Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 Golden Globe Awards Red Carpet Review: The Designers

Most of the time when I review red carpet fashions, I don't really note who the designer of a specific look is. But I do find it interesting to compare when a certain designer dresses multiple celebrities. Some designers seem to provide minor variations on the same look, while others give each actress a unique treatment. It seemed like at this year's Golden Globes there was a larger number of designers than usual who dressed more than one actress, so I'm going to group the gowns by designer this year, plus of course all the gowns of note (for good or for ill) that were designed by a unique couture house.

Armani Prive
Armani is one of the classic, longstanding design houses that makes appearances on every red carpet. At the Golden Globes this year, we saw Isabelle Huppert, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, and Teresa Palmer in Armani Prive. Each gown was unique, with few if any repeated details, silhouettes, or fabrics, and each was tailored to the body and personality of the wearer.

Huppert's long-sleeved, ice blue, jeweled bodice was lovely: encrusted with pale blue and white gems at the top and fading down to the waist with fewer gems and visible opaque fabric. But the skirt seemed heavy and mismatched with the light bodice, and needed an airier fabric to carry through Huppert's Gallic grace and elegance. 

Monae's gown was an interesting concept that had a few missteps of execution. I loved the fitted black sequined bodice with its wide, curved boat neck, and I liked the whimsy of the puffy white skirt with large black polka dots, and the silver strappy sandals were gorgeous. But the skirt was oddly proportioned; a little too short in front, and narrowing a bit too far towards the back, which made the train appear to drag in a teardrop shape rather than becoming a "floating" train as it should have. Her jeweled updo and understated makeup, however, were sheer perfection.

Harris' tall gold column featured a narrow plunging sweetheart neckline that was beautifully structured and created a perfect smooth line that accented her slim figure and needed no further accessories beyond the textured fabric, long drop earrings, and softly waved hair. 

Palmer's simple, understated black velvet gown featured dropped shoulders and a short train; basic styling, but classic and elegant, and nicely accented with her slick, chic updo, deep red lips, and silver clutch.

Best of the Armani? Definitely Harris' gown, which called attention to the wearer rather than the gown.

Atelier Versace
Versace is another designer that has been appearing on red carpets for just about forever. Three celebrities wore Versace designs on the red carpet last night: Blake Lively, Naomi Campbell, and Reese Witherspoon. All three of these gowns were perfectly stunning, and perfectly suited to their wearers.
Lively's black velvet halter featured a gold neckline, bodice accents, and pocket flaps; with a plunging v-neck and ultra-long train. I'm not normally a fan of visible pockets, but these were placed perfectly to accent her hips without emphasizing them. In addition, the deep v-neck was perfectly proportioned for her figure, so she didn't look like she was either taped in or propped up. She looked at ease and comfortable in the gown. A beautiful look all around.

Campbell's gown is truly not done justice by this photograph. To my eye, this was by far the most stunning gown of the night. The beautiful curved seaming, the solid structure and support that still seemed to move comfortably, the peeps of spangled black amid the pale pink, the single shoulder and the high slit and the short train - all the details were perfectly harmonized and just different enough to be unique and eye-catching without being weird. And Campbell's regal bearing still pulled attention to her and not just the gown. An excellent example of a dress meant to be worn by a specific celebrity.

Witherspoon was one of several actresses in bright banana yellow, and one of the few who pulled the look off successfully. Although rather similar in style to a lot of her red carpet looks (fitted strapless column with a long side slit and one interesting bodice detail or feature), it's a formula that works for her. I liked the interesting shape of the neckline and the criss-cross gathering across the bodice, as well as the slight flare of the skirt. Her heavy gold-and-diamond choker was also lovely with her simple updo and fresh, light makeup.

Best of the Versace? Lively gave her a run for the money, but I have to go with Campbell, simply because it was the one gown of the night that I wanted to keep looking at and studying for hours.

Christian Siriano
Although Siriano has less of a history than either of the designers listed above, his designs have been a red carpet staple for a respectable number of years. Last night, he designed for Angela Bassett, Issa Rae, Kelly Preston, and Rachel Bloom. (He also designed two different looks for Chrissy Metz, but she opted at the last minute to switch to a purple velvet gown by Nathan Paul. I saw her modeling Siriano's designs and she should have gone with his turquoise Grecian-inspired gown. It was lovely on her.)

