Rate the dress

Rate the Oscars 2017

It’s that time again!  The one week of the year when I let you off the pressure of rating the dress, and do it myself, as I Rate the Oscars.

As usual, I’ll go from best to worst, so keep scrolling to keep cringing (or not, you’re totally allowed to love the things I hate and hate the things I love!)

A note:  I take quite a lighthearted approach to my own clothes, and will happily admit when I create outfits that just don’t work out.  My critique is meant to be an amusing take on how I viewed the Oscars fashions, and includes only comments  that I would find hilarious, rather than insulting, if they were applied to me.

Oscars 2017 Auli’i Cravalho

Auli’i Cravalho’s  is the only dress of the 2017 Oscars that I looked at and instantly loved, and looked a little closer, and still loved.  Yes, it’s a little bit prom, but she’s what, 16?  So prom meets Oscars is perfect!  And it looks likes shells, and seafoam, and fans!  How divine  for the actress who voiced Moana!   16 year old me would have died of happiness if she could have worn this to prom, or the Oscars, and mumble-mumble-30-something me wouldn’t be ashamed to wear it either.  10/10

I LOVE a super-intellectual, super wacky, and super fabulous dress on the red carpet, but it’s really hard to pull all three of those off and succeed.  Quite a few  actresses attempted it this year.  Who pulled it off?  Only one of them, but the next one came SO close, loosing, not by a hairsbreadth, but by the width of a layer of illusion mesh.  That stuff will trip you up every time!

So who succeeded?

2017 Red Carpet Priyanka Chopra

Yep.  Priyanka Chopra has managed to make a dress that could, by that proverbial hairsbreadth, look like a primary school craft project made from woven Christmas ribbons, with an apron front that is, as far as I can tell, help on by glue, the gravity-defying powers of boning, and hope, look amazing.

OK, possibly there is some illusion mesh in there, but it’s doing it’s job because you can’t see it, and that’s the important thing for illusion mesh (otherwise it ruins the illusion).  9/10

Speaking of intellectual fashions attempts and illusion mesh…

2017 Oscars, Janelle Monae

Things I’m loving about Janelle Monae’s outfit:  the super modern take on 18th century skirt; the crazy collar, which also looks like a nod to 18th c pleated  ribbon chokers; the headband (love a good diadem-esque headband); the rows of embellishment on the skirt, which have convinced  a small portion of my mind to skip off and sit on a hill in the moonlight, blowing dandelions, in the firm and happy conviction that her skirt features little rows of stormtroopers chilling out and  shooting the breeze  while they wait for deployment AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL IT THAT’S NOT WHAT THEY ARE.

Things I’m not loving about this: the illusion mesh bodice with the giant mutant birds attacking her boobs while a nuclear bomb (so we know where the mutant birds came from) explodes beneath the left one.  And the too harsh belt.  That sucks too.  But mostly the illusion mesh.  Blech.  It’s just about impossible to combine super-intellectual and illusion mesh, and while this is still fabulous, it’s loosed 2 points for the evil IM.  8/10

2017 Oscars Leslie Mann

Some commentators have compared Leslie Mann’s frock  to the iconic yellow dress from Beauty and the Beast, and said that when they saw it ‘A Tale as Old as Time’ started playing in their head.

When I saw it my brain started singing:

It was a…droopy, drapey, swoopy, swoony, yellow taffe-ta balloon-y, that she wore for the first time today!

Despite this, I like it.  It’s FUN.  It’s not boring (and so much of the red carpet was boring).  I’m not entirely convinced by the ‘Hey, let’s take a 1940s sarong set a la Wearing History’s Sunkissed Sweethearts pattern, and turn it into an Oscars ballgown’ brainwave that seemed to have inspired it, but I definitely won’t be putting it on a Worst-Dressed list.  7/10

(and this from a person who usually loathes pickups with a passion only otherwise reserved for thigh-length neon-purple fringe-covered spandex ‘Authentic 1920s Flapper Great Gatsby Deco’ dresses on etsy)

2017 Oscars Ruth Negga

There is a lot I love about Ruth Negga’s outfit.  The makeup is the best-possible take on the red-eyeshadow trend (not the biggest fan), I ADORE her modern-take-on-a-Regency-diadem headdress, the fit of her dress is spot-on, and it’s a really nice change from the usual ‘Hey, have you seen my boobs!  What about the flesh between them and my stomach to my navel?’ (especially this season,  when half the dress bodices seem to have been made from two tiny handkerchiefs of dress fabric – yeah, I’m looking at you Michelle Williams and Emma Roberts – at least ScarJo had a last minute panic and pinned her bodice together).


