With the mani-cam set to sleep mode, and a campaign for #AskHerMore questions trending faster than you can say #OscarsRedCarpet, the fashion stakes at the Academy Awards took an interesting, and awkward, turn on Sunday night. For once in life, there was reason to feel sorry even for Ryan Seacrest, who was eviscerated on Twitter (deservedly so) when he asked Naomi Watts for her frittata recipe.
Well, rain pours down on the red carpet parade in buckets sometimes, both of the literal and metaphoric varieties, but there will always be reason to cheer for fashion.
While the dresses were sometimes weird, sometimes zany, and sometimes too safe, there were many that were sometimes fabulous. Just look at the necklines. Strapless used to be standard, but now there are halters that wrap through jewels (Anna Kendrick in Thakoon), or high-neck gowns (Felicity Jones in Alexander McQueen), or even a flip-over drape (Patricia Arquette in black-and-white Rosetta Getty, easily Arquette’s best look of the awards season).
Watching the carpet, it struck me that this one included some of the most well-crafted and thoughtful choices in years, with many dresses seen here that would only appeal to fashion insiders. And, yes, for that reason, some of them looked a little nuts. Lady Gaga wore that glittering, stiff Azzedine Alaïa, a strange moment from a designer who normally wouldn’t lift a needle for a red carpet request, now having created a custom gown for a pop star. Or Nicole Kidman in Louis Vuitton, a Technicolor slick column of butter wrapped with a red patent belt — to borrow the euphemism of Kelly Osbourne’s, a look “ahead of its time.” Or Cate Blanchett in Maison Margiela, a sleeveless black dress with frayed edges, interesting mostly because it was such a public endorsement for the rehabilitation of the label’s designer, John Galliano. Or Sienna Miller, who wore the first Peter Copping dress for Oscar de la Renta to be seen at the Academy Awards (it was black, though, and hard to see).
Not all of them made my top 10, a mighty tough call this year.
The surprising trend of the night was pearls — both as a color and an embroidery. So what a surprise it was to see a halter dress that appeared to be made entirely of thousands of tiny strands of white pearls. Not only did the dress appear to be a feat of architectural engineering, it held up to the scrutiny of making an entrance on the red carpet, and the fit was divine.
Almost classic looking from the front, the biggest surprise was its sack-back, or Watteau-back, depending on what century designer Raf Simons had in mind. Probably it was the 22nd, given the futuristic, parachute-light fabric dotted with all over holes, causing the look to both billow and deflate as Cotillard made her way down the carpet.
Made of chartreuse embroidery in a mineral pattern, both backless and with full sleeves, this dress drew comparisons to a celery stick (Stone called it guacamole). Either way, it looked delicious.
Do you really need to know how many sequins it took to make this dress? Of course you do. Eighty thousand. Although Oscars fashion watchers expected Moore to pull out another Tom Ford or Givenchy gown, Chanel was always a wild card. And really, if Karl Lagerfeld is going to offer to make a custom dress, who’s going to say no?
We’ll still allow a few strapless dresses on the list, so long as they look like this. Besides, with the scalloped neckline and lace applique, this one looked as sensual as lingerie.
A big takeaway from the night is that the red carpet is a place to make more than a fashion statement, and wearing a dress by the label’s designer John Galliano was a strong message of support for his recovery and return to fashion. Plus, wasn’t she smart to accessorize with that heavy turquoise necklace from Tiffany & Co? It looked great against the black.
Judging by online commentary, Margot Robbie’s black long-sleeve dress was the more popular of the two Saint Laurents at the Oscars. But for my money, Johnson’s red dress had the right amount of flash for the occasion, thanks to its single crystal knotted strap, a clever nod to her Fifty Shades of Grey role. Who knows if that was intentional?
Ford told me on Friday night he was dressing “one woman and several men.” So Witherspoon turned out to be the lucky one, and very lucky indeed. Ford picked up on her signature style for sleek and clean gowns with this icy blue dress, to which he added broad bands of black. It was just a little bit unexpected, and a perfect frame for her natural beauty look for the night.
Of the night’s big trend for textural dresses with 3-D embellishments, this one met all the requirements — glittering, graphic, fascinating, and worn with what appeared to be a crystal sports bra.
Gaga’s glittering Alaïa dress was a daring choice, and not entirely as perfect as it could have been thanks to those silly lobster-catching gloves. But I applaud an original, especially one like Solange, whose matching cape and pants ensemble was proof positive that not only does the Oscars red carpet no longer have to be all about strapless dresses, but it also doesn’t have to be about dresses at all.