Miscellenia, Rate the dress

Rate the Oscars 2013

Every year for the Oscars instead of doing my usual ‘Rate the Dress’ post I turn the tables and give my rating of all the best and the worst of the Oscars fashions.  This year is no exception.  So you’ll have to wait one more week for the final rating on Mister Embellishment.

As always, I’ll start with my favourite dress of the year.  I think you may be a bit surprised.

Yes, Fan Bingbing, I have no idea who you are, and I’d never in a million years wear your dress, and technically by all my rules that is a hideous frock, but it was the perfect dress for you.  Right colour for you, right makeup, right hair, you’ve got the figure to pull off the ‘just shove a bunch of fabric on her, pin it wherever you can and call it good‘ school of haute couture, and something about your smile makes me think you have a sense of humour about the dress.  It’s so right, and so not boring, that it is the only adult dress that instantly made me smile. With this in mind, I’ll even forgive you that hideous clutch.  10 out of 10.

Oscars Fan BingBing

You know who wore a gorgeous dress, but in the wrong colour?  Jessica Chastaine.  I know!  Again!  This photograph is the most flattering, but the dress is really halfway between her hair and skin, and that’s just not a good look.  On a brunette or a darker auburn?  Fabulous!  As it is?  7 out of 10, and that’s being generous.

Oscars Jessica Chastain

You know who else totally flopped for all the same reasons as last year?  Melissa McCarthy.  Terrible, terrible colour on her, terrible, terrible hair, looks like she couldn’t be convinced to take her sweatpants off, so they just draped a bunch of sweatpant jersey around her, stuck huge broaches to pull it in, and called it good. 2 out of 10 (and that’s only because there are two dresses that are so astonishingly more appalling that this couldn’t be a 1).

Oscars Melissa McCarthy

The dress that was so much more horrible?  Brace yourself.  Avert your eyes those of delicate constitutions.

Oscars Brandi Glanville

Oh dear.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  Maybe her hoard of puppies attached it as she went out the door, causing that shredding at the bottom and pulling it halfway off her top?  Or is that the rare newspaper butterfly nesting for the winter on the hem, and she was afraid she would disturb them if she tugged it up any further?  At least the rest of the internet agreed with me that the dress was, well, not good.  1 out of 10 not good, and that’s only ’cause I don’t give 0s.

Numer two ghastly dress is Kelly Rowland’s black and white number.  At least it knows to be ashamed of itself.  The poor frock is so distressed to be seen in public that it is literally trying to pull itself off her and crawl away.  Even the shoes are trying to be invisible, and her hair is distancing itself from the frock as much as possible.  One minute more and a whole herd of little black satin frock toes will be scampering off into the darkest corner, while a white scarf blows off in the breeze.  I imagine frock toes look a little like Luggage toes….

Oscars Kelly Rowland

The thought of frock toes amused me so much that I’ll give this dress an extra half a point, for 1.5 out of 10.

A dress that everyone else savaged, but I really loved, is Anne Hathaway’s barely pink frock.  Yes, it does say “My nipples are here.  Right here.  In the normal spot on my chest.  Both of them.  Just where they should be.  In case you were wondering.” But it does so in a very witty, non-sexual way, and the dress is so classic while still being quite unexpected. It reminds me of an Egyptian statue. I’m a fan (except for that hem.  What is wrong with that hem?  Was she too tall for the dress, and did they have to let out the proper hem and do a terrible one at the last minute?).  8 out of 10.

Oscars Anne Hathaway

I’m also a fan of Stacey Keibler’s gunmetal and silver studded dress.  Very Art Deco, in a very modern way.  Her hair is a bit odd though, and silver isn’t the best colour for her (or me, or most dark blonds).  8.5  out of 10 for being the best of the extremely beaded metallic dresses on the carpet.

Oscars Stacy Keibler

Almost as good is Catherine Zeta-Jones in her golden metallic beaded number.  It’s a better colour on her, but the way the beading turns into curliques at the bottom is a bit twee and literal.  It looks like the designer got bored and let his 11 year old design the bottom of the gown. 8 out of 10.

