Fashions at the Oscars

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this year’s Academy Awards were probably the most highly anticipated in their 90 year history. And that’s not because everyone wanted to know how Jimmy Kimmel would do in his second year as host (he came back regardless of the fact that his final words last year were “I promise I’ll never come back; good night!”). Nor was it because we were dying to see Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway reprieve their roles as announcers for Best Picture and wondering whether or not the “Bonnie and Clyde” duo would screw up the announcement for Best Picture lol (though that did provide an interesting moment).

No, it’s because these are the first Academy Awards in the wake of Harvey’s Weinstein’s sexual misconduct allegations; the first in the era of the #Me Too and Times Up movements. Add to this drama, the recent sexual aggression allegations hurled against “E!” News Network’s , Ryan Seacrest who has ruled the roost in terms of nabbing the biggest stars for his red carpet interviews. The allegations were made by Suzy Hardy, a former personal stylist, and while he has vehemently denied any wrongdoings and was urged to skip the Oscars this year, he was once again there back to his hosting duties on E! “Live from the Red Carpet”. Business as usual.
But let’s face it; everyone tunes in to see the fashion. Red carpet fashion is now seen as being more influential than the runway and the Academy Awards red carpet, the granddaddy of them all, is a fashion showcase. It is long regarded as Hollywood’s ultimate Spectator Sport, down to the Monday Morning Quarterbacks who weigh in on the aftermath (best dressed, worst dressed, etc.). Who nailed it and who failed it?

In this #Me Too Times Up era, is there really an appropriate or inappropriate way to dress on the red carpet? Well, that is obviously subjective but it doesn’t mean one can’t have opinions. I thought Bianca Blanco crossed the line of good taste and drew a lot of criticism at the Golden Globes in January, with her red cut out dress that left nothing to the imagination. She basically repeated the same thing again this time around (someone described her choice as a “clothing malfunction waiting to happen.”)

Taraji P. Henson’s custom made black Vera Wang with its ultra-high slit, was a bit too negligee looking for me.  Olympic skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn was almost un-recognizable in a black dress with lace trim that was overdone and matronly. They were among the few women who wore black which should not be that surprising since black made such a statement at the Golden Globes.

Lupita Nyong’o looked like a statuette in her gold metallic Atelier Versace one shoulder asymmetrical gown. Gal Gadot, in silvery Givenchy with plunge front and triple fringed skirt, Jennifer Lawrence in silver sequined Christian Dior, and Sandra Bullock in a metallic sequined halter neck Louis Vuitton also shimmered.

Jennifer Garner was hard to miss in her vivid cobalt blue Atelier Versace asymmetrical chiffon gown accessorized with matching colored sandals and Piaget jewelry. She looked every bit the movie star.

Jane Fonda, who was criticized for her girly bangs and fall at the 2017 Emmy Awards, was perfectly coiffed and looked very elegant and sophisticated in her Balmain custom made white gown with its pronounced shoulders. There was nothing in the least bit girlie about that one. She looked fierce!

Mary J. Blige looked chic in sleek white Versace. I noticed that she had a pronounced cross tattoo on her upper arm. Maybe she’s getting ready for the upcoming Met Gala.

Danai Gurira positively glowed in a strapless white satin Gabriela Hearst cape gown.

Margot Robbie’s white off-the-shoulder Chanel Haute Couture with a subtle touch of jewels, was lovely and understated (she is the new face of Chanel).

Red may seem like a clichéd, obvious choice, but its appeal can never be underestimated. Allison Janey looked more than ready to pick up her Oscar, in a minimal red Reem Acra with deep v neck and extra-long sleeves.

Sofia Carson’s fiery red Giambattista Valli had a cape effect. Meryl Streep looked vibrant in a completely unadorned deep v neck red long sleeved Christian Dior Couture gown.

Soft innocent pastels were another big theme. Of course one big problem it that they can look like prom dresses.  Emily Blunt looked beautiful in a graceful, mint green chiffon Schiaparelli with high neck and interesting sleeve detailing. Pink was also a popular choice. Several women opted for pale whisper pink, like Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein and Mira Sorvino (her embroidered dress had such a long train it needed a separate room) but Viola Davis made a statement in sequined shocking pink Michael Kors Collection. It was cut simply, like a bathing suit on top, and accessorized with a bejeweled Roger Vivier clutch in a matching hue.

Paz Vega’s beautiful floral Christopher Bu dress had an Oriental feeling.

86 year old Hollywood legend Rita Moreno’s dress, which she almost literally twirled around in, had a black velvet top and very full skirt which was decorated with enormous gold flowers. What made it really interesting was that it was the same dress she wore in 1962 when she received her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “West Side Story”.

The always exuberant Andra Day literally lay down on the red carpet, wearing a long sleeved floral custom Zac Posen, accessorized with a pale blue clutch, red velvet platform sandals, and a whole lot of diamonds (rings, necklace, and clips in her bouffant hair). It was as they say, a real photo op.

Another ‘flower girl’ was Whoopi Goldberg who wore a floral printed off the shoulder ball gown by Christian Siriano. It was custom made for her and she said that comfort was the key (she lifted up her skirt on the red carpet to reveal her sneakers). It was a surprising choice given that ultra-feminine is not a word one normally associates with Whoopi.
I was on the fence about Emma Stone’s Louis Vuitton red satin jacket and dark purple satin pants (she is the New Face of Vuitton) which was an unexpected choice. That being said, I do like that it was tailored and that she did not look like anyone else last evening.
All in all, most played it pretty safe and did not take major chances. Perhaps my favorite rule breaker is Janelle Monáe, who always delights from a fashion point of view. Her dramatic Christian Siriano three piece pantsuit was unexpected and fabulous but unfortunately, she did not make an appearance until 2018 Vanity Fair Oscars after party.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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