For the first time in a long while, I was excited by an array of truly Oscar-worthy gowns this past Sunday evening. If you’ve followed my past commentaries on the awards shows, you may remember that the last few had a tone of disappointment at the more laid-back looks we’ve seen lately. I was genuinely pleased to see an about-face at this year’s Academy Awards; there was a big splash of luxury and fantasy from actors and actresses who wanted to really impress, and did.
Let’s begin with the star of the show, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, who wore a knock-out Christian Dior. Being successful on the red carpet is completely aligned with being successful in an Oscar-worthy film. It’s about the fantasy, the presentation, and the entire package together. If one element fails to work perfectly, the end product just doesn’t work. The dress and the actress wearing it here are simply perfect — plenty of drama but no complications. The silhouette, color, texture, and drape are all knockouts, and there are no extra tricked-up styling details to take away from that. Even her jewelry is delicate enough not to conflict with this very strong dress, as are her swept-back hair and adorable silver clutch. As a fabric guy, I can tell you this is definitely of couture quality; note the texture of it — it is crinkled, but not too much or as if she just crunched it up. Notice how it looks shiny but not vulgar or inexpensive, even under the photographers’ flashes. The folks at Christian Dior must be so happy to have a walking advertisement of flawless perfection.
Moving on to one of my favorite eveningwear designers, let’s have a look at the Oscar de la Renta number worn by Amy Adams. I have lots of good things to say about this gown, and one minor quibble with it. First the good: Oscar de La Renta never fails to impress me with his workmanship, and this continues here with the unbelievable skirt on this dress. I couldn’t begin to tell you how long it took for that skirt to go from fabric to finished product. It is most certainly entirely cut and sewn by hand. I would have to guess that it took twelve hours just to cut the layers. (Some insider information from my own studio: It takes about an hour to cut out an entire shift dress.) I love how the bodice leads into the dramatic skirt in such a seamless fashion (pardon the pun). Amy’s bracelet is just right for this look, but I’d have liked to see a necklace. Generally, when the dress is low-cut, I prefer a finished look to include something around the neck. It completes the attire, especially with a large skirt, and would make for a more “balanced” look and bring some attention northward.
My only negative comment is that I feel this dress would have made more of an impact if it were in black, or at least a much darker gray. Perhaps pewter or even a sapphire blue would have made for a more saturated image.While I wouldn’t tell Oscar de la Renta how to make a dress, I tend to think chiffon does not work as well in a mid-tone gray because it tends to look neither here nor there.
In every award-ceremony commentary, I have to include some less-than-stellar reviews. This is really difficult for me because I don’t like to scrutinize or act as if I am a supreme expert with the privilege of passing judgment, so I will keep my analysis as technical as possible. Sally Field, an actress whom I have adored for as long as I can remember and whose talent dwarfs that of most of the new girls on the big screen today, did not impress me as much with her dress selection. I just don’t think this dress is attractive, and it really has nothing to do with Sally Field. I feel like it was a rushed piece, added into the collection just to make “another dress.” The bodice looks slightly sloppy and uneven, while the gathering in the skirt leading toward the ruffle is coming undone because pure silk never holds pleats as well as a synthetic fiber would. The ruffles from the pleats to the floor also make little sense and have a very “school project” look. I hate to criticize this, but even the sleeve doesn’t fit properly, and we can see the chiffon stretching over the muscle. The nude lining color may have been chosen for some purpose, but I can’t imagine what, as a red lining would have made the dress more visually saturated, and we can see something going on under the skirt in the back, which doesn’t look neat. The neckline is so plain, and there isn’t even a necklace to frame her neck. Sally is such a beautiful woman, with a terrific figure, and is beyond graceful. She could have worn anything and looked like a classic beauty, so I don’t know why she went with a body-hiding ruffle dress that seems to have come from another era and does absolutely no grace for her.
Media darling Anne Hathaway has always made it to my best-dressed list, because she truly knows how to stand out from the crowd and look like a million bucks. What can I say about this dress? Well, Prada, as most of my fashion readers will know, is the queen of minimalism, and this dress is no different.
But I like to see more va-voom on the red carpet. In a sense, this dress is shapeless, and very bland. It also doesn’t fit well in the bust; Hathaway is not bust heavy, and she does not fill out the room allotted by the darts sewn in on the sides. Any female reader will know what I am talking about, as every woman will put a dress back on the hanger if the shape around the chest is not perfect. To further accentuate the ill fit, the dress is crafted out of what appears to be a thick duchess satin, which lends a pointy shape at the tip of the bust-apex point. I know no woman who wants her chest to appear like this in public, and I imagine it should be no different for a Hollywood actress. It’s so incredibly easy for Anne Hathaway to look perfect; it’s truly the first time I haven’t seen her looking her best. In any event, she’s still at the height of stardom, and we will see lots more of her. I’m confident this is just a minor fashion bump in the road. She’s truly talented and I can’t wait till the next awards show to see her next selection.