Oscars Catherine Zeta Jones

At least it isn’t as bad as Nicole Kidman’s frock, which looks like it was entirely designed by the same 11 year old in the two month gap between her loving Barbie and sparkles, and going all rebellious and goth.  It must be the goth influence that let Nicole not to brush her hair and leave it falling all over her face.  5.5 out of 10.

Oscars Nicole Kidman

Speaking of Goth, I think someone needs to have a talk with Tabitha Coffey about her Revenge addiction.  The opening sequence dress just doesn’t quite work as a literal number, and the gloves just make me think of James Herriot books and cows having breech deliveries and prolapsed uteruses, and I suspect that’s the nicest thing the gloves could remind you of. 2  out of 10

Oscars Tabatha Coffey


Need to think of something happy.  Last year I loathed the eco-fashion number on the red carpet, but this year the two eco options I saw were quite pretty.  I love that Helen Hunt just wore a high street H&M frock – she looks great it in, and it’s a fabulous colour on her.  7 out of 10 for being different, without the dress yelling about it.

Oscars Helen Hunt

I was prepared to love everything about the other eco-frock, Naomi Harrises goldenrod and chamomile dyed number (though you can achieve much better yellows with those dyes), and then I scrolled down.

Oscars Naomi Harris


That slit ruins what could have been an amazing dress, cheapening it and dropping it 3 whole points, down to a 6 out of 10.

Speaking of cheapening, never has so much fabric looked so tawdry.  The real problem is the bad orange spray tan, but the ice skater beaded flames aren’t helping.  And remember when I said that black isn’t universally flattering?  Yep.  Chenoworthy is the perfect example.  That black is just duller her skin and making her look grey.  3 out of 10.

Oscars Kristin Chenoweth

Samantha Barks, however, looks so good in black that she turns what could be a slutty or boring dress into the picture of elegance.  I don’t think she picked the right necklace though.  6.5 out of 10.

Oscars Samantha Barks

Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, almost always picks black, and almost always looks boring in it, so it was such a relief to see her in a colour, and so much of it, and so exciting a colour!

Oscars Jennifer Aniston

Pity she couldn’t have arranged to have the dress fit properly, or found 5 minutes to put her hair up.  Long, lank hair + ballgown, just not working here.  And it isn’t the best colour on her.  Also, is it just me or does her dress have a teeny-tiny lady-pocket right where a, umm, lady-pocket goes?  4 out of 10 for the bottom half of the outfit (not counting lady-pocket).

If I’m going to take points away for bad fit, I suppose I should give credit for good fit.  Maria Menunos’s dress is boring, her hair is Barbie, and the pink is a bit, well, pink, but the fit is impeccable!  And at least it isn’t nude tulle.  6 out of 10

Oscars Maria Menunos

There was a LOT of nude tulle on the carpet (there has been a lot in recent years on all red carpet.  What’s with that).  As far as I am concerned there is really only one person who looks good in nude tulle:

Oscars Fatima Ptacek

Yep.  8 year olds (or however old Fatima Ptacek is) can pull the nude tulle look off!  It’s the perfect little girl on the red carpet look.  She looks like she is playing dress-up in mommy’s clothes, but it works.  It’s adorable.  9 out of 10.

Little girls have an advantage on the red carpet.  They can wear the boringest dress ever, but all they have to do is bring a stuffed toy handbag, and their outfit shoots into the stratosphere of fabulous.

Oscars Quvenzhane Wallis

This does not work for adults.  Still, if you are Quvenzhane Wallises age, 8 out of 10 (it has to be less than Fatima, because it really is a boring dress).

Right. Now lets talk about some of the dresses that are getting really good reviews across the fashion world.  Hmmm…Halle Berry.  I saw it, I stopped, I thought about it, decided I liked it, looked at it some more, noticed the stripes holding together the super plunging neckline, and liked it a lot less.  They take it from awesome modern take on 1940s does futuristic space-age late Art Deco, to try-hard sexy.  What tiny things can trip up a dress.  If they had been filled in, and echoed the horizontal stripes a the sides?  Amazing.  The stretchy sleeves and rooster hair are also bugging me.  7 out of 10 for so much potential.