No matter what you do to it, even if it’s made of silk, bright red lace just looks like it came from the $2 shop and was super-glued on.  It has the magical ability to make any dress look like one of those frocks from the really dodgy Chinese knock-off sites.  In fact, give it a week and those sites will be selling this ‘exact’ dress,  and when you get it it will look just like Ruth’s frock, only the lace will be so itchy you’ll scratch your upper chest until it’s so red you won’t need the bodice-filler net, and the bodice will fit a 4 year old, and the sleeves a 14 year old chimpanzee.


2017 Oscars Naomie Harris

Naomie Harris wins all the points for cosplaying as that time Jabba the Hutt decided to make his own Stormtrooper clone army (his own clones, ‘natch).

Naomie Harris also looses  all the points for cosplaying as that time Jabba the Hutt decided to make his own Stormtrooper clone army.  This is the Oscars, not a Cosplay Convention (but if she wears this in a CosCo CosCom she’d better win!)

So…that makes it 5/10?

2017 Oscars Darby Stanchfield

Darby Stanchfield laser-cut pleat-layer-thingees are amazing, and the illusion tulle is fine, because it’s tulle, not mesh, and loose, not skin tight, and I desperately, desperately,  want to see her spin, and those earrings are fabulous (if slightly painful looking), but the overall look is just a teeny-tiny bit obvious.  It’s the pose and the hair.  It needed sleek hair pulled back in a bun, and Janelle Monae’s pose.  She couldn’t quite commit to being intellectual, and had to shove in a big dose of sexy, and that just ruins it.  I’d still totally wear this in a heartbeat if I was getting married again though.  4/10

2017 Oscars, Emma Stone

Emma Stone got criticised for being too literal in her star covered frock at the Golden Globes (personally, I loved it, just fyi), so instead of going as the Oscar statuette to the Oscars she channelled Old Hollywood and came as the fringed lamps that Joan Crawford had in her dressing room before her Baby-Jane career revival.  Her makeup (which was apparently based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti paintings, because she’s a readhead, and he liked to paint them, ‘natch) is also giving me creepy Baby Jane era Joan Crawford vibes.  I feel like we just got a glimpse of what Emma will look like in 40 years.  It’s pretty good for 60+ years old, but it’s weird now!  So, lampshade dress, ageing makeup, and yet…it’s not even interesting terrible.  It’s just boring.  3/10

2017 Oscars Brie Larson

Brie Larson’s dress is an obvious nod to Sargent’s Madame X.  From mid-thigh up I love it.  From mid-thigh down it all becomes obvious and boring.  So boring that if it wasn’t for the Madame X nod I wouldn’t have bothered including it, because boring is almost the worst fashion sin of all.  2/10.

2017 Oscars Dakota Johnson

I suspect this is hardly an original positioning of this outfit on a best-to-worst dresses list for this year, but oh, my, it’s so bad…  Poor Dakota looks like she spent so much time with her kit off, and was so desperate to get anything on, that she picked the primmest dress possible, and then accidentally put the top half of her dress (with attached supposed-to-be-a-butt-bow) on backwards, and forgot to do her hair.  Apparently the dress is a nod to the famous Faye Dunaway ‘morning after’ photo, but Faye’s warm cream was right for her colouring: this pale gold is all wrong on Dakota.  Just a little too try hard ‘I’m a serious fashionista’.  1/10

And a final bonus shout-out to  Allison Schroeder’s (she’s the screenwriter behind Hidden Figures, in case you’re wondering) dress, which has a lovely  backstory, and which makes me really happy because it reminds me of a slightly in/famous Annie Bonza dress.  I’m not rating because it would get a super-high rating if it didn’t have a train, but it does  have a train (and shouldn’t), so I’m so conflicted.  Also, I thought I’d leave something for you to rate 😉

2017 Oscars Allison Schroeder


  1. I really love your thoughts, and I had a hard time looking at the Oscars without comparing them to how I would have done it differently.

