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Red and black all over

By sriktemp

Section: Arts

February 29, 2008

The Academy Awards, that world-renowned ceremony of iconic golden statuettes, turned 80 this year and I am sad to report that its age is starting to show, if not in the ceremony itself, then on the red carpet at least.

I had high expectations for the red carpet arrivals, considering that some of the nominees up for Oscars at Sunday night’s ceremony included fresh-faced nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard (who went on to win this category). However Page’s youthful exuberance and Cotillard’s international flair were poor signifiers of what could be expected in the way of the catwalk that is the red carpet.

After many tension-wracked weeks over the writers’ strike, I expected this Oscars to be an opportunity for Hollywood to put aside any bad feelings, focus on the positive aspects of the entertainment industry and let its hair down a little, eventually coming to fruition in the red carpet style of the stars.

It was disappointing to see so many stars opt for the black dress standby, such as Laura Linney, who wore a silk Michael Kors gown with a bustle-back. While this color almost always guarantees elegance, it is hard to call it original or refreshing anymore.

Even those stars who tried their hand at reinventing the wheel in the shape of the black dress failed to inject this color with any excitement. Jennifer Garner chose a silk taffeta Oscar de la Renta fishtail gown that, even with its cascades of ruffles, did not make a memorable statement. Nicole Kidman picked diamonds as her weapon of choice and paired a custom Balenciaga column gown with a 1,399-carat diamond necklace. As impressive as the multi-strand necklace was, it clashed poorly with the neckline of Kidman’s dress, making it appear like a hastily put together ensemble.

Hillary Swank wore a sheer Atelier Versace black gown, which coupled with Swank’s pale complexion, caused her to fade into the background. While Kristen Chenoweth also wore a sheer black gown (this one by Armani Privé), she managed to wow the observer by picking the perfect dress that does not overwhelm her petite frame and yet stands out.

The most disappointing dress choice of the evening was Ellen Page’s vintage black Jean Louis Scherrer gown. The loose fit and its floor-grazing length managed to make Page simultaneously look like an 80-year-old grandmother in a muumuu and a toddler playing dress up.

Stars like Katherine Heigl in Escada and Anne Hathaway in Marches swathed themselves in the normally vivacious color red. However the popularity of the color among Oscar guests this year dampened its ability to impress.

One red dress that caught my attention in particular was the scarlet cap-sleeve Valentino chiffon one worn by teenybopper Miley Cyrus. While the dress was simple and unembellished, it still seemed too elegant for any 15-year-old, even one that sells out concerts nationwide, to pull off.

To give her red dress an extra boost, venerated actress Helen Mirren wore a ruby red satin Georges Chakra gown with three-quarter-length Swarovski crystal sleeves.

Heidi Klum wore the definitive red dress of the evening, an Haute Couture by John Galliano silk taffeta gown. The voluminous dress will be auctioned off online to benefit the Heart Truth charity.

Safety and timelessness was the main theme conveyed by stars’ Academy Awards fashion choices, thus putting a spotlight on anyone who deviated from this black and red palette.

Wearing the underrepresented color white, Dreamgirls star Jennifer Hudson wore a beaded Roberto Cavalla halter gown. It seems that Hudson’s fashion sense has done a complete 180, judging from the oddly proportioned bolero she wore to last year’s ceremony. It is nice to see that she has learned that “less is more.”

However, Cate Blanchett wore the most original dress, a Dries van Note halter gown with floral beading on the skirt. Its navy blue sheath-bejeweled collar combination, as well as the floral imprint, made it one of the more interesting Oscars outfits.

While this year’s Oscars fashions did achieve the required degree of elegance, they failed to reflect the zeal and creativity that Hollywood is known for. It’s hard to pin down the exact reason for this insistence on a timeless look. Perhaps it is out of respect for the writer’s strike, or maybe the threat of a recession is so strong as to prompt movie stars to seek a more conservative, recyclable look? Whatever the reason, one can only hope that Hollywood fashion icons and stylists find a new source of inspiration in time for next year’s ceremony.dc02290808.jpg

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