Oscars Halle Berry

On the other hand, never for a moment did I like Reese Whitherspoon’s dress.  All I see when I look at it is hips.  Massive, disproportionate hips.  Now, Reese does not have massive, disproportionate hips.  Clearly the dress was meant to give the illusion of a tiny waist, but it backfired, and just gave the illusion of making everything else bigger.  The fit’s not fantastic either, and I’m over the black and blue.  It’s been done to death.  4 out of 10.

Oscars Reese Witherspoon

I’ve not heard a peep about Olivia Munn’s dress, but I love it.  Great colour for her, and the ‘use a big skirt to make the person look tiny’ illusion is working perfectly.  9.5 out of 10.  It’s everything that Chastain’s dress last year wasn’t.

Oscars Olivia Munn

Speaking of which, Sally Field’s dress this year is everything that Jane Seymore’s dress last year wasn’t, but in the worst possible way.  Last year I criticised Jane in her red dress for doing mutton dressed as lamb, so Sally tried to avoid that by going for the most covered up, old, frumpy version of red possible.  If the layers of gathering over the nude, the high neckline, 1840’s inspired front gather, and the long, wrinkly sleeves, weren’t enough, she had to add rows and rows of lampshade ruffles to the skirt.  And red, especially over nude, isn’t even a good colour for her, 3 out of 10.

Oscars Sally Field

OK,  I’m running out of steam.  Last tw quickies.

Zoe Saldana.  Just no.  Pick one idea and go with it.  I know you liked the dress with the layered hem, and the belted dress, and the dress with the bow, and the dress with the beaded neckline, but the solution to your decision was not to combine them.  2 out of 10

Oscars Zoe Saldana

At least she was actually wearing her dress though.  I don’t think Kirsten Stewart was wearing hers.  I think she showed up in something so horrible they had to photoshop this on to hide it, and they must have been in a hurry because it’s a crap photoshop job.  Look, the bodice has no relationship to her torso, and there are all sorts of bad bleeds hanging out of the dress from the original background.  1.5 out of 10

Oscars Kirsten Stewart

So, what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Did I leave your favourite dress out, or worst yet, diss it?


  1. Lynne says

    The Jessica Chastaine dress is stunningly good – apart from the colour. The fit is perfect, and the lines of the beads/sequins? are uplifting, coherent, and just plain beautiful. What a pity about the colour.

    The Olivia Munn dress would have to be my top pick – it does most things very well indeed. And it suits the wearer.

    Helen Hunt looks beautiful in her well-fitting, beautifully coloured dress. Okay, not exciting, but very, very good.

    I shrieked with laughter until the cat looked at me funny-like over the idea of Tabitha Coffey’s gloves and cow-birthing! And what was her make-up person thinking? Her head disappears. She needs some colour, or even some black. Earrings. Or a necklace. And some colour in her lipstick.

    Such fun! What we could do for these women if they only had the sense to ask us!

  2. I agree with you on most of this. I actually would have liked Sally Field’s dress if it didn’t have the sleeves and actually looked red not pinkish.

  3. God. I hate almost all of these.

    I agree with a lot of your ratings, but I do have a few exceptions:

    Olivia Murin. Great colors, colors go well on her. Only problem; the skirt looks like she’s standing on the hem! The bodice is a bit too low also. So I’d go only 6.5-7 or so.

    Reese Witherspoon. I like her dress okay. The biggest problem is that the fit is bad, as you said, but I wouldn’t drop it to a 4. I’d go 6-6.5.

    The kids: They are adorable but both dresses are utter crap. That’s okay since they *ARE* kids, but it doesn’t justify good numbers for the dresses per se. 4 out of 10 for both of them.

    Stacey Keibler. I’ve seen nicer looking gown on the sale racks at the cheap junior’s outfitters. The color does nothing for her, but she does wear it with charm and style, so I’ll go 5 of 10.

