“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”
— Rachel Zoe
This was a fairly staid year for the Oscars, which was probably appropriate seeing as how the industry has been rocked by a series of scandals at the highest levels of influence and power. Several of the speeches and acts throughout the night acknowledged the tensions and conversations without our society at the moment, but of course the clothes carried much of the action in their own right.
On the whole I found this a much less boring year style-wise than we have seen recently and there were a lot style themes to enjoy: women warriors, men in color, experimentation in volume (not all of them good…), and in many cases a sense of play. While the results didn’t always work, I’m glad to see more experimentation this year and hope it’s a sign of things to come in fashion and red carpetry in an age of #MeToo, #TimesUp, demands for better and more diverse representation, and diverse stories.
Enough pontificating! Sharpen you claws, my darlings, it’s time to opine on people’s fashion choices!
Gal Gato does a mix between a flapper and a superhero get up and I love it!
Screen legend and EGOT winner Rita Moreno chose to wear the gown she wore to the 1962 Oscars where she took home a trophy for West Side Story. There aren’t enough bow downs in the world. She is the very definition of a grand dame!
Mary J. Blige looked sublime in this frock. Apparently she is coming out of a nasty divorce and I can’t help but seen something of armor in her beaded bodice. Amazonian in the best possible way.
Jane Fonda in Balmain. Bitch don’t age.
Greta Gerwig in Rodarte which brought a much needed sense of lightness and whimsy to a fairly serious red carpet in an introspective season. Rodarte is notoriously difficult as a design house and many of their creations don’t seem to work off the catwalk, but the designers seem to have found a better rhythm lately and this one of the best of their work I’ve seen in a long time. Sunlight in frock form!
Danai Guira has been rocking a glorious warrior woman aesthetic for the whole of the Black Panther premier campaign and it has been fabulous to watch. So I think this choice of an almost demure princess-y gown in a highly feminine pink was a smart design move to flip the script of her recent red carpet narrative. It’s a relative “simply” gown but I had to show the Watteau pleats in the back to show how well constructed it is. Those jewels are to die for and the general of the Dora Milaje slipped out with just a touch of warpaint!
Lupita Nyong’o, meanwhile, went full glamazon! Her first Oscar gown was a beautiful Armani cloud that was light, ethereal, and dreamlike in its quality. She could not have flipped her own script more. This, much like some of the other styling I saw throughout the night, felt a bit like armor. I can’t help but get the sense that the women of Hollywood came dressed to do battle and, since they literally use clothes as communication for a living, I take that as a sign of things to come. Excellent.
Paz Vega does the correct amount of whacky in Christopher Bu. This could have gone utterly off the riles, but works for me in a weird way because she kept her styling so minimal.
Like I’m not going to show love to either Octavia Spencer or an emerald gown!
The fun bit!
Maya Rudolph, representing the nation of Gilead…
When bad gowns happen to brilliant actresses… Sally Hawkins brought a very recognizable British nonchalance to the red carpet. It’s a grossly sweeping statement, but I find that there is a difference in how American actors and their international counterparts treat the red carpet. In the US, it’s very literally part of the job of being a star. Negotiations for pieces and the careful, coordinated use of clothing in promoting a film is a real industry making serious money. This isn’t to say that film stars of other nationalities don’t do the same, but I see less intensity from international stars (particularly those with a stag background, as so many of the best British actors have). You get the sense that they just aren’t going to Botox and constrict themselves within an inch of their lives, wear treacherous shoes, or frankly just make more of a fuss than they personally want to for a red carpet. Not even the Oscars. While I’m personally very supportive in theory, the Oscars (for better or worse) have a great deal with how you choose to look or present yourself to the industry and I don’t think this gown was a good choice.
Emily Blunt is harnessed into a Victorian nightgown here. The color and the lace effects look drab and silly. A different color with different accents (leather or metal for instance) would have changed this whole look around.
Zendaya is a magnificently beautiful young woman who looks as if she’s been shipwrecked and forced to swath herself in the remains of sails and riggings. Her face looks incredible, but the rest of this is dreadful.
I am an unabashed Emma Stone fan, but this was simply a bad choice for the Oscars. If she wanted to wear a lady tux, she should have gone the Evan Rachel Wood route or something, this getup feels like she couldn’t be bothered to dress up for the event. Since her gown last year was my favorite look of the night, this felt like a let down. A shiny, badly ironed let down.
This is…a lot of look, Taraji P. Henson. Look, far be it from me to shame women for dressing sexily, but I’d suggest either side cutouts, or a dangerous thigh slit. Both feels like too much. The fabric choice, art treatments, and general shape make this look more like a costume to me than couture.
Bad prom dress with an awful hem. Awful.
I adore Saorise Ronan’s acting but this Calvin Klein didn’t work for me at all. But C., you cry, what of Danai Guira’s gown you praised just moments ago! Well, guys, that was better rendered than this. The color choice (with a monochromatic shoe) washes her out badly and her makeup and hair could have been much bolder in contrast to the relative simplicity of the gown. This is case of poor styling making a basic gown bad.
There is a theme to this category this year and it’s “too much.” Everything that I hated this year was overdesigned, overly weird (and let the record show that there is a good way to do weird on the red carpet), or
Whoopi Goldberg…your team dressed you in a bad curtains or bed sheets and badly rumpled ones at that. Fire them all instantly.
St Vincent…what happened to your pants? This is what should be called “pulling a Bjork,” and while I’m all supportive and for more eccentric dressing, this goes well passed that and straight into whacky.
Amatus Sami-Karim makes me sad here because I’d love to see a colorful motif dress just blow the competition away, but this dress feels badly overdesigned in every way. There are too many elements that don’t seem to go together: the pearl studded mesh sleeves that aren’t sheer enough to be sheer or opaque enough to go with the rest of the gown, the train treatment clearly is supposed to be feathers but just looks messy, and the fabric choice looks cheap when I’m sure this thing was bloody expensive. Render this in white matte silk with a more cohesive sleeve treatment, and let that colorful embroidery sing, and this could have been a contender. The hair and makeup, however, are stunning. So is Mahershela Ali, while we’re being honest.
Salma Hayek was done no favors by Gucci, this was bad top to bottom. Seriously, go google some more images of this thing, it’s Not Good. Another case of far too many design elements all competing and clashing with one another and leaving its wearer much the worse off.
The Best Dressed
Allison Janey in Reem Acra looking downright, goddamn regal. It reminds me a lot of Lupita Nyongo’s red caped Ralph Lauren at the Golden Globes a couple of years back, which is a compliment all around, I think. The jewels are simple and stunning, the hair and makeup excellent, and the color simply but bold. The sleeves are allowed to do all the talking and they sing.
Do you know what? Let’s hear it for the boys! A lot of men showed up and spoke up about the media year in review, including the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which is nothing but good. And in more frivolous news, a bunch of them ditched the standard black tux this year and actually did something interesting in their fashion choices. More experimental male fashion! More color! Less heteronormative rigidity!
Daniel Kaluuya does Col. Mustard in the best possible way!
Tom Holland does British tailoring. He looks adorably serious.
Armie Hammer does red velvet. I and a seeming lot of lady Twitter all felt pretty good about this (*waves hand to encompass Mr. Hammer’s entirety) whole situation.
Chadwick Boseman. Long live the king!
Timothee Chalamet actually makes a white tux wearable and not a horrible 80s tribute.
You know what, Adam Rippon? Go for it. Fetishwear on the red carpet and shoes without socks, you let your freak flag fly, sir.