    The one thing I noticed that was rather saddening, is that the largest reason I didn’t like the dress was how it made the women look. For example: I liked Ruth Negga’s dress, I really did. But when she first walked out, I thought the color was completely not right for her, and it made her face look a little dead. Same with the Madame X take: if the right person had been wearing this, she would have looked really glamorous. I personally think a lot of women don’t look good in black, and Brie Larson might be one of them.

    And the second to last dress (sorry, I can’t remember a lot of actresses’ names) was the WORST. Both my sister and I (and my sister only knows what I’ve shows her about historical fashion) thought it looked like a bad take on the 1890’s. Like take off that the thing that should go in the back, give her sleeves a little puff at the top and BAM! The color would still be wrong, and it still might look like a generic Victorian dress.

    And I’m with you on the last dress; I like the design and the idea, but the train doesn’t go. Actually, instead of going patriotic I would have picked a couple colors that were a little more similar (like several different shades of the same color) would have been really cool. 7/10

  2. Rate The Last Dress: full marks to whoever realised that vertical stripes would distract the eye from the wearer’s width. Alas for the nitwit who then made an ice-cream sandwich of vibrantly contrasting colours…
    And also, my dear, with a wide face it /isn’t/ a good idea to flash ALL those teeth — so widely…
    Good idea, poor execution. 4/10.

    • Oh dear. 🙁 I will never, ever criticise a woman for smiling! I think her smile is one of the best things about the outfit. She clearly loves it and is just thrilled to be wearing it, and to be there. And that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing!

      • I think it’s a good principle not to criticize a woman, or anyone for that matter, about smiling. Psychological issues to one side, most people look much better when they smile.

        However, Alison actually looks kind of nervous to me, smile and all. Perhaps she felt like a fish out of water among all of the professionally beautiful actresses present.

    • Elise says

      YES for smiles! Wasn’t it Audrey Hepburn who said lots of things about smiling? “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls” and “The most important thing to enjoy life is to be happy. It’s all that matters” and “FORGIVE QUICKLY. KISS SLOWLY. LOVE TRULY. LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY AND NEVER REGRET ANYTHING THAT MADE YOU SMILE.”

  3. The same thought on Ruth Negga. She’s one of the stunningest women I’ve ever seen (on film). The red of that dress does not do her any favours at all. A deep red like that of her make-up and tiara would have been so much better on her…

    Priyanka Chopra also gets plus points for posing like an Indian and therefore immediately being original. I only stumble upon the fact that I keep imagining a sari or a dhupatta flowing from her arms…

    I laughed so hard at your review of Naomie Harris’ dress. And those are SO Stormtroopers on Janelle Monae’s dress!

    My rating of the last dress: 9/10. The train really isn’t the best feature of it, but other than that, WOW.

  4. I agree with you COMPLETELY about Auli’i’s dress–it’s beautiful, different and she wears it well; a perfect 10!

    I disagree about all the other gowns though. In general, the ones you hated I thought were merely “meh” and the ones you thought showed promise I didn’t like…to give you some idea:

    Prianyka Chopra. Sorry, all I see is “craft project” here. Any merit in the final result is due to her body, not the dress. 5/10.

    Janelle Monae. Well, it’s fun and imaginative. What it isn’t is attractive, and frankly I prefer attractive to novel or exciting, any day (so sue me). 🙂 The illusion bodice, though tacky, is attractive compared to the glue-on-glitter tackiness of the faux-panniered skirt. 4/10

    Ruth Negga. Oops, this is one I agree with you on. I even agree with your rationale. Red lace looks like a bad craft project, despite the excellent fit. I only disagree with the number. 5/10

    Naomie Harris. I’d like this dress without the cape. 6/10 without, 5/10 with.

