I skipped my annual Rate the Oscars post last year, because all the outfits were so boring. I’m back in for this year though, because of a conversation I had last night.
Someone was discussing a red carpet host who decided to ask the men the same questions they asked the women – specifically “Who are you wearing?” According to this person, the men got a bit weirded out and upset – and wanted to know why they weren’t being asked ‘real’ questions, about the film they were in etc.
Now, this doesn’t make sense to me, because I’ve watched the Oscars red carpet, and the men always do get asked about their outfits. And they answer, happily.
Now, “Who are you wearing?” is a dumb question (“Who designed your outfit?” is just as short and much more accurate), but I would strongly maintain that questions about clothes are ‘real’ questions.
Yes, male and female actors should be asked the same question, but on the red carpet at Oscars night, questions about clothes are probably the most valid questions to ask. Every actor there has discussed their film to death in talk shows and interviews for months, and months. The votes are in, there is nothing they can do to affect the chances. Every person on that carpet has also put hours of thought and deliberation into their outfit and every aspect of their look. Why not ask them about it? How is that inappropriate and invalid?
The red carpet looks also reflect wider societal shifts, and can tell us important things about what is happening. Red carpet clothes have been pretty and glamourous but safe, and boring for the last few years for the same reason studios are pumping out endless sequels and remakes and surefire superhero blockbusters: Hollywood is under siege due to new media and the internet, and is sticking to safe things it knows works in response. How many times have you heard the phrase ‘Old Hollywood Glamour’ in reference to an actors look? Hollywood wants Old Hollywood back, in many ways.
Saying “We shouldn’t discuss clothes, that’s silly and sexist.” is actually sexist in itself. It assumes that clothes are unimportant, and buy doing so buys into a deeper, more ingrained sexism. Clothes are seen as a female interest, because for centuries women were in charge of many aspects of clothes procurement and care. Knitting, spinning, small lengths of hand-sewing and mending are things that you can do in between rocking cradles, minding children, making food, and while nursing. Clothes related tasks became women’s tasks because it was logical and practical for them to be women’s tasks. They weren’t considered lesser tasks until a divide between Art and Craft arose in the Renaissance. The writings that defined the Art/Craft divide are hugely misogynistic (just try reading any Cellini if you don’t believe me), and the idea that clothes, as a women ‘thing’ are frivolous is a descendent of those same ideas. Don’t buy into it. Clothes are important. They are the first, and most obvious way we advertise our personality to the world.
And with that rather longer and more impassioned defense of the importance of clothing out of the way, here is my, admittedly silly and frivolous write-up rate-up on Oscar’s fashions. Because sometimes silly and frivolous is OK too!
I’ve realised in writing this post that I am very out of the Hollywood loop. I hardly see any movies, I don’t watch much TV. Mostly I research, sew, write and read. So I don’t know who David Oyelowo is, but I do know his suit is AMAZING. Brown on brown sounds terrible, but this looks like a really beautiful 1930s two-tone car, with every detail perfectly thought out. The curve of that collar! The contrast buttons. The cut in the shoulders. The little silent piping details, and the perfect length of white cuff. I swoon. And if it were black, or grey, or blue, it would be boring. As it is, 10/10! Be still my sartorial heart!
I know that putting Cate Blanchett in the top 3 is probably the most unoriginal placement ever, but how could you not? She’s taken the most simple dress, and elevated it to perfection. I would wear this in a heartbeat. Except maybe for those fringy armholes. Not sure about those, so 9/10 instead of a perfect score.
Viola Davis is also missing out on a perfect 10/10 for one thing. Her necklace. It’s just not doing it for me. I love the dress – it manages to be Old Hollywood, without that being a synonym for Glamorous but Boring, which it usually is, and her lipstick colour is perfection, but that necklace is loosing 2 points. 8/10
This is Isan Elba. I’m assuming she’s Idris Elba’s daughter, and under 16. Technically, her frock is ghastly. Bright blue and black are ghastly. Stiff fakey organza ruffles are ghastly. The high-low is almost always ghastly. But on a teenager? Fabulous! Sometimes appropriateness makes all the difference. And she looks like she is LOVING it.
