Nicole Kidman on the red carpet wearing a Balenciaga ivory strapless column dress. (Photo: Oscar.com)
It’s not news that the media frenzy surrounding the coverage of the red carpet, (especially the red carpet preceding the Academy Awards, the granddaddy of all awards shows), has completely gotten out of hand at this moment in time. In an article in The New York Post on Saturday, March 4th, “Joan turns tart tongue towards Oscars”, it was noted that Joan and daughter Melissa, “ who virtually invented red carpet fashion criticism and coverage, now are part of the pack of bazillions of reporters elbowing each other for their little assigned inch of space”. As the woman who basically started it all observed “We’re so close together now that it’s literally measured out in inches. One year I wore a Versace ball gown and couldn't fit in my space!". By the way, what did Joan select this time? A steel gray long Michael Vollbracht for Bill Blass strapless gown with feathered bodice which had her joking, “Don’t laugh. Dick Cheney shot 100 birds for my dress”.
Coincidentally, the first of the seemingly endless round of TV shows devoted to covering the red carpet arrivals of the 78th Annual Academy Awards (and just a note: Isaac Mizrahi on ‘E’ promised to be such a good boy he’d have “a halo at the end of the evening” and he made good on his promise- never once groping a star’s breast or asking what kind of underwear she had on beneath her gown) began just hours after Miu Miu, the last runway show held in Paris, formally ended the fall winter 2006 collections. And with the continued hype which surrounds this spectacle, it’s often easy to forget that the Academy Awards is not a fashion happening, but an event which seeks to “honor excellence in movie making” as host Jon Stewart (who I thought was effective and up to the task,) pointed out to the audience.
‘We’ (and by that I mean the media AND the fans) demand so much of our stars (vis a vis their choice of fashion on the red carpet), they cannot possibly live up to the critical scrutiny that follows, and are basically in a no win situation. We want them to be bold, be brave, take chances, give us an eyeful, and not merely be boringly ‘safe’ or tasteful, YET we are the first to criticize and ridicule them when they do. And by nature, when one experiments and takes chances, it doesn’t always work
Alas, by in large, the stars looked predictably and uniformly good, but played it safe and somewhat bland - therefore there were no inventive surprises (for example, not one person showed up wearing one of Nicolas Guesquiere’s amazing skinny brocade pantsuits or of his lighter than air baroque concoctions that were deemed the stars of the season by members of the press. On the other hand, there were also no ‘clinkers’, along the lines of Uma Thurman’s hideous Jean Paul Gaultier concoction that had her looking like a Swiss Miss in the Alps, or in the mode of Bjork’s now famous swan dress from years past, which is still the butt of jokes (especially this time, with Dick Cheney’s recent shooting accident). And perhaps the evening would have been more fun if there was.
Other than Dolly Parton (who is well, just being ‘Dolly’), the biggest faux pas I could find was on Lauren Hutton, who opted for a chic black YSL tuxedo and could have done w ithout the pointless black wrist gloves she wore (which seemed more than ridiculous on a sunny Los Angeles afternoon). And beautiful Charlize Theron was trying too hard and looked a bit overdone in her green satin Dior gown with huge ‘Prom Queen’ bow on the shoulder (she is so naturally stunning, she hardly needs such an overblown statement in order to stand out).
Ultimately, the ones that fared the best were not victims of overblown over the top statements but looked the most ‘natural’ and believable in their grooming, choice of dress, and accessories (regardless of whether or not the latter two were borrowed). This was exemplified by presenter Nicole Kidman, who was a vision of blonde, pale, cool in her Balenciaga ivory strapless column, that seemed to match her skin and her hair, which was blown straight (not piled up in a bun or pulled back). She, like many others, selected Fred Leighton’s amazing yet tasteful diamond jewelry to accessorize. Another good example of someone who did not seem to be trying too hard, is class act and Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, who almost never gets it wrong. She looked elegant and chic in her ivory beaded Christian Dior Haute Couture vintage gown (1955) reportedly bought at a vintage shop in Paris.
And speaking of class acts, legendary and ageless Lauren Bacall, on stage to introduce a montage of ‘Film Noir’ clips is a wonderful example of a woman who knows what looks good on her and has affected a ‘uniform’ of sorts from which she never wavers. You never see her in frills, ruffles, bows, voluminous ball gowns, or anything other than stark and simple tailleur. Last evening, she wore her signature black tuxedo accessorized with trademark choker, her ash blonde hair perfectly coiffed. The attending make up was natural yet glamorous.
Unsurprisingly, black (basic black done in ‘un-basic’ styles) was the successful choice for more than just a few stars including ravishing and 7 months pregnant Best Supporting Actress winner Rachel Weisz, who wore a long, graceful Narciso Rodriguez that emphasized her womanly curves and her luminous pale skin; Jennifer Aniston, pretty and natural in her ethereal and floaty Rochas with dramatic train; presenter Hilary Swank in form fitting strapless Versace; and well toned Felicity Huffman in plunge front Zac Posen, featuring a skirt that was short in front, longer on the sides.
It seems that if it wasn’t black, it was it’s polar opposite - ivory. Stars that glowed in off white or ivory (in addition to the aforementioned Nicole Kidman) included presenter Uma Thurman in a lingerie inspired chiffon Atelier Versace, Naomi Watts in a 1 shouldered Givenchy, and Diane Kruger in strapless Elie Saab encircled with tiny ruffles.
If there was one surprise, it was that there were no red dresses. They were such a major statement on the recent runways for fall/winter 2006. Although young beauty Keira Knightley, who had all the male hosts going ‘ga ga’, was arresting in her custom designed 1 shouldered Vera Wang deep burgundy taffeta fishtail gown that was fitted through the torso and featured a dramatic train.