Thursday, November 3, 2016

Red Carpet Review: The 2016 Country Music Awards

I was not able to watch the CMAs themselves last night, so this morning I checked out the online red carpet photos, and frankly, I was disappointed. Where were the outrageous, outlandish outfits? Where were the totally inappropriately dressed stars? Where was the insanity?!??

I suppose I should be happy that there were no complete missteps on the red carpet. But fashion disasters are so much fun! Ah well, I guess we'll all just have to content ourselves by analyzing all the looks we did see on the red carpet.

As is often the case at awards ceremonies, there were a number of distinct fashions trends. Who wore each trend to the best advantage? Let's find out, shall we?

Long, striped column



Cam, Meghan Linsey, and Pam Tillis all opted for a figure-hugging sleeveless column with vertical stripes. Cam's black gown was highlighted with brown stripes of gold, orange, red, and cobalt, with a simple high round neckline, and fringe from knee to hem. Linsey's peach and silver gown channeled old Hollywood glamour, with a halter-style neckline and curved stripes separated by jeweled bands emphasizing her curves, dropping straight to the floor from her hips. Tillis' black and pink halter flared slightly from the knee and featured a jeweled neckline and a few narrow jeweled bands between stripes.

The most successful of these looks for me is a close call between Linsey and Tillis. Both gowns are classic, elegant, and flattering; both are well-cut and use the right colors for their wearer. But since I have to pick a winner, I'll go with Linsey, simply because the cut and drape of her gown is so completely picture-perfect.

Winner: Meghan Linsey


See-Through Bodice



It never ceases to amaze me how many different ways designers come up with to reveal yet conceal a woman's breasts. One of this season's trends seems to be to use see-through or nude panels with strategically-placed appliques, lace, or beading. These gowns, worn by Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbury, Kaitlyn Bristowe, and RaeLynn, demonstrate four different reveal/conceal techniques. Pope's sheer cap-sleeved, round-necked bodice is edged with black lace, and her bust is covered by a pair of face-to-face rearing horses (an obligatory nod to the "country" part of the Country Music Awards, I guess). The black satin skirt has a peplum at the waist and matching broad wrapped ruffle at the hem, which is knee-length in front and mid-calf in back, creating a vaguely flamenco look echoed by her severe center-parted hairstyle. I actually like that effect, but the rearing horses are just too forced, and the cutout between them is disproportionate and unflattering. Danielle Bradbury's Grecian-inspired cranberry gown has a wide, plunging v-neck, with one side partly of nude-colored fabric with a narrow nude strap and the other ruffled and tying over the shoulder. The effect is, unfortunately, droopy and mismatched, which is a shame because the rest of the gown is stunning. The drape of the fabric, the high slit, the slight cape at the shoulder, the wrapped sash, the long train - they all hit the perfect mark, but it's ruined by the distracting bodice. Kaitlyn Bristowe's two-piece look uses scalloped lace along the edges of the bodice, with lace detailing at the neck and edges of the cap sleeves, and a small lace applique in the center of the chest. I like that the sheer panels are black rather than nude, which balances her exposed abs (nude panels would have looked too exposed, I think), and the full skirt with sheer striped overlay is just voluminous enough to look elegant without seeming bulky. A really nice look for her. RaeLynn's dove-gray gown featured a sheer bodice with a leafy pattern of silver beading all over, which extended down onto the full chiffon skirt. I liked that the area of sheer panels was minimal, but the waistline seemed to sit in an odd place and shortened her torso. I would have preferred either an empire waist or dropped to be closer to the natural waistline. But overall, this was a soft and feminine look that worked well for her.

None of these looks are terrible, but three of the four had a slight misstep: Pope's horse appliques, Bradbury's nude panel and strap, and RaeLynn's waistline placement. But Bristowe's look was just unusual enough to be eye-catching without being too over the top.

