The Good, The Bad, & the Badass

Jane Fonda
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

This award season was particularly long and drawn out. At times it seemed it would never end. It finally did last night. There is always a lot of hype and drama surrounding the Academy Awards. Perhaps even more so this year since they took place smack dab in the middle of New York Fashion Week. Tom Ford, who is bi-coastal, used the conflicting schedule as a good excuse to stage his star-studded fall 2020 fall runway show in LA on Friday night. Who else but the CFDA Chairman could make the 92nd Academy Awards seem like a NYFW event?

Oscar’s red carpet is one of the most high profile fashion events of the year, considered to be the most important runway in all of fashion. Naturally, I am always interested to see how it unfolds, but let’s face it, in actuality it is a night of borrowed gowns and jewels with minimal individual style on display. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and there were some who got it right. These are my picks for good, the bad, and the badass.

The Good:

Natalie Portman in Dior Haute Couture
Red Carpet photos vogue.com

Natalie Portman looked beautiful, elegant, and graceful in her black and gold long-sleeved Dior Haute Couture gown and cape. What made it even more exceptional was that the cloak had names of the women behind some of the best films of 2020—Hustlers, Little Women, and The Farewell among them— stitched into its lapel. For me, she was the ‘unimpeachably’ Best Dressed of the evening.

Janelle Monae in custom Ralph Lauren.

Janelle Monae always takes risks, and she can do no wrong in my book. Last night she channeled Grace Jones in a hooded custom Ralph Lauren silver metallic gown. It was an homage to Harriet Tubman and to black women who can do the “impossible” and the “unthinkable”. Janelle told Billy Porter that when she heard that he was going to be there, she had to “show up” and up her game.

Renee Zellweger in Armani Prive

Renee Zellweger, who won for Best Actress, really pared it down. Her one-shouldered white sequined Armani Prive narrow gown was chic and minimal. Renee wore no jewelry except for one ring, and she kept her hair simple. At the previous award galas this season, she often looked as though she just got out of bed. Most importantly, she was gracious in her acceptance speech.

Saoirse Ronan in Gucci

I thought Saoirse Ronan’s peplumed Gucci gown was an excellent choice for the young actress. Featuring a floor-length periwinkle colored skirt and black and white top with plunging neckline, it was youthful yet sophisticated, and it suited her well. The custom gown is made with fabric from a gown she wore to the BAFTAs earlier this month.

Caitriona Balfe wearing Valentino Haute Couture

At 5’9″, Irish actress Caitriona Balfe assuredly has the stature to carry off the Valentino Haute Couture black dress with a mermaid silhouette and sheer pink top with a large bow. It was the opening look at the show in Paris last month and was accessorized with long red gloves. Unfortunately, Caitriona left them off.

Margot Robbie in vintage Chanel

Margot Robbie, a Chanel fragrance ambassador, wore a vintage strapless navy Chanel dress with a massive jewel brooch. It was simple, lovely, and a significant improvement over the plaid Chanel from resort 2020 that she wore to the SAG Awards.

Olivia Coleman in Stella McCartney

Olivia Coleman’s long velvet color block Stella McCartney gown had surprising, unexpected sleeve details. It was flattering and an interesting choice. It had drama without being overdone.

Rooney Mara in Alexander McQueen
Photo: GettyImages

Rooney Mara always has the Goth ‘thing’ going. It is her signature. Rooney got it right with her edgy and divine black lace Alexander McQueen gown. By the way. she in Joaquin Phoenix’s significant other.

The Bad:

Sandra Oh in Elie Saab.

Statement sleeves may be a ‘thing,’ but Sandra Oh’s Elie Saab Haute Couture dress had a bit too much going on. At 5’6″ it was overpowering for her frame.

Mahershala Ali and Amatus Sami-Karim

The purple ruffled gown worn by Amatus Sami-Karim, Mahershala Ali’s wife, was just too fussy.

The Badass:

Billie Eilish in Chanel

There were other women clad in Chanel last night, but nobody looked quite like Billie Eilish, who appeared on stage for a special performance at the ceremony. The 18-year-old five-time Grammy-winning superstar sang a beautiful rendition of “Yesterday” as the Academy paid tribute to stars who passed away last year.

Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo was positively glowing. It wasn’t only because of her white gown but the amazing diamond ear clips and rings she wore on every finger. And then there was Cynthia’s statement-making manicure. On the one hand was Vincent van Gogh’s iconic “Starry Night” painting. The other was an homage to the night sky navigation that abolitionist heroine Harriet Tubman relied on when she fled for her freedom while leading other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. It all worked.

Sandy Powell

British costume designer Sandy Powell, who was nominated for The Irishman this year, wore a cream pantsuit covered with approximately 100 signatures signed by stars such as Robert de Niro and Renee Zellweger. Sandy will auction the suit off through the Art Fund charity at a future date. Her goal is to raise 3.5 million pounds to purchase, preserve, and maintain the home of her late friend and mentor Derek Jarman, an English filmmaker, and artist.

Diane Keaton with Keanu Reeves
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Last night Diane Keaton took the stage in a yellow and black wool plaid trench coat over a checkered pants suit. Diane accessorized with a wide-brimmed hat, a thick black belt, and matching boots. It is hardly a traditional red carpet outfit, and that is what makes it so great. Diane has her look, and she stays true to that. We love her for that!

Jane Fonda wearing the same gown last night as in 2014
Photo: Getty Images

When Jane Fonda appeared on stage to present the award for Best Picture, which was won by Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, the 82-year-old star wore recycled a six-year-old gown, which she previously wore in 2014. She has said it will be the “last article of clothing I will ever buy” as part of her ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the climate crises.

Fonda carried the red coat, which has become synonymous with her arrests in Washington as part of her involvement in the climate crisis protests. And I love that Jane kept her newly cut hair gray. You can’t get any more ‘badass’ than that!.

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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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