    Anne Hathaway. She managed to come up with a gown that makes her look more like an Egyptian mummy than anything else; even the nipple show doesn’t save that. 3 of 10.

    • Elise says

      I know! I kept wanting to pull up all of the dresses, too! I’m no prude, but the bustlines are so low and saggy to look out-of-proportion.

      True story: I may or may not have Anne Hathaway’s dress in my closet…because I wore it to the homecoming dance in 1998. I loved it then–and I really kind of like it now, too.

      • Ditto on all that you said… including having a similar dress for homecoming, except mine was in some kind of taupe color and it was for prom. 😉

      • @Elise:
        Ditto on all that you said… including having a similar dress for homecoming, except mine was in some kind of taupe color and it was for prom. 😉

        Re: Fan Bingbing’s dress… I’m not sure I feel the same way. Hair/makeup looks great, but sooo much fabric, and that bodice looks too undefined for my taste.

  4. Oops. I nearly forgot one other that I disagreed with you about. Fan Bingbing (I don’t know who she is either). The color and makeup *are* good for her, but nothing justifies a woman attending the Oscars in a dress that looks big enough for her to walk out of. Ugh. 7 at best.

  5. Robin's Egg Bleu says

    Well, I thought the entire night that someone had drug Kirsten Stewart out of bed, shoved any old dress on her and forced her at gunpoint to sit through the entire Oscar ceremony. She looked disheveled, bored, exhausted, gosh, I don’t know how else to describe her. Just…awful.

  6. I guess Kirsten responded to news of winning a Razzy with a drunken binge. The “butterfly on the hem” dress (who is that?) looks like she hung the dress off her nipples – how bizarre! Melissa’s dress is so bad her stylist should be slapped! I like Halle’s dress, actually. And, yes, the way Jennifer’s dress is positioned it is creating a pseudo camel toe – center seams are often a disaster. Anne’s dress look like someone ran out of time and popped her into a tube of fabric, then hiked the middle up to set the length and stitched it together, very odd.

  7. Golly, other than Halle Berry’s dress, sadly, I didn’ t care for any of them. We’ve been in the same right: princess skirt or va-va-voom fishtail train for years now, and it boreth me.

    Further, in many cases they’re fitted so poorly that any substance they might have had is lost. I know something about ill fitting, since so many of my own costumes have fit issues, but come on now: I’m a rank amateur costumer, not a star with professional stylists at command.

    Very best,


  8. I thought Halle Berry’s gown looked like one of the gowns they used to put on female aliens in Star Trek episodes. However, by comparison to most of the gowns other stars wore, it shines, so I wasn’t prepared to quibble with Leimomi’s assessment of 7 out of 10. If the average had been higher, I might have been more critical of it.

  9. Wow. I’d have to say I’m disappointed in the fitting of many of them, too, and the gratuitous slits and cleavage. It would be so refreshing to see the dress be able to stand on it’s own without legs or breasts everywhere. Just goes to show that you can’t buy everything, especially good taste, but they should be able to afford a good tailor…

  10. What I see is an indifference at best and contempt at worst towards these women, who are seen simply as marketing props for the designers and stylists getting kickbacks from designers.
    Noone really looks like they are wearing something that makes them look amazing – mostly the women have such perfect figures, anything would stand a chance of looking good on them. It is so sad. I wish they could be dressed with love and self expression and affinity.
    Poor Melissa she has an amazing figure, all her curves are where they need to be to rock a fab dress, but designers just do not know what to do for big women to make them comfortable and stylish at the same time. HER I want to take under my wing. Hmm, I wonder if I can get a hold of her…. wortha t ry! Hey. let’s all target a celeb we would love to dress and see if we can get anywhere. Six degrees of separation, my friends!

    • MrsC, I am very much in agreement with you. Both about the designers’ indifference to and contempt of their customers (these women) and the fact that most of them have figures that would allow them to look good in nearly anything.

  11. Wanda/Dawn says

    I agreed with most of what you said….only you said it way funnier than I would have!