Winner: Kaitlyn Bristowe


Ballgowns


Full-skirted ballgowns are not terribly common at the CMAs, but a number of artists wore them this year, including Carrie Underwood, Hayley Orrantia, and Kacey Musgraves. Much like the performers themselves, each of these three gowns had a distinct style different from the others. Underwood's was the most classic look: a halter top with a structured flared skirt, in soft pink encrusted with sparkles, and a short train. The silhouette is simple and graceful, the soft color suits the wearer, and the gown is well-proportioned and moves well. Orrantia's pale green gown is more reminiscent of a dance competition ballgown (a style nicely carried through with her dark makeup and elegant low side chignon), with a hugely full chiffon skirt ending in ruffles, and a black-and-white plunging v-neck bodice. I don't find that type of bodice to be terribly flattering on larger-busted women, and Orrantia's bodice looks to be straining and not well-fitted for that very reason. Musgraves (whose fashion missteps are plentiful) is a bit off-target here, with her pale lavender strapless gown with narrow black belt and three voluminous tulle layers of ruffles ending in a train. The skirt is a bit full to me, but she carries it off reasonably well, and her choice of extremely simple hairstyle and stark makeup is the perfect choice. Considering what we've seen her wearing in the past, this is actually a rather nice look for her.

Much like the category above, two of these three looks have a small misstep, but Underwood is sheer perfection.

Winner: Carrie Underwood

Overly Casual



The CMAs tend to be less formal than many red carpet events, but some stars take the informality a bit too far. Cases in point: Deana Carter, Elle King, Gretchen Wilson, and Olivia Newton-John. Carter is perhaps the least egregious of the bunch in this short, all-black square dance dress, with halter top and layers of ruffles peeping out from the knee-length hem. Points for the pretty pointy-toed coral pumps and softly waved hair, but not enough to make up for the general "blah-ness" of the dress. King sports a gold-fringed black corset under a matching gold-fringed black bolero jacket, paired with horrifying red fringe pants. Not "fringed," as in "trimmed with fringe," but "fringe," as in "made entirely of layers of fringe." Just no. Wilson looks like she completely forgot it was a red carpet event and is wearing a low scoop-necked black tee-shirt with leggings and over-the-knee suede boots, accessorized by a long cross necklace, a cuff bracelet, and a clunky watch. (She also forgot that leggings are not pants.) And Newton-John, although she is rocking a pair of black leather pants and high ruched boots, looks underdressed in a turquoise-trimmed tux jacket with a white tux shirt and black velvet bow tie. Not a horrible look, just more appropriate for a concert performance than a red carpet event.

The winner - or loser, in this case - completely missed the mark for the event by dressing appropriately for poker and beer at a friend's house, not a nationally televised awards ceremony.

Loser: Gretchen Wilson

Metallics




Metallic fabrics, especially golds and silvers, are often popular at red carpet events, and last night was no exception. But in addition, we saw some nice mixed metallic prints and non-traditional colors, sported by Kelsea Ballerini, Tae of Maddie & Tae (on the right in this photo), Maren Morris, Martina McBride, and Reba McIntire. Ballerini's swirling burgundy print dress had beautiful movement to the fabric created by both the metallic print and the texture of the fabric itself. In contrast to Hayley Orrantia's deep bodice discussed above, Ballerini's figure was supported and flattered by the brief halter bodice, with its slightly higher waist. The only detraction was that the front of the hem appeared to have been hastily (and somewhat messily) shortened with a visible and visibly wrinkled seam. Tae's similarly metallic/floral print gown mixed metallic gold and copper with black and gray, which toned down the metallics nicely. The cut of her dress was simple and lovely, with a spaghetti-strap deep v-neck, narrow self-belt, and beautifully draped A-line skirt. Morris' metallic swirly silver-and-black striped gown had beautiful lines, from the plunging neckline filled with sheer black fabric, to the very straight sleeveless bodice, to the gracefully swirling pattern and flare at the hem. I only wish either that the waistline seam had been covered by a narrow black belt or that the metallic stripes continued through the waist without breaking. Regardless, a pretty look that created graceful, feminine curves on a slender but somewhat straight figure. McBride's gown paired matte black fabric with swirls of textured silver that appeared to be painted on. The deep, broad v-neck of the silver bodice featured black lace peeping out, and diagonal lines were echoed in the angles of the wrapped bodice, the flared black satin cuffs, and the angle of the full side train. A beautifully balanced and unusual look. McIntire's metallic gold column is simple and classic, with a wide boat neck, long fitted sleeves, and just a hair of a flare at the knee. Simple and stunning.

