Monday, February 29, 2016

The 2016 Oscars Red Carpet Review: Change One Thing

There were a lot of interesting and unusual dresses at the Academy Awards this year. A few were quite lovely, a few were somewhat off target. Quite a number of them were lovely with the exception of a single flaw, either major or minor. I am purposely looking for the one detail that I would change in each of these gowns, whether the gown was close to perfect or a complete trainwreck.

Alicia Vikander’s gown was a lovely color and I really liked the pattern of small mirrored beads. It was nicely structured and its sparkle was well accessorized with a simple hairstyle, sparkly chandelier earrings, and silver strappy sandals. The one thing I would change about this gown is the bubble hem. It made the skirt appear bulky rather than graceful. A simple straight hem, whether floor length or echoing the existing asymmetrical hem, would have worked better for her. 

Brie Larson’s gorgeous cobalt blue gown had lovely lines throughout, from the see-through chiffon edging of the bodice to the vertical ruffles adorning the softly flowing skirt. From far away, even the diamond-studded belt was pretty. But on closer view, the belt was too heavy and bulky for the softness and delicacy of the fabric. I would have preferred a lighter, narrower belt, perhaps just a tiny silver ribbon belt. 

Cate Blanchett would look stunning even in a paper bag, so it’s no surprise that she looked lovely in this pale aqua gown adorned with feather flowers. The flowers on the skirt were pretty, but the more densely packed together feathers on the shoulders look heavy, and in closeup, the feathers looked damaged, bedraggled, and even dirty. Remove about half of the feathers on the shoulders – perhaps even get rid of all the weight of the shoulders and replace them with spaghetti straps – and the proportions of the dress would have looked much better. 

Charlize Theron is one of the few women alive who could pull off this daringly simple gown. Set off by a stunning long diamond pendant, its plunging neckline and clingy fabric emphasize her slender figure. There is very little I would change about this gown, with the possible exception of the narrow straps at the shoulders – it’s not that I don’t like them, but I think they might have looked even more flattering if the pairs of straps met rather than being separated by a few inches, so that their V shape would mirror the pendant and the plunging neckline. 

Chrissy Teigen looked stunning and quite comfortable in this red-and-tan beaded maternity gown. I love the scalloped neckline and the slight mermaid flare of the skirt, as well as the train. My only objection, in fact, is that the pattern of the beading creates a large red “target” right over her navel – which is NOT where anyone’s attention should be focused when looking at a pregnant woman, even one as luminous as Teigen. 

Daisy Ridley was channeling Downton Abbey just a hair in this pale blue-gray lace two-piece frock. I loved the silhouette, with its deep V and narrow straps setting off her slim but well-toned physique. I loved the chiffon edging at the hem of the skirt. I didn’t, however love how the chiffon edging at the hem of the top tended to flare out and break the smooth line of the outfit, as well as looking stiff rather than soft. Get rid of that edging, and this outfit completely works. 

Emily Blunt was another model of maternity chic in this pale pink column. The straps and skirt were studded with silver keys which added a bit of visual interest as well as a bit of sparkle, and the train made a pretty line at the back. My only objection to this gown is that it is quite a pale color for her, especially since she looked like she might not be feeling well and her color was a bit off anyway. A darker pink or even a shade of teal or aqua might have been more flattering. 

Heidi Klum’s gown made it difficult to pick only one “flaw”. I love the lines of the skirt, and I can live with the variegated white to purple striping. I can even live with the awkwardly crooked peephole in the bodice and the two giant flowers. But the singe huge puffy sleeve makes her look like she’s listing to her right. Convert the top into a halter over her right shoulder and this gown would be vastly improved. 

Jennifer Garner looked stunning in this black column with a wide off-the-shoulder strap cascading into a structured ruffle covering a deep slit in the front of her skirt and forming a side train. Her updo set off those glorious cheekbones, and the turquoise earrings were a lovely pop of color. If I absolutely had to change one thing, it would probably be to add the skinniest of skinny belts, possibly turquoise to match the earrings. This was a terrific look. 

I love Jennifer Lawrence, and I usually love her fashion choices, but this one just didn’t work for me. The shape of the bodice is fine, the general line of the skirt is fine, but I hate the ruffled layers of stiff tulle that make up the skirt. I think that if the skirt were made of a softer, more flowing fabric, the lines would be more graceful and flattering. But I do love Lawrence’s very blonde hair and choice of elegant makeup and no accessories. 

Julianne Moore’s gown had interesting geometric straps and bodice details. I liked the black-on-black bugle beading and the diamond circle earrings and heavy diamond cuff. If I had to change one thing, I think I might convert the full skirt into a slim column. The beading on the bodice had a heavy look to it that might have been counterbalanced by having less volume below the waist. Moore’s lovely figure would certainly have made a sheath style work well. 

Kate Winslett’s simple strapless column had a lovely silhouette, and the black worked well with her lighter blond hair, especially worn loose and in front of her shoulders. What I didn’t like, however, was how the shininess of the fabric tended to look like plastic when the light hit it in a certain way – although I did like how the fabric caught the light and changed as she moved. I would love to see this dress made over in a shiny satin, or perhaps a matte fabric with glitter worked into it – something that would provide the same shimmer when the fabric moved, but without the plastic look.

