The Oscars 2011: Fashion hits and misses

The Oscars are the epitome of Hollywood fashion. Here are my picks from the red carpet!

Laleen Khan February 28, 2011
The envelopes may have been upgraded from plain white to embossed crimson and gold but the 83rd Academy Awards didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded them. Touted as being ‘younger and hipper,’ the ceremony left one yearning for hosts that were ‘older and funnier.’

Alec Baldwin and Billy Crystal should have grabbed the stage for themselves while they had the chance during the ceremony. It’s unfortunate that politically correct Hollywood doesn’t appreciate comedian Ricky Gervais’ candid brand of British humour (remember the crazily entertaining Golden Globes that he hosted this year?).

Had Gervais been asked to host the 2011 Academy Awards rather than actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco, one might have enjoyed waking up at 5 am to watch it live from this side of the world.

Hathaway and (Best Actor nominee) Franco’s jokes were lukewarm at best. Franco was aloof and Hathaway was her usual endearingly/irritatingly gawky self.

The show generally went downhill after the montage opener from Inception, which drew general smiles and a few laughs. A set of cinema dialogues edited as music clips was the hosts’ only saving grace later in the ceremony, featuring a laugh-out-loud Does he own a shirt line from Robert Pattinson in Eclipse.

Hathaway unnecessarily paid musical homage to Hugh Jackman (they performed a comic duet at last year’s Oscars) and Franco was decidedly un-funny in Marilyn Monroe drag (though he did appear more comfortable in the pink dress and blonde wig than in his tux). There seemed to be more witticisms in ‘King’ Colin’s acceptance speech for the Best Actor statuette than there was in the entire script of the ceremony.

Patrolling the red carpet

The Oscars are the epitome of Hollywood glamour. With leading couturiers vying for the A-list, Oscars fashion is every bit as cut throat as the Hollywood movie industry. Celebrities walking the red carpet ‘runway’ are buffed and polished; their skin is made luminous with botox, fillers and skillful applications of makeup. With the world’s cameras broadcasting live—from real-time cams to laptops, to television screens with unforgiving HD resolution—it isn’t surprising that starlets sometimes resort to extreme dieting and laser fat removal in addition to their grueling fitness regimes and scanty menus.

Audiences are all too familiar with tabloid-style photos zooming in on celebrities’ thigh cellulite on the beach, performing mundane chores like buying groceries sans makeup, not to mention ghastly, drunken, up-skirt shots taken while getting in and out of taxis.

The Oscars are the one night is when it gets a little more dignified. Viewers are promised a smorgasbord of glamour from the time the red carpets are rolled out until the very last after-party has petered out.

Viewers ooh and aah over red carpet visions decked out in ethereal Elie Saabs and form-fitting Versaces, flashing multi-watt Harry Winstons and pose their ways into the Kodak theater in their sky-high Jimmy Choos.

They walk in with their husband/boyfriend/date arm candy in Dolce & Gabbana tuxedos and some of them even walk out with the golden boy himself, Mr Oscar. Along the way, unfortunate wardrobe choices are also made, which is where the real fun lies for fashion critics and viewers alike.

When a fashion choice backfires, people chuckle about it for years afterwards—particularly damaging for an actor’s sensitive ego—and glossies and blogs never let you forget it; remember singer Bjork’s eccentric ‘swan’ dress, Angelina Jolie in Morticia Addams black with hair extensions, and Celina Dion’s bizarrely-backwards white pantsuit?

The Oscars are about working a look that wins over an audience of tens of millions much in the way that mainstream movies are meant to. Which, to put it simply, is why fashion choices are left to the expertise of celebrity stylists rather than the celebrities themselves.

The glam list:

  • Halle Berry was dreamy in a pale, sparkly Marchesa, but the look could have worked even better with a slightly longer hairstyle.

  • Gwyneth Paltrow wore slinky gold Calvin Klein and shimmered from her hair down to her killer heels.

  • Mila Kunis floated in a lavender Elie Saab creation and didn’t seem to have regained the kilos that she lost for Black Swan.

  • Michelle Williams carried off a sparkly, white vintage Chanel with her demure elfin style.

  • Sharon Stone was dramatic in a black figure-hugger with a profusion of ostrich feathers over one shoulder.

  • Aishwarya Rai Bachchan wore a chocolate-bronze sequined Armani that flattered her hair colour and complexion.

  • Annette Bening was glamorous in a sequined diaphanous black column dress with white detailing.

  • Hillary Swank looked ready to party in sparkly metallic Gucci with a feathery bottom that should have come with a detachable option for the after-parties.

Their stylists should think of alternate careers:

  • Nicole Kidman in a white Dior origami disaster that she wore with red heels and a stiff expression.

  • Melissa Leo (Best Supporting Actress) in a Mark Bower tablecloth monstrosity; while its collar and shoulders were interesting, the pattern was an eyesore.

  • Cate Blanchett startled in soft lilac Givenchy with gigantic horseshoe motifs and yellow ‘growth’ on its cutout back.

