Politics & Policy

Red-Carpet Review

Rating the 2011 Oscar dresses.

Hollywood’s A-listers brought vivacious color, embroidery, and sequins to the 2011 Oscar red carpet — perfectly in step with last September’s spring fashion shows. And from Jennifer Lawrence’s hot-cherry Calvin Klein to Sandra Bullock’s vine-ripe Vera Wang, the color trend was clear: It was a red-hot night. But it was a classic presentation, at that. Gone were last year’s ruffles and metallics, and back were clean cuts, linear shapes, and body-conscious luxury. It was a night for old-Hollywood glamour — although some pulled it off better than others.

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Nicole Kidman donned a beautiful Christian Dior spring 2009 couture gown. But something wasn’t quite right. Although stunning, silver-embroidered details covered the dress, I think Nicole’s skin tone washed out the look. She makes so much of a better impact when she wears deep, rich colors. Nevertheless, there is something about the dress that keeps the designer in me looking a second and third time — although I attribute that to creativity and clear craftsmanship, and not how it looked on Nicole.

Natalie Portman wore a custom, purple, off-the-shoulder Rodarte gown. It’s always a challenge to find a dress that tastefully accentuates the beauty of a pregnant woman, as opposed to one that purposely tries to show off “the bump.” But the color here was right on target, as was the shape of the off-the-shoulder and flowing body. Natalie chose to go matchy-matchy — normally a faux pas — from her dazzling fringed earrings down to her merlot Jimmy Choo sandals. But this was nothing to frown upon. A job well done.

Jennifer Hudson opted for a tangerine Atelier Versace spring 2008 gown with a plunging neckline and halter cut. The styling of the halter felt a bit off key; I don’t think it did Jennifer any justice, and perhaps it removed an element of class that Hudson usually exudes. Surprisingly, even though there was a lot of dress going on, I didn’t mind the vivid orange color. I would normally consider this hue to be more suitable for a shorter style, but here it works. As for jewelry, I’d have gone for one hand versus two.

Cate Blanchett graced the red carpet in a fabulous Givenchy spring 2011 couture gown that looked not only sensational, but felt new and innovative. Pleated lavender chiffon, complete with an embroidery of what looked like pearls and silver beads, made for a bejeweled masterpiece that Cate brought to life. The yellow border at the top might have been an afterthought, although it didn’t detract from the overall look. I even think Cate’s shorter haircut and simple bracelet were great matches for the level of specialness of this dress.

Anne Hathaway went for Old Hollywood, and pulled it off. Selecting a red, almost-ten-year-old, haute couture Valentino dress proves that fashion does not die with the change of the commercial seasons. Instead, good styles reign supreme. The fit of the dress was perfect — it hugged where it should and waved where needed. The floral appliqué at the sides were not so high that they made Anne look hippy, and her statuesque quality further elongated what would have been a tricky style for many others.

Jennifer Lawrence hit the red carpet in a custom, vibrant-red, Calvin Klein gown. As a designer, I have to ask: Was this too simple and plain for what is supposed to be Hollywood’s most glamorous night? Everything about the look was simple, albeit beautiful. And I have no doubt the dress was made to fit Jennifer flawlessly. But I think the look lacked in the specialness department. And no necklace, no rings. (Just a simple, almost transparent, bracelet.) When I think Oscars, I think glamour and jewels — fashion’s dominant traits of over-the-top luxury, design, and creativity. Forgive me, but I just didn’t see that here.

Amy Adams looked outstanding in a dress from L’Wren Scott’s fall 2011 collection. She analyzed her body shape, and rightfully so, chose a dress that would show off her well-toned physique and curves. The color was a nice selection given her pale skin tone. The only curious decision might have been the green emeralds on the bracelet and necklace. I understand she wanted to make a contrast, but this came off like a last-minute decision. Diamonds or sapphires might have worked better. Otherwise, Amy couldn’t possibly have looked better.

Another big occasion, another minimalist look from Gwyneth Paltrow. (Remember that awkward, poofy-pink number from a decade ago?) I do love the super-sleek, silver-metallic fabric on this Calvin Klein dress, but I’m not a big fan of the shape of the gown overall. Gwyneth has what most women would call a perfect body, and here, for some reason, it was completely lost. I’m not sure if the dress wasn’t nipped enough in the waist, or if the look of fabric falling straight from high hip to floor was unintended. But the result was clear: There was no curvature. I’m not too crazy about the silhouette.

Sandra Bullock was red hot in Vera Wang. Layers of taffeta made up this classy, elegant looker. And it had such an interesting bodice; there clearly was no skimping on creativity. The seams around the hip were diagonal, which produced the effect of halving the size of Bullock’s hips, while the double pleat at the bust gave a structured shape that neither hid nor falsified Sandra’s beautiful figure. But she did need a little something around the neck. When choosing strapless, a handsome necklace helps continue the design flow further north, rather than halting it at the physical end of the dress.

– Bradley Scott is a winner of the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award and a New York native. His website is http://www.bradleyscott.com.

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