Bassett's bright pink flared column had an interesting shoulder-baring neckline with a long double-ruffle on each side and a short train. It was simple, but the color was perfect against her skin tone and her flippy, slightly puffed hair pulled attention up to her face. Basic, but very well done.

Rae's pure white gown was just a bit stark against her dark skin, and might have benefitted from just a hint of soft color somewhere. The high collar and plain long sleeves were somewhat prim, although the skirt had a lovely line and puddled into a graceful soft train. I felt like this was a wonderful base dress that just needed a bit more sparkle to bring it to life. I did love Rae's braided coronet of hair over her forehead and lovely, understated makeup. 

Preston's gown had a very "Southern tea party" feel for me. I liked the angular aspect of the tiered ruffles that pulled it away from being too girlish, as did the sponge-painted look of the black-on-white print. The tiny black belt was a nice accent, as were the cap sleeves. Her waved hair looked rather limp and was too much of an echo of the skirt's ruffles, and the black and white color palette cried out for a bit more brightness in her makeup (a bright red or coral lip would have been fabulous), but overall it was a soft and graceful, if a bit too understated, look. 

Rachel Bloom's gown was also nicely suited to her figure. The empire-waisted bodice had a broad v-neck which was flattering but allowed for good support, and the full skirt had gold petals cascading down the black lace, which barely skimmed the floor. Her soft, wavy updo and pink lips were youthful and flattering, and she looked so fresh and pretty. A really nice look for her.

Best of the Christian Siriano? I wouldn't say that any of these were a hands down hit-it-out-of-the-park, but in terms of a gown which perfectly suited and flattered its wearer, I have to go with Bloom, simply because my first thought on seeing her was, "I would be so happy to look like that."

Dolce & Gabbana
D&G is another established red carpet designer, but one which also designs for accessible fashions for you and I. Probably no-one reading this blog has a Versace or Prada gown in your closet, but you might have something by Dolce & Gabbana. So their pieces are often a bit less haute couture than some. Last night, Karrueche Tran and Kerry Washington both wore D&G.

My favorite detail of Tran's ruched column was the way the deep pink fabric flared at the knee and puddled into a ruffle-edged train. She looked like a fairy coming up out of an upside-down orchid. It was just such a lovely silhouette. The deep color and figure-hugging fabric suited her perfectly, and I loved that she paired it with fingers full of sparkly rings and a tall, tight chignon that called attention to her gorgeous (and beaming) face. She looked so happy to be wearing that gown, and with good reason. 

Washington's gown had some good details, but also some lousy ones. I loved the gold lace fabric and the structured lines of the bodice, but the silver shoulder details and the jewel-encrusted black...thing at the waist (was it supposed to be a belt? a brooch? medals? what?!?) didn't work with the rest of the dress. The hem also fell at a strange length and flared a bit stiffly. I did like the black underlay, although I think it would have been more flattering as a miniskirt rather than granny panties. The smooth, straight hair against the busy fabric was an excellent choice, as were the simple black sandals.

Best of the Dolce & Gabbana? With the commentary above, do you even have to ask? Look at the wearers' expressions in these two photos, and you'll know that they know the answer, too: Tran.

Edition by George Chakra
I was completely unfamiliar with this designer, but based on these two gowns I'd like to see some more of his work. These two have a lot of similarities of silhouette, but it's hard to say if that's because the designer is uncreative or merely because it's a style that works for both Felicity Huffman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Huffman's gown had a straight white skirt with a small train at the back (I think), and the bodice was gold lame with a plunging neckline pulled into a matching gold sash. The silhouette was very simple but worked with her figure. It was nothing particularly special or memorable, but she did look lovely. 

Louis-Dreyfus often wears black-and-white columns, and she wears them well. This particular gown had clean black lines from the shoulder to the opposite side of the waist, then dropping down to the hem, plus a small open slit at the shoulder. She accented the look with a wide diamond cuff bracelet and a black clutch with a diamond buckle, and long wavy locks. Simple but elegant and definitely memorable.

