being sick with you being sick? How do you find a balance of taking care of your children’s needs without sacrificing meeting your own needs?

  • Mom Cocktails: Cocktail recipes to celebrate significant milestones in your child’s life: potty training, starting kindergarten, riding a two-wheeler without training wheels, getting their driver’s license, first date, high school graduation, wedding, grandparenthood…the list goes on and on.

  • Fashion Flops by the Decade: Who hasn’t looked back at their high school yearbook and rolled their eyes at some of the ridiculous fashion trends we thought were so fabulous? The bell-bottoms of the 70s and the neon shirts and socks of the 80s are some of the more obvious ones, but how about the wacky hats of the 40s or the extreme flapper dresses of the 20s? Just as every decade had some gorgeous looks, every decade had some tragic failures, as well.

  • “I’m Okay”: There’s nothing worse than hearing a loud crash from the next room or seeing your child falling off a piece of playground equipment. That brief moment after it happens seems to stretch on forever as you race in seemingly slow-motion to see if they’re hurt. But then you hear those precious words: “I’m okay!” But sometimes they’re not okay. Sometimes they’re hurt, or sick, or sad, and you can’t make it go away. And the time until “I’m not okay” turns back into “I’m okay” can be the worst – and longest - time of a parent’s life.

In lieu of a wrap-up, I’m issuing a challenge, both to myself and to my readers: Which of these topics would you like to see completed? Which of these sounds like it could be interesting? Which of these do you think would drive me the most crazy to have to finish? Let me know, and I’ll take on the challenge of completing a blog on that topic. I promise not to leave you 

Bookmark and Share

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Golden Globes – Red Carpet Review

Phew, it seems like forever since I’ve had a nice, juicy red carpet event to cover! I watched the beginning of the Golden Globes live this year but had to switch over to Downton Abbey halfway through, then missed the end of the awards dealing with a sick child, so I apologize in advance if I missed any of the favorite fashions that appeared later in the evening.

There were several themes to the couture on the red carpet: one-shoulder; neutral colors; red; and cleavage, cleavage, cleavage. I’ll take each of those categories separately, and then throw in a “miscellaneous” category just for fun. (Note: several gowns qualified in multiple categories, but I chose a single category for each one.)

One Shoulder

Amy Adams, Jane Fonda, Heidi Klum, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Allison Tolman all opted for single-shouldered gowns. I loved that each style was so different! Adams’ gown draped softly over her shoulder with a scarf trailing behind; Fonda’s gown had one see-through sleeve spangled with rhinestones; Klum’s pulled straight over her shoulder, contrasting with the soft curve of the sweetheart bodice; Louis-Dreyfus’ was simple and classic, and Tolman’s gathered sheer fabric that gracefully echoed her full ballgown. Each gown was effective and flattering, and not overshadowed by too many accessories or overdone hair or makeup (although Heidi Klum could have gone a bit lighter on the spray tan).

If I had to pick a single winner in this category, I’d have to go with Heidi Klum, for the beautiful long lines and interesting contrast of straight and curved lines. But Allison Tolman gets a close second, for classic elegance and choosing a perfect style to set off an atypical (but stunning) Hollywood figure.

Neutral Colors

The main neutrals this year were black and white, with a few silver gowns thrown in for good measure.

Felicity Huffman went for simple but stunning in a perfectly-tailored, round-necked white cocktail dress with cutouts running the length of each side – subtle modesty panels kept it in good taste, and the dress skimmed her figure instead of clinching it, an all-too-common misstep on the red carpet. Beautifully done. Less beautifully done was Keira Knightley’s…whatever it was she was wearing. I understand that it’s not easy to find a flattering (and comfortable) maternity gown, but that’s no excuse for the hot mess she had on. The giant ruffled collar, the giant ruffles at the hem, the giant butterfly on her right hand…let’s just chalk it up to pregnancy brain and move on, shall we?

Melissa McCarthy’s dress has me completely torn. On one hand, I love that her outfit is more fitted and less tent-like than she often wears, and I love the ruffled, tiered skirt. I even love the draped bow at the neck. But on the other hand, the schoolmarm blouse complete with long tight cuffs and large lapels gives off too much of an old Miss Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie vibe. She does make a lovely schoolmarm, at least.

Gina Rodriguez’s lovely black sheath was a perfect choice for her figure and her coloring. Simple and figure-hugging to the knees, then flaring out in transparent ruffles, it put the focus on the wearer rather than the dress, unlike Amanda Peet and Kristin Wiig, who were both overshadowed by their dresses. Both done in a baggy, bohemian style, with bloused sleeves and bodice and a soft flared skirt, they seemed droopy and overly casual for a red carpet event. Not awful, just not terribly flattering or fashion-forward. Emma Stone, on the other hand, was definitely fashion-forward in black satin pants, a metallic beaded top, a long, train-like bow and sash, and mile-high stilettos. Fabulous! Another particularly fashionable – and slightly different – gown was sported by John Legend’s date, Christine Teigen (I apologize if she’s famous in her own right; I have no idea who she is). Her softly draped, art deco-inspired gown accentuated her curves without being revealing, and the puddling at the hem continued to soften and sweeten the lines.