Lady Gaga’s pantsuit/gown was an interesting concept that was not executed well. When she stood still in a certain pose, the outfit was graceful and fell nicely. But when she walked or stood in certain ways, the arched fabric at the hips bunched awkwardly and the bodice shifted. I think perhaps if the whole thing had been a bit less structured, and hadn’t attempted to arch away from her hips quite so much, the look might have been more successful and flattering. 

Mindy Kaling’s hair and makeup were sheer perfection, and her black column with vivid cobalt sleeves and train created a simple and elegant line. My one objection was that the completely straight across neck- and shoulderlines, combined with her fairly straight figure, gave a very rectangular look to the black section of the dress and made her look a bit broad-shouldered. Changing the neckline to a sweetheart or a slight curve, adding a keyhole, or angling the shoulders (either up or down) would have broken up the straight line and improved the overall look for her. 

Naomi Watts looked like a mermaid in this gorgeous blue and purple gown. I loved the base blue color, and the purple trim on the skirt was pretty, and definitely added to the mermaid effect. However, the section of the bodice that faded into pinkish-purple looked out of place and shortened Watts’ torso somewhat. Keep the platinum bob, the scarlet lips, and the diamond necklace, and lose the purple at the waist, and this look would be perfect. 

Olivia Wilde’s gown looked to me like an apron that she’d forgotten to put a shirt underneath. The waistline was too high for the plunging front to be properly proportioned, and although I appreciated the use of modesty panels instead of tape, the panels wrinkled as she moved and the seams and edges were clearly visible. My solution for this gown would be to bring the bottom of the front panels closer together to form a deep V and add sides to the bodice that curve around to the back, then lose the modesty panels, or at least use a more stretchy fabric to avoid visible wrinkles.

Rachel McAdams was stunning in this incredibly simple green gown. The color is gorgeous on her, the halter shows off her toned arms, the slit shows off her toned legs, and the train adds a touch of elegance and glamour. In fact, my only objection to this gown is that it was noticeably creased across the front of the hips from where she was sitting in the car! A quick steaming before she hit the red carpet was all this gown needed to reach perfection. 

Reese Witherspoon’s dress was a lovely electric purple, with a mermaid flare and a boned corset-style bodice with a tulip top. She accessorized with a pair of diamond cuffs, straight unadorned hair, and coral lips. The only thing I didn’t like (okay, I HATED) about this gown was that the bodice was lined with black bra cups which showed above the purple and looked like her bra was showing. Cover them with purple and attach the ruffled section more closely to camouflage them and this look would be much improved. 

Rooney Mara’s gown suited her well – it was vintage inspired but still very contemporary. I loved the crocheted-looking lace which was very prim and buttoned-up in the bodice and fell to a softly ruffled front slit and a small train in the skirt. The diamond cutout was distracting and unnecessary, and I would improve the gown by closing it and instead continuing the buttons all the way down to the slit. That way the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the slit rather than the awkward tummy cutout. 

Saoirse Ronan’s plunging emerald beaded gown was nothing short of stunning. She has the perfect slim figure to pull it off without looking overly exposed (even including the plunging back). The skirt was perfectly fitted without being tight, and moved beautifully. The only change that I would make is to change the slightly long hem to either add a real train (not just a hint of one), or to shorten the hem just a hair so it brushed the floor instead of almost - but not quite - puddling. 

Sofia Vergara’s midnight blue gown had absolutely striking lines. I loved the fullness of the skirt that somehow managed to be structured without being bulky, the cinched-in waist, modified peplum, and asymmetrical beading on the bodice and upper skirt. The one change I would make, however, is that although the bodice was beautifully structured to support her full bust, from the side it tended to look rather stiff and shelf-like. I think that if it had been just an inch or so higher, curving in just a bit more to cradle her bust rather than simply supporting it, it would have been more flattering from every angle. 

I adored Tina Fey’s beautifully simple gown, with its fitted to the hip silhouette and lovely gathering in to the waist, creating gorgeously soft diagonal lines under the bust and up to the hip. The tiny bit of train softened the straight lines of the skirt just enough, and the sapphire necklace was stunning. The whole ensemble was perfectly set off by her sleek updo and perfect, understated makeup. The simplicity of her gown put the focus on her face instead of her dress. The only change I can think of that could improve this outfit would be to add a diamond and sapphire cuff bracelet matching the necklace. This look was sheer perfection. 

And finally, I have to mention Whoopi Goldberg, whose Oscar ensembles have been extremely hit or miss over the years (but mostly miss). She’s tried wearing feminine gowns (which suit neither her figure nor her personality), she’s tried modified menswear (which suit her figure and personality but not always the occasion), but I felt like she hit just the right note in this simple, flattering but not girlish gown. The simple, straight lines of the bodice frame her face and shoulders nicely, showing off the large dragon tattoo on her right shoulder; the slight flare at the bottom of the bodice gives her nice curves without making her look too thick at the waist, and the fullness of the skirt balances her figure without adding too much volume. The only thing I might change was that her spider…gauntlet, I guess you could call it, was a bit oversized and distracting. I liked the concept of it, but its placement was rather odd. I would have liked to have seen it converted into a cuff bracelet, perhaps even with a smaller matching ring. But this was a look that worked really well for her.

What one thing would YOU change about your favorite red carpet looks? 

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