  • Marisa Tomei’s black corsetry ending with asymmetrical tulle from her mid thigh downwards, together with daytime makeup, looked drab

  • Busy Philips’ black mermaid horror looked straight out of an 80s high school prom.

Custom-made by costume designers:

  • Natalie Portman’s plum gown by Rodarte, costume designer from Black Swan, provided soft draping that made a pleasing silhoette for this Best Actress winner.

  • Helena Bonham Carter’s black gown by Colleen Atwood, costume designer from Alice In Wonderland, along with Carter, catered to Bonham Carter’s whimsical gothic-Victorian sensibilities.

If only she could have…

  • Reprised her sassy look from the Independent Spirit Awards (form-fitting red lace dress with her hair down): Nicole Kidman.

  • Looked to Mad Men for retro dress inspiration flattering her build instead of her signature Halloween-meets-bordello style: Helena Bonham Carter.

  • Positioned her arms near her torso instead of hanging them heavily close to her knees: Michelle Williams.

  • Devised better chest support: Jennifer Hudson and Mila Kunis (for opposite reasons).

  • Stood with correct posture: Gwyneth Paltrow.

I’ll never forget these

  • The Wahlbergs: Rhea Durham was stunning in a gown partitioned by a sparkly upper half and vivid lower half.

  • The Firths: Livia, who has only been wearing eco-friendly couture this entire awards season in her ‘green carpet’ endeavour, wore a blush pink recycled dress by Gary Harvey along with certified fair-trade jewelry.

  • The McConaugheys: Camilla Alves was sleek in her black Kaufman Franco dress and slicked-back hair.

  • The Ruffalos: Sunrise Coigney looked like a strange cross between Anna Wintour (iconic editor of American Vogue) and a costume out of Cats (the Broadway musical).

The mommy squad:

  • Craving grapes? Third-trimester mommy-to-be Natalie Portman kept her colour strictly purple from her gown down to her shoes, clutch and dangly earrings.

  • What baby? Penelope Cruz, with month-old baby Leo at home, had an astonishingly flat tummy in her form-fitting gown, as did Celine Dion, who recently gave birth to twins.  Now I believe in stork deliveries.

Red carpet trends

Form-fitting sequins: Amy Adams in blue and Penelope Cruz in dark red L’Wren Scott, girlfriend to Mick Jagger; Aishwariya Rai Bachchan in brown Armani; Michelle Williams in Chanel; Annette Bening.

Pale buff sparkly torsos with tulle/mesh/feathery bottoms: Halle Berry in Marchesa; Mandy Moore in Monique L’Hullier; fourteen-year old Hailee Steinfeld; Hilary Swank in Gucci;

Purples: Mila Kunis in lavendar Elie Saab; Cate Blanchett in lilac Givenchy; Natalie Portman in purple Rodarte.

Red: With a bustle—Sandra Bullock in Vera Wang, Anne Hathaway in Valentino and Jennifer Hudson in Versace; Jennifer Lawrence in minimalist Calvin Klein that evoked Farrah Fawcett and Pamela Anderson in their red swimsuits glory days; Penelope Cruz in dark red L’Wren Scott; Scarlet Johanssen in maroon lace Dolce & Gabbana.

Cap sleeves with t-shirt necklines: Michelle Williams in Chanel and Amy Adams in L’Wren Scott.

Dramatic backs: Sandra Bullock with a low backed Vera Wang; Cate Banchett with an embroidered cutout in Givenchy; Scarlett Johanssen with a cutout back in Dole & Gabbana.

Minimalist bling: The sparkles were all in the gowns, if at all. Jewelry wasn’t grandiose; even Amy Adams’ Cartier necklace wasn’t dramatic compared with her sequined dress.

Hair statements:

  • The new Jennifer Aniston cut: teased bed-head style on Scarlett Johanssen and Marisa Tomei.

  • Retro: Reese Witherspoon sported an updo with thick eyeliner and Sharon Stone had a beehive with red lipstick.

  • Outdated: Gwyneth Paltrow’s poker straight hair looked very 90s.

Star Movies’ pre-show gaffes

  • The first half of Star Movies’ coverage was Indian-centric, focusing on AR Rehman, Aishwariya, Abhishekh and Slumdog Millionnaire director Danny Boyle (the latter three weren’t even nominated).  They seemed to be neglected by the other reporters, so chats lasted a longer time than usual for red carpet interviews.

  • The second half of Star Movies’ coverage was spent asking generic questions; Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky and The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper obliged with interviews. When The Fighter’s Melissa Leo was interviewed, the camera refused to budge from her head. Viewers couldn’t get a sense of how Leo and Rai were dressed below their shoulders, nor could we get an overview of the fuschia-red carpet to see more exciting arrivals.

  • The Indian correspondent told Matthew McConaughey that he (McConaughey) is an Oscar a veteran for having been there so many times before. McConaughey corrected him, saying, “I’ve only been nominated twice.”

  • While the entire AR Rehman-Mandy Moore musical segment was taking place at the Oscars, Star Movies forced us to watch an Alice In Wonderland behind-the-scenes promo for its channel that lasted for two segments.

Laleen Khan An international columnist and media consultant who Tweets @laaleen
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.