Best of Georges Chakra? Both gowns were simple and lovely, but I'll remember Louis-Dreyfus' a lot longer than Huffman's.

Gucci is often a bit more avant garde than other designers, and last night was no exception, although I wouldn't exactly say that the two gowns worn by Felicity Jones and Zoe Saldana were particularly successful.

I loved the skirt of Jones' pink and black gown - frothy chiffon cascaded down into elegant black lace detailing at the full hem - but the bodice had droopy ruffles that looked matronly and for some reason the fabric was a slightly paler color than the skirt, which made the whole look seem mismatched. 

Saldana's frothy pink gown had similar issues of mismatched colors; in her case, a soft pink top, a deep coral pink skirt, and a silvery-pink sash and bow. I loved the angled ruffles of the skirt, and they paired nicely with the ruffled trim and cap shoulders of the deep v-necked bodice, but the texture and color of the sash at the waist broke the look into separate sections that didn't quite seem to go together.

Best of the Gucci: Saldana's gown could have been a win with a different (or no) belt, so I have to give the win to her.

Jenny Packham
Jenny Packham is apparently primarily a bridal designer (I had never heard of her, but this is what Google tells me), but if she's branching out into red carpet wear, I heartily applaud. She dressed Gillian Anderson, Kristen Bell, and Millie Bobby Brown last night.

Anderson's white halter gown carried shades of "bridal designer" based on the white color and stiff, netting-lined skirt, but otherwise it was a very appropriate and pretty look. I liked the long keyhole slit coming down from the jeweled neckband, and the flare of the skirt created a nicely balanced silhouette . I loved Anderson's dark blond updo, diamond cuff, and long narrow brown clutch. The look was elegant and glamorous. 

I don't love Bell's look, but I have to admit that it's been growing on me, and I think that with a slightly narrower front opening or a jeweled see-through panel I'd love it. The silhouette is stunning, and I love the way the skirt drapes softly. I love the simplicity of the cut that allows the sparkle of the fabric to be the star. And I adore the one chandelier earring peeping out from the not-quite-Veronica-Lake hairstyle. I just can't get past that her breasts are apparently taped going in opposite directions. It just looks horribly uncomfortable. And cold. 

One of my red carpet pet peeves is child actresses who are dressed inappropriately. Brown is the poster child of how to dress a young lady on the red carpet: More grown-up than a traditional "party frock", more youthful than a traditional red carpet gown, glamorous yet age-appropriate. I love that her strappy sandals have a reasonable heel and that her makeup is dressy but not too heavy. This was the perfect tween red carpet look.

Best of the Jenny Packham: Brown, because she made an 11-year-old look glamorous but still like an 11-year-old. Nicely done.

J. Mendel
J. Mendel is a designer that I'm not that familiar with, but it's a name that's popping up here and there on red carpets, so it's worth checking out. J. Mendel designed two extremely different looks for actresses on the red carpet last night, Heidi Klum and Keri Russell.

 Klum often wears outrageous fashions on the red carpet, she is, after all, a fashion model, so she has the looks and bearing to pull off some pretty crazy stuff. But last night she went quite conservative in this cocktail length sheath dress, white with geometric spangled black lines all over it. It was simple but interesting, memorable without drawing too much attention.

Russell's gown had a very 70s, flower-child feel to it. The skirt was cascading bands of different (but similar) animal prints, and it could have used one less band (the hem dragged rather than skimming or puddling). The bodice plunged to the waist in a ruffled-edged vee and the sleeves formed a kind of cape that looked more like a poncho. The broad black choker and long, limp locks completed the 70s look. It wasn't exactly a bad look, it just wasn't right for the event.

Best J. Mendel? Well, since you can put nearly anything on Heidi Klum and have it look like a million bucks, even a simple cocktail dress, I'm going with Klum.

Louis Vuitton
I think of Vuitton designs as being relatively conservative and almost "buttoned-up," and that is certainly true of Michelle Williams' and Ruth Negga's Vuitton Globes gowns, and even Sophie Turner's haute couture gown is more conservative than many other designers' couture lines.