And finally, we have two examples of how to and how not to do a silver gown. Julianne Moore’s gown started off well with a smooth sequined silver halter top, but went south as it went south, darkening to black (not a problem) and transitioning from spangles to feathers (problem). Reese Witherspoon showed us how it should be done with a strapless, figure-hugging silver column with a narrow belt and a tiny train. Paired with simple sideswept hair and a diamond cuff, her look was classic and elegant.

This isn’t an easy category to choose a single winner, but I just really adored Emma Stone’s avant garde outfit, so I’m awarding her the win. First runner-up goes to Felicity Huffman for rocking such a simple look.


Christine Baranski wore a deeper red, but candy apple red was the order of the day for Viola Davis, Lena Dunham, Julianna Marguiles, Helen Mirren, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, although each style was unique. Baranski’s sleeveless column featured cutouts at the neckline, Davis’ strapless trumpet was accented with spangles along the bodice, Dunham’s shiny satin featured geometric accent seams, Marguiles sported a strapless tea-length dress with a stiff “stomacher”-style panel in front, Mirren’s long-sleeved column flared at the knee and was accented with black and silver spangles along the neck, and Zeta-Jones’ ballgown featured a strapless bodice with draping at the side.

The least successful of the reds was (surprise, surprise) Lena Dunham. The concept was terrific; the execution was not. She may not have a typical Hollywood figure, but that’s no excuse for this ill-fitting gown. The angular seams could have worked well to flatter her figure, but the dress needed to skim instead of bagging. I also found Marguiles’ dress to be overly stiff and uncomfortable-looking, and the hem length seemed out of place and unflattering. My favorite reds were Davis and Mirren, with the win going to Mirren by just a hair, because, well, look at that photo. She owns that red carpet.

Cleavage, Cleavage, Cleavage

There was plenty of skin on display on the red carpet, most of it on chests. The broad, deep V was the preferred cleavage-baring neckline, sported by Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez (well, duh), Sienna Miller, Jessica Chastain, and Claire Danes, with Katherine Heigl and Rosamund Pike showing off their cleavage in different styles.

Hudson’s cleavage-baring halter was accented with v-shaped cutouts along her ribs emphasizing her curves. Lopez paired her down-to-there neckline with an up-to-there slit in the front of her gown, her cleavage marred by an awkward spot that appeared to be a broken or badly-placed underwire, and a slightly too-narrow modesty panel that changed the shape of the V, not for the better. Miller’s rather shapeless gown had a deep V trimmed with black detailing and a raised-front hem. Chastain, in metallic black, stuck with her tried-and-true, hourglass-flattering, plunging V-neck, gathered-to-the-navel halter style. Danes’ deep and broad V was covered with a black modesty panel and edged with gypsy print matching her bohemian skirt. Heigl opted to show skin with a broad and deep squared-off structured bodice and a skin-tight mermaid skirt. And Pike’s barely-there top seemed to be held together with a few tiny ribbons and hope.

The less successful of the cleavage dresses were Miller’s poorly fitted dress, Danes’ boho mess, and Pike’s droopy cutaway. The most successful were Hudson’s well-structured va-va-voom look and Heigl’s mermaid. Hudson edges out the win over Heigl, simply because Heigl’s broad neckline broadens her shoulders just a hair too much.


A few gowns that didn’t fit into any of the above categories caught my eye as worthy of mention, for good or for ill. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who continually treads the fine line between “hot” and “hot mess,” fell just barely over the line into “hot mess” territory with this badly-fitting gown. The concept is lovely, the color is terrific on her, but the bodice is too low and does not fall in the same place as her breasts, and the skirt has fallen victim to the dreaded “sitting crease.” Anna Kendrick also treads that fine line between successful and disaster in a frothy blush pink dress with cascading burgundy polka dots and a thin burgundy belt. It’s a bit of a fairy-tale look, but it works considering her recent performance in “Into the Woods,” so I’m calling this one a success.

Jessica Lange was also a success in her bright pink sheath with narrow pointed lapels, tiny cap sleeves, narrow black belt, and small train. It’s age-appropriate and figure-flattering, eye-catching without being over the top. Lupita N’yongo was slightly over the top in a bright purple and white gown with a flower-covered bodice and flared chiffon skirt. The flowery top was a bit reminiscent of an old-fashioned bathing cap, but N’yongo pulled it off with confidence and style in a way few could.

Kerry Washington’s purple gown was a bit less of a success, with overly stiff fabric and contrasting side panels that didn’t quite fall as smoothly as they should have. The neckline and bodice were lovely, though. And another gown that just missed the mark was Naomi Watts’ sunshine yellow gown which, while a lovely color and cut in a flattering style, did not work with her blond coloring. But extra bonus points for the gorgeous and whimsical diamond snake necklace.

On the whole, it was a fun night for fashion, with lots of hits, just enough misses to be fun, and a few risk-takers falling on both sides of the line. See you on the next red carpet!

Bookmark and Share