By Renjie Wong
Once, when I was little, I met a dog at the neighborhood playground with the strangest, most bulgy eyes I’d ever seen. “Don’t keep staring at them,” cautioned my mother in her infinite wisdom, “or they’ll come out and get you.”
Watching Anne Hathaway on the Oscars red carpet last Sunday, the piece of maternal advice resurfaced from the depths of my memory. As the pointy bodice of Hathaway’s NSFW pink satin Prada column gown stared back into the abyss of my soul, I wondered what could ever cause the normally elegant star to overlook a faux pas as glaringly obvious as this.
But I suppose we shouldn’t bust out all the judgment on Hathaway; she did, after all, deserve the Oscar for her titillating performance in “Les Mis,” and it may very well have been a little bit nippy that night. All I’m saying is, we all make fashion missteps, and even the perkiest of celebrities occasionally go bust in the style department, too.
Indeed, Hollywood’s biggest night saw star after star step out in breathtaking couture. My Hathaway-induced alarm quickly faded when Jennifer Lawrence appeared, wearing a gloriously regal Dior Couture gown and looking every bit the New Look debutante. Her hem may have tripped her up en route to award collection, but in our books, the only dignity that took a tumble that night was that of her competitors. Lawrence wasn’t the only one dressed by the vaunted French couture house that night: Charlize Theron’s understated Dior Couture column gown, replete with embellished peplum and flowing train, made her as resplendent as Snow White next to her dwarves (i.e. Kristin Chenoweth).
Metallic gowns were very much the trend of the night, with Halle Berry and Stacy Keibler wearing them to phenomenal effect, as were embellished dresses, as sported by Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Chastain and (jibes aside) Chenoweth. Perhaps the most breathtaking of all, however, was Corinne Bishop: wearing a lush chiffon gown with an intricately woven bodice, the fresh-faced 18-year-old daughter of Jamie Foxx worked the red carpet with a grace even a seasoned star would hope to possess.
Yet Hathaway wasn’t the only fashion blunder. While most dresses erred on the side of caution, others threw caution to the wind–and by that, we really mean they took it, wrapped it up into a tiny little ball and hurled it into the destructive hurricane of terrifyingly hideous fashion. Olivia Munn–who, we will admit, isn’t particularly noted for her subtlety–turned up in a florid, gold-brocaded, elaborately-pinned scarlet satin Marchesa confection–blatant plagiarism of the polyester drapes in a Vegas dim sum parlor I once ate at very many years ago.
Amy Adams, who didn’t so much wear her voluminous grey Oscar de la Renta gown as haul it, had it bad too, looking like the unfortunate lovechild between a ’70s bride and the Ugly Duckling. One only wonders how many Los Angeles fabric stores were raided and emptied of their frilly ribbon inventories to create this dress.
Brandi Glanville’s bizarre gown, which–surprise, surprise–was from her own BrandB label, somehow managed to simultaneously have too much going on and reveal too much skin. (We’ll spare you the awful puns this time…breast assured.) Props to her for making 40 the new just-turned-legal 18, but her sartorially-incontinent gown also looked as if it desperately needed holding up. Also, quick note to all prospective real housewives of Beverly Hills: astrakhan may be a key trend this season, but, that close to the floor, it makes your outfit virtually indistinguishable from a $19.99 Ikea rug.
Menswear, too, had its fair share of disappointments: in particular, the ubiquity of neckties at a formal event like the Oscars was emblematic of the dismal state of black tie in Hollywood. Yes, Richard Gere/Dustin Hoffman/Liev Schreiber, we’re talking about you. (Tim Burton doesn’t count, because…yeah.) The only thing more horrifying than not wearing a bowtie to the Oscars is wearing a pre-tied bowtie to the Oscars, and those were upsettingly aplenty, too. I have, in fact, come to think of them as the strap-ons of the fashion world: lifeless, uncomfortable and never acceptable at formal events.
That said, some men clearly were in their element in black tie. Daniel Day-Lewis’ bespoke midnight-blue, shawl-collared tuxedo by Neapolitan tailor Domenico Vacca rose above the masses of black, while still remaining well within the boundaries of acceptable eveningwear; an accomplished shoemaker himself, he sported self-crafted calfskin dress loafers as a rakish departure from the standard-issue black patent lace-ups.
But classic was elegant, too. A collective sigh of contentment doubtless arose from in front of TV screens around the world when Chris Pine trekked out (ha…see what we did there?) in an impeccable double-breasted tuxedo by Ermenegildo Zegna, proving that nothing is more flattering than a immaculately-cut jacket; Hugh Jackman’s take on the DB tux, tailored by menswear maestro Tom Ford, afforded a timeless elegance seldom seen in Hollywood anymore.
I suppose, then, that my mother was right about her advice, after all. Whether for the breathtaking outfits or for the ghastly getups, as long as there will be red carpet events, I will keep watching. They’ve come out and got me.