Williams' gown is a good example of a lovely gown that doesn't suit the wearer. First of all, stark black and white does not work with her coloring, and second, her pixie haircut and delicate features are not framed by the gown, but appear to be floating far above. It's not a harmonious look. The gown itself is lovely; I like the fabric, the smooth cut, the simple hint of ruching at the center of the bodice, the dropped sleeves, the bare shoulders. But it doesn't look right on her - she needs softer fabrics and colors.

Negga's stark silver column, on the other hand, works really well for her. Her beautiful face and huge eyes are the focus of attention because of the simplicity of the gown, yet the elegant silver fabric provides plenty of glamour. This pairing is perfect, even if the dress by itself is slightly bland. It's all about the harmony of the gown and its wearer.

Turner's black-and-white gown tries to be wild but doesn't go quite far enough. I do like the angled lines formed by the various black and white panels of the sleeves and bodice, and I love the see-through skirt panel that meets the curve of the opaque black panel on the other side. The lines of the dress are very pretty. But it's different without being quite different enough. Turner wears it well, but not quite well enough.

Best of the the Louis Vuittons? Negga's gown might not be the best objectively, but when looking at how well each gown worked with the woman wearing it, it's Negga all the way.

Michael Kors
Kors is another designer who dresses both celebrities and "real women" (this "real woman" has a Michael Kors dress in her closet, as a matter of fact), and tends to have more conservative red carpet looks, which is certainly an apt description of both Sienna Miller and Viola Davis' Kors gowns last night.

Miller's white gown was simple; the fabric had no pattern or texture, the bodice had a simple round neckline and cap sleeves, the skirt was a basic A-line. The only eye-catching detail was the deep cutouts at the waist which called attention to Miller's toned abs. She accessorized with a single strand of pearls and matching pearl bracelets, a black clutch, pulled-back hair, and minimal makeup. It wasn't a bad look, but it felt much too toned-down for the red carpet. But with those abs, I wouldn't tell her that.

Davis, on the other hand, positively glowed in this single-shouldered bright yellow gown. The bodice skimmed her figure without being tight, then cascaded gracefully down to the floor in a hint of a puddle. Her sleek pageboy showed off a glittering diamond earring which matched her diamond cuff. This is how to do simple without being boring.

Best of Kors? Davis for the win.

Prada makes me think of really high-end, avante garde haute couture, but of late they seem to be providing a good number of more toned-down red carpet gowns. Last night, Prada dressed both Jessica Chastain and an expectant Natalie Portman.

I liked Chastain's gown very much, with the exception of one detail: the shoulder straps were placed so far apart that a) they looked like they were slipping off her shoulders, and b) her shoulders looked like a linebacker's, a fact not helped by her slicked-back hairdo that made her head look tiny in comparison. The blue color and column style were perfect for her, and the embroidered and beaded pink flowers along the left side of the dress were a gorgeous and unusual detail, so if the straps had just been pulled in an inch or so on each side, and perhaps her hair been worn down in waves like so many others, it would have been one of the best looks of the night. 

It's not easy to find (or design) a flattering maternity dress, and this is not one. The mustard yellow doesn't even flatter Portman's pregnancy glow, and although the slightly bell-shaped 3/4 sleeves with diamond trim are sweetly evocative of Jackie O (whom Portman recently played on film, a comparison clearly meant to be made, also given her slight "bubble" hairdo), the stiff, tentlike cut of the skirt is not quite redeemed by the diamond trim. Oh well, at least she was comfortable.

Best of Prada? Even though Chastain was slightly off the mark, her look could have been fixed with a few minor details, while Portman's needed a complete overhaul. Chastain for the win.

Vera Wang
I've always loved Vera Wang's looks, on and off the red carpet, so it's not surprisingly that another of my most favorite looks of the night was a Vera Wang design. Hailee Steinfeld and Sarah Jessica Parker both wore Vera Wang last night.