7/10, because I still can’t quite forgive those ruffles.
Zoe Saldana’s frock is gorgeous. And just, just, just verging on Old Hollywood is So Boring. But the seams turning into straps rescue it, for 7/10
Rosamund Pike is so beautiful it’s hard to just look at her dress. And she’s so ethereal its nice to see her in something that isn’t, even if the red colour isn’t doing anything for her. I LOVE the peacock fan effect of the bodice. Tres magnifique. And I would LOVE the whole dress, if it weren’t for that slit. Not only is it an awful slit, but Rosamund has the same problem I do: leg tones that look terrible with red. My legs go all sallow and yellow in red, hers go all purple and blotchy. Next time close the slit and go for metallic shoes with your red frock Rosie. 6/10
Rosamund may be loosing in the colour department, but America Ferrera is WINNING big time. That may be the most divinely hued frock I have EVER seen. I want to steal it off her…to cut apart and make a dress with a much less awkward bodice. The weird boob squishage, the amateur chiffon overlay. Not good. But the colour…oh, the colour! So good! So 6/10.
Who is Laura Dern? I don’t know. Laura Dern’s dress is amazing. Laura Dern’s clutch is amazing. Laura Dern’s train has me worried. And Laura Dern’s hair and twee ’90s medallion necklace have confirmed all my worries. 5/10, because if you hold one hand just above her decolletage, hiding her head, and another on the left hiding her train, she’s got the best outfit at the Oscars. But if it takes two hands to rescue an outfit, that’s not right.
In case you ever wanted to go to a costume party as Sexy Lettuce Garnish Chopped Finely on the Edge of the Plate, Emma Stone has you covered. For which effort she gets a 4/10
It’s another ‘Who the heck is this person?’ post. Her name is Dakota Johnson. She’s gorgeous, and red is her colour, but they forgot to sew a side seam (I hate literal side-slits), the super straight bottom doesn’t go with the drapey top, and the snake crawling up her shoulder caught her frock in its scales and is pulling it all out of wack. 30 seconds more and the fabric is going to tear or come uncaught and slip down in a very unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. Still, fabulous colour, so 3 out of 10.
Marion Cotillard gets a lot of accolades for her fashion sense, and I can see where her frock is going here. There’s a definitely ca. 1960 Balenciaga reference to the under-bum gathers. And while the are not normal, nor strictly flattering, I’d be totally behind it (hehe) if it weren’t for the fabric. The fabric just looks like toilet paper under a microscope, and as soon as that thought appeared in my mind I could not unsee it.
3 out of 10, which is still better than the one Balenciaga we’ve done as a Rate the Dress got.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Stiff and icky. Looks like it’s sculpted of plastic. And reminds me of a milk ad – but the kind where you know they are using glue not milk. Gross. 2/10
Poor Jennifer Aniston. Was she in a motorcycle accident or something? That must be some serious road rash she got, because she’s wearing a full-body bandaid. Flesh coloured, little holes for the skin to breath, layers where you wrapped it over itself. This is just horrific. And even worse from every other angle. At least it isn’t starting to peel away at the edges and getting all grey and sticky like they do after 3 hours.
1 out of 10, because you know the rules – no 0 in RtD.
Also getting a 1 cause I can’t go lower is Scarlett Johansson. Usually a colour this magnificent would at least add an extra point or two, but the super-corseted, boobs pointing in opposite directions silhouette, dominatrix fungus necklace and 90s boy-band hair are all SO irredeemably awful that I just can’t find even a 2. It’s an oversexed superhero at the Oscars costume.
Speaking of costumes…
I lied. I’m breaking all the rules, but there is no-way this deserves even a single point:
I think Gwyneth, Nicole and Jennifer all decided to come as Barbie at the Oscars, but went in totally different directions with it. Gwyneth went for Classic ’80s Barbie at the Oscars, Nicole went for Malibu Barbie at the Oscars, and Jennifer had a crisis of identity at the last minute and went for both Swimsuit Model and Princess Barbie at the Oscars. Cleavage or meringue skirt Jen, pick one or the other.
For the final touch of awful, have a look at Nicole’s hem.