There are only a few minor missed details in any of these looks. I love both McBride's and McIntire's looks, and Tae's is simple and pretty, but McBride's break from classic styles in terms of both cut and fabric is a nice nod to the non-traditional style of this particular event.

Winner: Martina McBride


Just Blah



Sometimes a gown isn't bad so much because it's bad as because it's blah. A few stars with a serious case of the blahs last night were Hillary Scott, Karen Fairchild, Nicole Kidman (!!), and Paulette Carlson. Scott's stiff white gown was somewhat overwhelmed by the attached cape, and there just weren't enough interesting details to pull it out of bland territory. Fairchild's green gown was a lovely color, but the long fringe on the arms and at the hem gave it a droopy look, and the simple cut and lack of eye-catching accessories just didn't work. Kidman stepped right out of the 1970s (and not in a good way) with this pleated orchid gown with puffy sleeves and a bright red collar band and center stripe with oversized metal buttons. If anyone could pull it off she could, but she couldn't. And finally, Carlson's black velvet column featured sheer black insets in the sleeves and (possibly; it was hard to see under all that hair) sheer insets at the waist as well. I'm not sure exactly what it needed, but it definitely needed something.

Again, none of these looks were terrible - except that being so unmemorable makes them terrible. I think I have to proclaim the loser just because hers is the closest to being memorable - but not in a good way. And because we know she can do so, so much better.

Loser: Nicole Kidman


Also Worthy of Noting








There were a number of looks that didn't fit into the above categories, but which were still worthy of noting (for good or ill). Faith Hill's black satin mermaid skirt with a long peplum has slightly exaggerated curves, but seemed mismatched with her bland snug metallic black and silver jersey. Jamie Lynn Spears wore a rather pretty silvery-black gown with double front slits, a gracefully curved deep v-neck, and fabulous pointy t-strap shoes with multiple ankle straps, but the squared-off epaulette shoulders looked awkward and uncomfortable. Jennifer Garner hit it out of the park with this black and gold bandeau bodice and perfectly tailored matte black column skirt. Proof that perfect tailoring can make a simple look stunning. Kimberly Williams-Paisley also hit just the right note with one of my favorite looks of the night, this deep emerald wrap gown with a low sweetheart neckline, thigh-high slit, and small train, mixing smooth satin with textured brocade. The silver buckle kitten heels and diamond necklace were just the right finishing touches. It's difficult for me to judge Miranda Lambert's gown from this photo, given her scowl and posture which looks like she's leaning back on her heels and sticking out her hips. But if your shoes make you teeter and stand funny, it's not a good look. The deep scoop/v-neck makes her look droopy, as well. It's not a bad dress, it's just not working for her. I am surprisingly fond of Savvy Shields' white lace mini-sheath dress overlain with a deep white ruffle cascading to a train in back. The undertone of silver makes the white less stark (take note, Hillary Scott), and the perfect, smooth fit of the sheath balances the full stiffness of the ruffle nicely. I also didn't expect to like Tanya Tucker's plain black mermaid gown with long bell sleeves, high and broad decollete, empire waist, and just a hint of a train, but the oversized woven gold statement necklace that covered the entire bodice somehow brought the look together with just the right amount of visual interest. Sometimes it really is all in the accessories. Trisha Yearwood, on the other hand, missed the mark a little with this gold-embellished plum column with white side panels and bat wings. The purple section of the dress wasn't bad, but the contrast with the stark white was too strong, and the bulkiness of the under-arm fabric looked matronly and dull. Wendi McLendon-Covey made this busy floral print work extremely well. The long flounce at the bottom and the border print have a 1970s feel to them, but they come off as vintage rather than dated when combined with the slender silhouette, the sideswept hair, and the metallic gold clutch. (Nicole Kidman, take note: THIS is how to do 70s.)

Winner: Kimberly Williams-Paisley


So, whose look did YOU love or hate last night?


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