The first thing anyone noticed about Steinfeld's gown was the gorgeous color. It was a beautiful lilac, and seemed to be the same fabric throughout, but because of the different design techniques and layers of fabric, the dress seemed to be different shades, from light to dark. A diamond-trimmed round neck dropped to a see-through bodice with gathered corset-style panels topped with a small ruffle over each breast, and see-through gauntlet sleeves revealed bare shoulders. The full gauzy skirt trailed into a long, graceful train. The whole gown had a gauzy, fairy-tale feel to it, which seems right for a red carpet gown on a relatively young actress. Steinfeld looked beautiful and ethereal. 

Parker's was another example of a gown that just didn't suit the wearer. The sleeves were similar in style to those of Steinfeld's, but in a stiffer fabric which lacked the soft and graceful lines. The cut of the bodice was lovely (this is how Jessica Chastain's bodice should have been cut), and the tiny silver belt was a perfect detail, but the stiff fabric of the gown was constantly wrinkled and shapeless. I could see how it should have fallen into a star-shaped line, but it just didn't. Perhaps a professional model who knows how to move in this particular cut of gown could have made it work, but Parker looked awkward and uncomfortable, as if she recognized it wasn't working for her. I did love her coronet-style updo, which was perfect for the "princess" feel of the dress, but her heavy black eyeliner and nude lips weren't quite right.

Zuhair Marad
Marad is a Lebanese designer (I had to Google him, too) who debuted his designs on the runway in Paris in 2001. His looks have been gracing red carpets from the American Music Awards to the Academy Awards since 2013. He dressed no less than five celebrities for the 2017 Golden Globes: Elsa Pataky, Lily Collins, Olivia Culpo, Sophia Vergara, and Tracee Ellis Ross. This is definitely a designer to keep an eye on!

Pataky's silver column had a simple fitted strapless bodice and a see-through skirt that flared into a train and was accented with patterned lace. The fabric was just opaque enough to show a hint of well-cut undergarment (avoiding the granny panty look and instead being reminiscent of sexy lingerie). The texture of the fabric was all the detail needed, and Pataky wisely kept her hair in a simple chignon, with dark eye makeup and pink lips drawing attention to her face. Lovely.

Collins' traditional ballgown was a bit frothy, but not in a bad way. The full skirt was reined in by a lace band before falling into a deep ruffle, and the bodice was slim and fitted to avoid too much volume. The soft color was just enough deeper than her skin tone to keep from fading away, and her dark curly updo and vivid pink lips kept the focus on the woman rather than the dress. This was a terrific modern take on a traditional style. 

Culpo's ethnic-inspired gown was exactly the over-the-top-but-not-completely-crazy look that I love to see on the red carpet. The print fabric looked like it was pulled out of a Monet painting, with vivid colors on a black background, and the lines of the full A-line skirt were echoed by the criss-cross straps making up the bodice. Culpo was fully covered and supported, but showed enough skin to be very sexy. Her smooth updo with a few trailing curls added to the ethnic feel, and her strong posture allowed her to carry off a voluminous dress that could easily overwhelm its wearer. 

Vergara's voluptuous figure often overflows her gowns, but this heavily beaded gold gown allowed for sufficient coverage and support. I loved the bare shoulders and glittery beading creating lovely smooth lines down the gown, but Vergara's slicked-back hair and subtle makeup weren't quite enough to balance out the weight and glitter of the gown, so I felt like I was seeing only the dress and not her.

Ross ' tea-length silver column had just a hint of art deco in its long vertical lines with curlicues at the hem and additional details at the top of the bodice. Vertical lines are not easy to design for a figure with curves, but this gown manages to not overemphasize Ross' curves, but instead to create height, even with its shorter length. The pointy-toed pumps, hair pulled back into a thick curly ponytail, and magenta lips were all good choices. I would perhaps have added a large emerald or sapphire pendant to fill the space between her face and the top of the bodice to help draw the eye upward, but all in all this was a very nice look.

Best of Zuhair Marad? With five completely different looks, worn on five very different body types by five very different women, and not a clunker in the bunch, I'd have to say the winner here is Marad himself. (But honestly, if I had to pick the best of these five, I'd go with Collins, and Culpo an extremely close second.)

Other Designers
There were a few other looks on the red carpet last night that I wanted to mention. Here are a few other designers of noteworthy looks.