    Darby Stanchfield. I really like her gown, and the way she’s wearing her hair (lovely color that it is) also. 9/10.

    Emma Stone. I like the gown. I agree that her makeup is ghastly and ages her. On this one, the hair should have been a sleek up-do, and she should have a necklace to set off the dangly earrings. 7/10

    Brie Larson. She should have left off the ruffles at the bottom and done her hair. It’s simply meh. 5/10

    Dakota Fanning. The only thing I like about this is the shine of the satin. I’ve seen better dress design on bad historical costumes, and the fig-leaf bow thing on the front is just stupid. Worse still, the color does nothing for her, and the lack of a hair style does not help. This is neither pretty NOR exciting. 1.5/10 for the nice fabric.

    Finally Alison Schroeder: Without the train would be passable (though it needs a better belt still); 6.5. With the train kind of weird; I say 5. Bad color spectrum for her hair and face though.

    At least we don’t have a flood of nearly-naked fashions this year.

  5. Auli’i Cravalho: Sure it’s over the top, but it’s over the top in the best kind of way. 10/10.

    Priyanka Chopra: A much better use of illusion Mesh than Janelle’s and the waist shaping is executed beautifully, but it’s a little too stiff and static for my taste. 7/10

    Janelle Monae: I like the skirt, and now that you mention stormtroopers I can totally see them and it’s awesome, and I like the collar, but the bodice really lets it down. 8/10

    Leslie Mann: Lovely idea and a nice fun colour, but it could have benefitted from a bit of strategically placed starch or maybe fusible interfacing. 7/10

    Ruth Negga: Good use of red eyeshadow and a lovely Regency-esque diadem, but the dress does not appeal to me at all. Nothing in that colour should look dowdy, but somehow it does, and yes it does look like something you’d buy from one of those dodgy online knock-off dealers. 1/10.

    Naomi Harris: This dress just looks to me like a high-waist skirt with a bra on top. The overall look is incomplete, like she forgot to put her top on. I can’t make up my mind about the train. 4/10.

    Darby Stanchfield: It’s very hard for me to rate this without seeing it in motion. Seeing it move might make the difference between “it’s okay” and “OMG I love it”. I agree it would have benefitted from different styling. Regardless, I love the concept, so 8/10.

    Emma Stone: Oh dear. There was some potential here, but I feel like kitschy lampshades are a poor choice of design inspiration. 3/10

    Brie Larson as Madame X: I know the bottom is obvious, but I like it anyway. The wavy, sculptural effect appeals to me. 9/10

    Dakota Johnson: Nope. 1/10.

    Allison Schroeder: It’s a shame about the train. Without the train, I’d give it at least a 9, maybe a 10. With the train it’s more like a 7/10.

  6. Tracy says

    My very favorite part of the Oscars is your reviews. 10/10. Dead-on accurate and I laughed out loud (more than once! )

  7. Deanna says

    “stormtroopers chilling out and shooting the breeze while they wait for deployment” This has to be the best part of the Oscars! 😀

  8. Can I just clarify what a “pickup” is – do you mean dresses with hoicked up skirts, like polonaises/Venetian blinds? My only objection to that dress is that it looks crumpled, and not really in a good way – I know sometimes taffeta looks great when dragged out of the suitcase, (Vivienne Westwood has said that her big taffeta frocks look best when they’re a bit crumpled) but it’s a shame in this dress.

    Janelle Monae’s dress is certainly bonkers – I don’t know if I would have rated it as high as you, but it is definitely at least original. I do like Ruth Negga’s dress and it would be gorgeous in another colour. I do think there are some gorgeous red lace dresses out there…. (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1261185/poinsettia-dress-delanghe-angele/ comes to mind…) although you did specify bright red lace….