    • To each her own… I found Helena Bonham Carter’s dress more appalling than average, and she looked as though she was drunk, stoned or unwell.

  12. It’s sad. There’s absolutely no instant “ooh”, as Octavia Spencer’s dress was last year. Nothing to look made for the actress. Yes, I know they’re not – I mean the way a classmate once put on a T-shirt in a shop and I thought it was hers… Like MrsC said: most of them just look like somebody put a dress on them to show it off.
    In my eyes (completely subjective, of course), Samatha Barks and Olivia Munn come closest to that “made for them” look, when the dress itself is concerned. And Maria Menunos’s fit.

    • P.S. And the fit issues: Come on, I can achieve better fit with clothes I pin on myself, late at night, at a smallish mirror – how come so many of these professional clothes fit so badly?

  13. I actually quite like the colour of Jessica Chastaine’s dress, it could have been one shade deeper, but it might be all the flashes draining the colour too. I think it is hard for a redhead, especially a light red, sometimes as the colours they suit are not “fashionable” most of the time, so it can be hard to find their colours.
    And I agree Jen needs to get over her hair and fork out for a hairdresser for special occasions
    The rankings were spot on and also very funny.

  14. fidelio says

    genevievevalentine.comI was so curious about the fit of Dan Bingbing’s bodice that I shopped around for some different views. It’s hard to spot in the most common picture, but shots from other angles show there’s an underbodice, which looks to be either beaded or brocaded.

    I wish Olivia Munn had the courage of her convictions and just wore the hell out of that dress–she looks dubious, alas. Unlike Zoe Saldana’s dress–she wore it so well I had to take a second look to see what was wrong with it.

    Genevieve Valentine had some entertaining observations, as usual.

    • fidelio says

      Fan Bingbing. My typing has just gone to pot since last week.

      Also, I am not sure why the bit from Genevieve’s site got pulled up to the front of the post.

  15. Oh dear, this made me laugh out loud. Especially the bit about the James Herriott gloves. I can totally see that!

  16. Kathy P in Pittsburgh says

    Brandi Glanville (in the “puppies shredded my skirt” dress) is one of the “Real Housewives” of somewhere; I think she’s supposed to exhibit a total lack of fashion taste. Does she get points for excelling at that?

  17. Claire Payne says

    Ditto. Oh the puppy-meister! Bring back dignity to the red carpet. Being elegant and sexy isn’t about the kilos of flesh one reveals but about being covered up enough to hint at the sexiness beneath. Letting it all hang out is never a good look.

    Incidentally, I don’t know any of the actress under the age of 35. I guess that Hollywood doesn’t make the sort of films I watch these days (period dramas galore).

  18. .Oh my, they’re all rather awful, aren’t they?
    A lot of them look like fish.

    The engineering in some of these dresses is quite remarkable, but, ewwww. Yes we know you have boobs, I’ll still believe that they’re there if you cover them up.

    I found your commentary quite amusing.

  19. I think you’re spot on. The only thing I didn’t like about Olivia Munn’s dress was the way the skirt was tacked on, like an afterthought.
    Also I bow in awe to your ability to make a reference to the Luggage in an oscar dress post.

  20. Shannon says

    This is the only Oscar dress review I’m going to read from now on! I agree with almost everything, except about Jessica Chastaine. I think the color is fine on her, and I just love, love, love that dress. I think it’s my favorite, even though I’m not a huge fan of nude/beige colored attire in general.

  21. I’m so glad you post this with the consideration of fit–I made the mistake of watching one of those post-award-show fashion segments and could NOT believe the gowns that were getting raves–they fit horribly! Especially Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence, whose gowns I thought played a game called “Not where boobs should be.”

    Though I do disagree with you on Anne–the darts don’t say cheeky to me, they say sewing ooops. Maybe it depended on the angle, too, but I thought it just looked like a mistake. Between that and the hem and the unfortunate way it kind of clunkily draped in some situations, it kind of reminded me of a home ec project gone awry. Love the color, though.

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