I will certainly give Nicole Kidman credit for taking risks on the red carpet, and it often pays off. She has pulled off looks that few actresses can. However, last night's Alexander McQueen gown didn't work, even for her. The top of the bodice was lovely, with tiny white straps and silver gathers at the bust, but the visible corseting at the waist and oddly-placed see-through panels of the skirt that ended in awkward and uneven marabou "ruffles" and the droopy puffed sleeves that covered half her hands just looked messy and unfinished. Her loose blond updo and soft pink makeup, however, were perfect and gorgeous.

Laura Dern often lands on my worst-dressed list, so I was delighted to see her in this gorgeous Burberry column. I think of Burberry as a more casual design house working heavily in outerwear, but this elegant brocade-look gown with a broad v-neck edged in a slight ruffle and ending in a thigh-high slit was anything but casual. The burgundy satin shoes, diamond bracelet, and soft, sideswept hair added to the soft glamour which suits Dern so well. A really great look for her.

It's a shame Claire Foy's dress by Erdem doesn't photograph the way it looks as it moves. The design of the gown itself is nothing special: Puffed sleeves, a wrapped v-neck bodice, a straight skirt with a medium-length train, a contrasting satin belt. But the fabric itself had such a glorious sheen as it moved; it was like watching the Aurora Borealis. It was a dress to be worn, to move in, to walk in. I loved what a natural, comfortable movement there was to it. It made me want to touch it, and to look at it. I will be very interested to see some of Erdem's other red carpet looks in the future.

Oh, Meryl. Not another cowboy shirt-styled gown. I bet this one has pockets, too. Sigh. At least the glass panels making up the details were quite pretty. I feel kind of bad for Givenchy for being credited with such an ugly dress, but when Meryl Streep asks you to design her gown, you give her whatever she wants. Even if what she really needs is better fashion sense.

Thandie Newton's gown is another that looked even more stunning when it moved. This white column by Monse hugged her body in the most flattering way possible, then ended with coppery-orange sequins that looked like flames rising from the hem. Most women would have needed more accessories by the face to avoid vanishing into this gown, but Newton's gorgeous eyes and perfect cheekbones were enough to draw the eye, with her sleek updo and minimal makeup providing all the accessorization she needed. Another of my favorite looks of the night.

Brie Larson's red column  by Rodarte was another look that caught my eye and drew me in for another look. The design is lovely, with smoothly wrapped fabric and subtle beading along the bodice, and a cascading chiffon skirt. But what really makes the look work is how incredibly perfectly this gown is tailored to her body. It fits her like a glove, moving with her moves, supporting where it should, flaring where it should, smoothing where it should. This kind of tailoring is what all designers should aspire to. And bonus points for whoever found the exact matching shade of lipstick.

Anna Kendrick's gown by Vionnet is proof that a gown that is perfect except for a single detail can end up a complete mess. From the waist down, it's lovely: a dove gray, double-layered Grecian skirt with a full column under a longer split-front layer that ends in a train, topped by a narrow metallic silver belt. Even the bodice isn't awful (at first): corset style at the top, the fabric is gathered over the bust to create some texture, then drops down in vertical gathers to the waist. But then, the disastrous detail: A single swath of fabric starts below the left breast and pulls up over the right shoulder, immediately making the breasts look asymmetrical and off-center. I'm not sure if the swath of fabric ended as a trailing scarf at the back or whether it was actually anchored at the back, but it seems to be tugging uncomfortably. Anna Kendrick is a gorgeous woman who is nearly always smiling, but her expression in this photo seems to betray her disappointment in this gown. 

Finally, the lovely (and fashionable) Emma Stone wore one of my personal favorite designers, Valentino. Her blush-pink gown blended with her skin tone, which is not usually a good look, but the bodice was encrusted with jewels and stars that created a line that was actually enhanced by having the gown fade away. The full skirt cascaded into a train embellished with a few more stars. Her low side chignon had a chunk of hair slipping out of it, but instead of looking messy, it just looked sweetly slightly imperfect (it reminded me of how the animators of Beauty and the Beast always had one lock of Belle's hair falling in her face, so she wasn't annoyingly perfect). But despite that, she did look absolutely perfect

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