Oscars 2014: Lisa Armstrong’s Winners and Losers

Spoiled brat actresses, not very good celebrity stylists and a trail of   left-on-the-floor-at-the-last-moment dresses – who survived the Academy   Awards with their chic intact? 

Nominee for Best Actress in

Beige but saved from blah by that incredible embellishment: Cate Blanchett Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
By Lisa Armstrong, Fashion Editor, The Daily Telegraph

10:57AM GMT 03 Mar 2014

This was the year that acting went gonzo – Matthew McConaughey and most of his   colleagues in Wolf of Wall Street, for instance, and the entire cast of   American Hustle. Yet with the notable exception of Pharrell Williams’s   Lanvin take on Just William, the red carpet dressing was remarkably timid,   tame and vanilla. Literally. Pale beige still rules. 

One can see why. Hollywood has a slightly unfortunate track record with    “experimental”, “edgy” and “directional” clothes. Luckily they haven’t all   learned this lesson, so there are still some high entertainment moments to   be had as stars and, even more unwisely, wives and girlfriends of stars   (it’s not about them, but let them dream) stagger and teeter along the Oscar   shag-pile in vast, wafty swags and bridezilla mermaid trains. 

And thus, once more, one gazes at one’s computer images, hot from the biggest   night in one of the world’s richest creative industries, and thinks, really,   is that the best they could do? 

Yes it is. And here’s why. The current consensus among the world’s haut-iest   designers is that the Oscars are a crapshoot. Spoiled brat actresses, not   very good celebrity stylists and a trail of   left-on-the-floor-at-the-last-moment dresses that took weeks to make have   combined to leave a bad taste. Unless they can have a direct, personal   relationship with actors, many fashion houses have backed away from the   whole circus. 

While it’s still prestigious to have an A-lister looking wonderful on the   podium in your design, there’s not much obvious value in seeing Kim   Kardashian turn up at the Vanity Fair party in your frock, when the   following day a slew of women who have already bought something similar may   take it back to the store to exchange. This actually happens – it’s called   satisfaction guaranteed or your Kardash-back. 

But increasingly, choice-wise, actresses go with the usual suspects: an odd   combination of never-heard-of-them designers who are big in American malls   and a handful of very wealthy international houses with a long (by Hollywood   standards) tradition of Oscar dressing and experienced celebrity   departments. These are: Armani (probably the designer with the most   successful hit rate in Oscar history, and a happy partnership with Cate   Blanchett ever since his label sponsored the Sydney Theatre Company when she   and her husband were artistic directors there); Versace (Donatella’s new   best friend is Lady Gaga) and Dior (with Jennifer Lawrence under contract). 


Here are the best and the worst:

Cate Blanchett in Armani Privé

Yes, it’s beige and strapless, the red carpet’s corniest combination. But it’s   transported to a place way above beigey, straplessy blahness by that   incredible embellishment which registers on the blurriest smartphone (where   so much of this year’s Oscar stalking will occur). The way it fans out at   the hem, culminating in soft, expensive-looking ripples brings some much   needed class to that Allied Carpets offcut. It’s also mighty flattering and   a welcome change from some of Blanchett’s more robo-stiff outings. As for   the gently waved hair and understated make-up – perfection. 

Lupita Nyong’o in Prada

When you look like Nyong’o, you can afford to underplay it – and wear pale   colours that would look icky (technical term) on many women. This is a   vision of Oscar dreaminess. There’s enough flow going on to give this dress   real presence and just the right amount of skin to stop it looking twee. She   looks comfortable and happy. She’s wearing a deceptively simple dress and   looks fabulous because it’s not wearing her. 

Amy Adams in Gucci

This gorgeous, talented actress said she had finally found a dress for Oscar   night that “felt like me”. You can see what she means. In previous years,   Adams has been trussed and tormented like Tinker Bell in a succession of   unsuitably frothy absurdities. She certainly looks elegant in this, and it   fits her beautifully, but also a touch predictable and bland – and she’s   anything but. There needs to be a little more going on around the neckline –    this could have been the night to let her gorgeous hair down. Also, are   those faint tan lines? If this feels like her, then she may be   underestimating herself. 

Penelope Cruz in Giambattista Valli

Cruz definitely wins the Shouldn’t Work But it Does Award. Pale pink, a bow   and what would be called a pashmina if it weren’t made of silk chiffon,   she’s going for the Greek vote. But somehow it looks gorgeous. It’s actually   a fabulous body flatterer – subtly displaying her curves but allowing her to   breathe and move. The black bag and ribbon stop the whole thing from   toppling into saccharine disaster. She could have gone further with the hair    – a really huge 60s structure à la Julia Roberts when she won for Erin   Brokovich, would have pushed this right over the line into Liz Taylor   fabulousness, which is where it was clearly heading, but didn’t (quite)   make. 

Emma Watson in Vera Wang

Oscar dynamite – from the neck up. Make-up and hair all in tip top order, as   Watson continues her journey from teen star to class act. But she can do   better than this mom t-shirt with its universally unflattering sleeveless   cut. The skirt’s fine, but not stand-out. She’s aiming for nonchalant but   Wang’s not the designer to deliver that. 

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior

The tomato-red is knockout. Maybe that’s why she fell over again. Adorable as   this tripping over schtick is, it might be wise not to over-milk it. That’s   true of this dress, which doesn’t quite work. As a strapless column, it has   a certain fabulousness, and unlike many other strapless dresses, isn’t   crying out for a more interesting neckline. But that peplum looks like an   after-thought and it’s not kind, even on Lawrence’s petite hips. On the   other hand, subtract the peplum and you’re left with a red stick. Her hair   is wonderful though – short and kind of joyful-looking in that it doesn’t   appear as though it took half a day to achieve, even though it probably did. 

Meryl Streep in Lanvin

Lovely, elegant, graceful and very Meryl (see Amy Adams) in so far as it’s   fastidiously unshowy yet clearly expensive.This says ‘been here, done this a   million times, playing the game, but on my own terms’. Would have even   better in a more interesting colour combination. Streep is an ethereal   blonde, and black and white seem a bit heavy. 

Kate Hudson in Versace

Technically, this is a similar vertical drop to Lupita Nyong’o’s Prada   neckline, yet somehow it’s plunging a whole new trash depth. Yet there are   redeeming moments. That front draping is incredible and the colour sublime.   So what, Sherlock, went wrong? Is it that Mother Not So Superior cape or   Hudson’s hard make-up, obviously done by a make-up artist recovering from   heartbreak, with vendetta on her mind, and a shaky relationship with kohl? 

Anna Kendrick in J Mendel

Great, feisty actress in simply atrocious car-crash of a dress. Sheer, drape,   slash, midriffery and five different necklines – there was nothing they   didn’t throw at this dress and each addition just made things worse. Two   words Anna: never again.

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