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Oscar frock-watching

March 10, 2010

I realise the Oscars took place over two whole days ago now, which practically makes it old news. And you already know Sandy Powell (above) won Best Costume for The Young Victoria, with a wonderful acceptance speech championing costume designers who aren’t winning Oscars because they don’t do period dramas with big frocks:

…I’d like to dedicate this one to the costume designers that don’t do movies about dead monarchs or glittery musicals. The designers that do the contemporary films and the low-budget ones actually don’t get as recognized as they should do, and they work as hard. So this is for you, but I’m gonna take it home tonight….

But do you mind if we just talk about the red carpet dresses?

I don’t know about you, but flicking through the red carpet galleries on the official Oscars site I have to admit I was ever so slightly… underwhelmed. Where were all the stars we can usually rely on to add sartorial interest? Actresses renowned for their own distinct personal style such Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman seemed to have stayed away. And Cate Blanchett, guaranteed to wear something unusual but look amazing- where were you when we needed you?!?

Cate Blanchett in Galliano and Giorgio Armani

Instead, it was almost as if the majority of actresses had made some kind of bizarre pact. A pact to eschew colour and embrace silvers and icy shades of pale. Also, to aim for the “tasteful” look, even at the risk of toppling into “bland”. (It’s interesting to note that the press have slated those actresses that revealed too much thigh or cleavage as the “worst dressed”- not something that would have happened a few years ago…)

One of the most popular looks this year was still the enormous full-on fishtail trained gown. You know the kind I mean- with more yards of taffeta than you can shake a stick at swathed around the figure. The kind of dress that can almost stand up by itself. Which is, I suppose, fair enough. The Oscars is one of the few events where you can justify your gown taking up that much space. But, unless you have a personality as big as the Hindenburg, such gowns inevitably just end up wearing you; you simply become the body holding the gown up. A lot of the actresses who sported these extravagant gowns had gone for chic elegance from the neck up- hair up, relatively restrained makeup and jewellery, which meant the dresses swallowed them whole.  I couldn’t help wondering how these actresses could sit at a table or move at all- they looked like they’d been airlifted in. And the answer came from watching video footage of shuffling actresses literally having bits of their dresses carried for them- they couldn’t. Personally, this obvious lack of mobility kind of undermined any vestiges of glamour for me. Because if wearing a dress looks like Hard Work, can it really be elegant?

But three stars that did make elegance look effortless:

Carey Mulligan in Prada, with that beautiful sculptural bell shaped skirt and her edgy blond pixie hair a chic counterpoint. My personal favourite, and not least because I think this really suits her. And the embellishment on the bodice, if you peer closely, is tiny forks, knives and scissors!

Helen Mirren, who always looks amazing, in Badgley Mischka. ‘Nuff said.

I hesitated long over Demi Moore’s Versace dress. It’s not something I would personally choose, but I think the narrow silhouette and subdued but warm colour mean the cascading ruffles work, and Demi certainly pulls it off. (Or maybe I just like it because it reminds me of this 1920s lovely…)

What do you chaps think?

All images from

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2010 3:05 pm

    love, LOVE Helen Mirren. Definitely my favorite from the photos I’ve seen.

    Didn’t really like Demi Moore’s look — the dress is pretty, but the original color was better. I think I’m kind of creeped out by how closely her version matches her skin.

  2. Emily permalink
    March 10, 2010 4:34 pm

    I totally agree with you about looking like you can’t move around in a dress not being at all elegant! Kind of makes me think of times when corsets and crinolines meant all a woman could do was sit around looking pretty. And isn’t it weird that we still think it’s a good look for special occasions?

  3. March 10, 2010 5:54 pm

    LOVED Helen Mirren’s dress! I loved Carey’s dress as well but wish she hadn’t of worn such chunky shoes.

  4. Sid permalink
    March 11, 2010 7:18 pm

    I think Sandy Powell was one of the most elegantly dressed women there, and she deserved an Oscar just for that. The pale colors so many of the women wore were not very well chosen for their skin tones. And I won’t be sorry to see the trend of strapless gowns gone until the women who wear them learn to wear them with the strength of attitude the dresses themselves deserve! I always get the feeling that the body language of the hunched shoulders undermines the beauty and style of the strapless dress. Bare shoulders are pretty sexy. All that hunching over looks way too protective and apologetic, and I imagine they are more worried about their breasts popping out of the not very well fitting bodice! I think of all those photographs of women in designer strapless gowns, in another era, looking confident, knowing they were stunning and beautiful. I felt like my Grandmother was being channeled through me, as I sat watching the Oscar’s-“Stand up straight, for God’s Sake, and at least act like you enjoy wearing that dress.”!!! So that is my little rant about strapless gowns, I guess. Helen Mirren is beautiful in anything she wears, including those suits she wore in the Prime Suspect series! And I really loved that sapphire blue dress Mo’nique wore-she was lovely in that dress. Enjoy your day!

  5. Lindyhopper permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:43 am

    I think Sandy Powell’s outfit was the most stunning, especially when she went up to collect her award. It was obvious that she was a costume designer. But I also likes the dress with the bird and flowers on the back.

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