    I do love the Madame X dress – I don’t think it’s boring, I really like the oomph of the huge flutingness and flaringness, it’s like the dress was going to be boring and suddenly rebelled in huge waves and bangs, and I love that, it looks like it’s exploding around her feet and going “OH NO, I AM NOT GOING TO BE A BORING LITTLE BLACK DRESS, LOOK AT ME FLARE.”

    I like the idea of the ribbon-weave dress, but I kinda don’t think it works for me, although Priyanka looks fabulous. I think what makes it feel a bit odd for me is that she looks a bit mummified and also quilted….

    That last dress is fabulous, and I actually kinda like the train if the entire dress is, as it seems to be, made up from layers of floating chiffon scarves trailing down in different colours and the train is composed of longer scarves. So if that’s what is going on, I love it, just because I want to see it in a wind tunnel with all the chiffon wafting and flailing and billowing out behind.

  9. Alice says

    Something I’ve noticed about red carpet dresses in general is that there is usually something not-quite-right in the proportions. They tend to look a bit too long in the bodice, I think, which makes the fit look dodgy on most of them, to my eye anyway (I am admittedly biased towards a high waist). Also not too keen on today’s hair trends. I think the last dress is nice enough, though I think it’d be even nicer in tea length, and in different colors (I think someone mentioned more subtle, similar shades). I do like how happy she looks. 6.5/10 because it doesn’t make me feel nun of anything at all.

  10. Heehee, love the stormtrooper commentary(ies)!

    I mostly agree with you on these, enough so not to quibble.

    As for Allison Schroeder’s dress. I want to love, I really, really do but I just can’t. I see so much potential but there are a couple of things putting me off too much to be able to love it like I want to. First – the train, as you mentioned. Second – the mottled dyeing of the fabric layers. I get the intention behind it but it looks to me like it was tossed in the washing machine and colours bled into each other. I think the layers should either be straight solid colours or perhaps ombred, the mottling looks like a laundry accident.

  11. Elise says

    I was so happy to see an interesting red carpet. People really seemed to want to try and to explore and to go bonkers. I will never like sheer red, although Ruth Negga and Ginnifer Goodwin and Sally Field (that one time), and that Rate the Dress from the 1820s really did do their best. I hardly recognized Brie Larson or Dakota Fanning with their lank hairstyles.

    I think that Naomi Harris had an interesting dress–especially if you think about it being a protest from #Oscarssowhite, having peeks of beautiful black skin is a heck of a statement.

    And I thought it was clever (if she meant it to be) for Emma Stone to channel the beginning of Golden Age of Hollywood (sort of 1920s) when her film took on the end of it (vaguely 50s). Also, a Planned Parenthood pin (Stone, Johnson) is the best accessory along with blue ribbons (Negga, Karlie Kloss, et al).

    Wasn’t it so much fun to see all of the clothes?!

  12. Ooops. Entirely forgot about Leslie Mann’s yellow gown!

    I like the execution of the bodice, and it’s a lovely shade of yellow. But the skirt looks as though someone randomly basted curtain panels to the bodice and then tacked the panels up, and the yellow doesn’t suit Ms. Mann at all. (It would have looked smashing on Darcy Stanchfield, curtain-ish or not, but then I expect most clothes do.) 5.5/10.

  13. LoriWatk says

    The red lace – that would be how I look in red, which might be why I rate reds so harshly. Red is not a color for everyone. I didn’t even know that the Oscars was on… OPPS!
    Rate the last dress (trying to get imagine of Stormtroopers awaiting deployment out of my head) – don’t like the train 8 without the train, 4 with it.

  14. I love the final dress, the train wasn’t necessary but is still ok. I saw someone comment on her smile, I think her smile was lovely, but the lipstick colour wasn’t right for her skintone. She wore a slightly more rose shade in the article linked to and that was just right on her, pity she didn’t go with that for this dress.

  15. Marianne says

    Really not wowed by any of the dresses. The first dress had beautiful fabric but the waterfall of fabric dropping from her waist was a negative for me. Confused as to where to look at the dress. Beautiful women who looked more like the dresses were wearing them rather than they complimented the dress.

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