At the other end of the spectrum, let’s put perfection under the microscope and look at Catherine Zeta Jones, an actress who for the past decade has always outshined my wildest imagination of what a beautiful woman looks like. Perhaps I have a minor crush on her? Who knows, but she knows how to rock a dress and she did last night. The designer, Zuhair Murad, specializes in embroidered dresses, and this one is another knockout from his more recent collection. As I was watching her last night, I got a text message from one of my good friends noting how lucky Michael Douglas is, and I must agree. Look at her! She represents what Hollywood glamour used to be. What I love most is that you can take Catherine and place her at any awards show in the last 85 years and she would fit in perfectly. That’s something you can’t say about anyone else, and the quote from Chanel, “fashion fades, style is forever,” totally applies to her. The embroidery itself is perfect, completely covering the upper bodice with sporadic applications all over the dress in a symmetric pattern, and it screams perfection, luxury, and taste. Even the under layer of fabric is of high quality, not wrinkling even as it drags on the carpet. Her earrings look like they were made for this dress: same color, same tone, and same embroidered feeling. I’ll close my analysis by asking the same question I always ask: Why can’t every actress understand fashion just as she does?
Gianni Versace inspired me to enter this profession when I was 16 years old, and I’ve been a fan of his company ever since. I love its craftsmanship, and how it makes every dress look so sexy. When someone as stunning as Halle Berry wears the label, a marriage of everything beautiful is created. Have a look at this exquisite, perfectly fitting dress. I see confidence, structure, power, and a very strong point of view. It is so important for you, my readers, to understand how difficult it is to create embroidery around curves as you see in this dress. This piece fits her like a glove; there is no pulling, snagging, or misshaping in the way it forms a second skin around her. I love how the black and silver around the dress marry with the silver-over-sheer-chiffon look on the sleeves. All in all, Donatella Versace lives up to what her late brother created. Here again, I see no need for a necklace because the embroidery itself acts as jewelry. The ring is a perfect accompaniment, as are the simple earrings. As I’ve said in previous commentaries, when a dress is ornate, go simple with the styled add-ons, because sometimes more is just more, not better.
On to an appearance no one expected. America’s first lady, Michelle Obama, presented the award for Best Picture last night wearing Naeem Khan. What can I say? She looks perfect here in a silver embroidered evening dress. I think every woman in a Naeem number looks over-the-top gorgeous because he specializes in crystal embroidery and special applications over silk chiffon. With all this craft and art, it is no surprise his dresses range from $5,000 to $15,000. It’s always nice to see a first lady looking good, and she did not disappoint in that department.
With all the neutral and silver tones on this red carpet, I was happy to see a bright-canary-yellow Versace dress worn by Jane Fonda. This should quash any belief that Versace is only for the 20s and 30s crowd, as Jane is 75 and couldn’t have looked better than she did. Versace understands its customers’ needs and requirements, and Jane Fonda’s dress is proof of that. The embroidery accentuates her waist, and the sleeves didn’t age this piece in any way. Her bag, which matched the dresses embroidery, was a fabulous touch, as were her delicate earrings, which also seemed to blend perfectly. (Perhaps they were all Versace?)
This really must be the year of silver, because here is another beautiful Armani dress in silver, chosen by Naomi Watts. I love that Armani, usually classic, switched it up a bit last night to create a futuristic shape around the neck and bodice. What really is incredible is how it lays perfectly, which is difficult to do with a heavy fabric around curved shapes. That’s why Armani is who he is, and the celebrities know it very well. I love how the cap sleeve looks dainty while the left side gives the sex appeal. When a dress fits perfectly like this, it’s already a winner, and everything else is extra icing on the cake. This dress really performs its task well, and Naomi looks like a princess because of it. Her watch and ring are all she needs to accessorize this already-over-the-top dress.
As I close this commentary, I want to say it was such a pleasure to watch the Academy Awards this year. As I mentioned before, the last few awards shows seemed to have too many dresses that were just not grandiose enough to be worn at such an event. The celebrities surely know the average viewer is interested in the fashion at least as much as, if not more than, the awards given for talent in film. We don’t attend parties like this, so to us it’s a sneak peek into a world none of us will likely ever penetrate. We want to see a ravishing array of glamour and a Cinderella fairytale. Anything short of this is a disappointment, which is why I was thrilled to see we got everything we wanted and more this year.