by James Tuttle
The 84th Annual Academy Awards went down a few short blocks from here the other day, distracting me from important cultural happenings like Mob Wives and RuPaul’s Drag Race. The Oscar experience is a bit different when one lives in Hollywood because, while you might get together with some friends over cocktails in Manhattan or watch it wrapped in a Snuggie (please don’t) in Iowa while snow falls silently outside your window, it becomes fucking Kosovo up in here!
Police cars heavily patrol any streets that haven’t been barricaded, helicopters buzz buildings and tow trucks descend upon unsuspecting cars parked in the way of the limo routes that will be whisking celebrities to the Theatre Formerly Known As Kodak. The constant hum of the Goodyear blimp hanging overhead makes even running to the local market for an onion into a surreal experience.
Along with this celebration of cinema comes a frenzied collaboration of stars and their stylists, P.R. departments, designers and jewelers all trying to keep themselves off the Worst Dressed List. With all that effort, I couldn’t really let slide an opportunity to create my own such list but first let’s give credit where credit is due. The clear winner of the evening was Gwyneth Paltrow in an impeccably sleek Tom Ford white column topped by a matching cape in clean, lean proportions. Styling was key and Paltrow kept it simple with a ponytail and a couple of pieces of megawatt diamond jewelry, including a million-dollar cuff by Anna Hu. I was tempted to call a tie with Angelina Jolie in voluminous black Atelier Versace with the slit to the hip and the red-orange lips but the way Angie kept sticking out her leg out like an old burlesque show trooper dropped her to second. And the number of times I’ve heard people say “I just wanted to give her a cheeseburger” in the last two days sealed that deal.
Early on in the Red Carpet Race, I’d thought that the strapless black Alexander McQueen gown with endless gold embroidery that Jessica Chastain wore with effortless wavy Pre-Raphaelite locks was going to put her in first. Then Penelope Cruz gave her a run for her money in a lovely gray-blue strapless ball gown that was custom Giorgio Armani and not, as widely reported, Armani Privé. In the end, Chastain got lost in the melee and Cruz’s ensemble seemed more like vintage Dior after the initial surprise of seeing her so classically done-up so they ended up in third and fourth place. I also gave pretty high marks to Octavia Spencer in sparkling silver Tadashi Shoji and Michelle Williams in coral-red ruffled Louis Vuitton, though it would have looked better with a more glamorous hairstyle.
Less successful looks were in ample supply. I didn’t hate Tina Fey’s dark purple strapless gown with the exaggerated peplum but it looked straight from the Dynasty costume archives so I was surprised to hear that it was custom Carolina Herrera. When I saw Emma Stone in her huge ruffle-on-the-shoulder Giambattista Valli, I had a vision of her pulling Tina’s hair as they fell into the nearest lily pond. Viola Davis’ green Vera Wang wasn’t terrible, either, but her short reddish afro had my inner black drag queen screaming, “Get a wig, gurl! You could afford it!”
The ladies who landed on my worst dressed list surprised me because it’s really not that damned hard to make young, beautiful girls look young and beautiful. Shailene Woodley, however, managed to look sad and matronly in a long-sleeved ivory Valentino Couture mess and Rooney Mara was pale and severe in a poorly fitted white Givenchy Couture gown. Most disappointing was Jennifer Lopez who, as I’ve personally witnessed, can be breathtakingly beautiful but she showed up on the red carpet in a tight pale beige Zuhair Murad gown with a plunging neckline and crystal beading that made her look all kinds of dumpy. That hair wasn’t helping, either.
Some of the guys deserve mentioning too, even if putting on a tux isn’t really pushing any fashion agendas. George Clooney’s Giorgio Armani looked okay but the proportions were a little off and Jean Dujardan would have looked better in Lanvin if he dropped twenty pounds. I wanted to tell him, “You’re in Hollywood now, Jean! Lay off the cinnamon rolls.” Bradley Cooper went a little outside the box in a midnight blue one-button Tom Ford with black satin shawl-collar lapels and I loved how he didn’t so much as flinch when the interviewer referred to him as “the sexiest man alive.” He’s caught a lot of flack for his porn star mustache but, hey, I’d still hit it. Best Dressed Guy Award goes to Brad Pitt in Tom Ford with the perfect lapels, perfect bowtie and the longer hair that I’m using as an excuse for putting off a haircut. Thanks, Brad.
You’re in for a double dip of fashion this week because in addition to the movie stars down the street, it was also Fashion Week in Milan. The dark glamour started at Gucci on Wednesday afternoon with pale Bohemian equestrienne-poets in layer upon layer of black that gave way to olive, purple and plum with lots of ruffles, all billowing and nothing tight to the body. This was all just preparation for the finale of Vampire Brides in sheer black tulle gowns with strategically placed beaded embellishments. If you squint, they even look a little like clouds of bats.
Sheer, black delicate things also floated over the glowing white runway of Alberta Ferretti. It was a more aggressive collection for Ferretti where only a few instances of winter white, blue, purple and red appeared in the sea of black but even the tailored pieces were kind of dreamy.
Do you remember that old Star Trek episode where they introduced Spock’s family back on Klingon? Well, that’s what Thursday’s Fendi show looked like with its alien styling and geometric furs and skins.
The Space Age feel continued on Prada’s enormous purple carpet where black again started the show but now with big black and white stones at necklines, down the front or down the sleeves. An explosion of all-over graphic diamond prints followed on coats, narrow pants and double-breasted jackets in yellows, reds and purples that were cool but the opposite of sexy. The heavy color-blocked eye shadow and bleached brows completed this man-repellent effect and I can just imagine a teary-eyed young model on the phone saying, “Mom, I finally booked my first Prada show and now I look like a total freak!”
There were beautiful paisleys as per usual at Etro on Friday morning, but the day belonged to Versace’s “Joan of Arc With the Dragon Tattoo” goth-crusader chicks covered in crosses, embroidered leather and crystals. Most of the collection was dark, which is no surprise, and the punches of bright coral and yellow didn’t detract too much. Even the sequin-covered cocktail dresses and gowns at the end stopped short of overkill. I never thought I’d say this, but Versace was among my favorites in Milan this season. I need to get my blood pressure checked.
Raf Simons’ last collection for Jil Sander on Saturday afternoon was clean and simple, reminiscent of a Belle de Jour-era Catherine Deneuve with a palette of pale pinks, whites and neutrals and some red and black toward the end. The robe-like car coats that the models clutched serenely at the chest were the highlight of the show and the delicate flower arrangements encased in glass around which they had to maneuver highlighted the feeling of restrained beauty. It may have been a little sterile but no one can accuse Simons of lacking a clear point of view.
Evening brought a sexier Emilio Pucci, starting out with black (surprise!) with slashes across bodices and shoulders and crocodile-patterned appliqué reminiscent of the recent Givenchy Couture. The signature prints appeared in soft purple and green paisleys followed by delicate pale blues, then pale peach before returning to black for a more dramatic finale.
Sunday belonged to the operatic Dolce & Gabbana show that returned to Domenico Dolce’s Sicilian roots and referenced the baroque religiosity of the island. Models dripped in gold bullion embroidery and black lace with some all-white lace looks punctuating the darkness. Capes and caplets were everywhere over dresses and blouses. The colorful tapestry embroideries were probably the most editorial but there were softer rose-and-cherub prints on dark silk that were more beautiful and more wearable. The silhouettes were less fitted than we’re used to seeing from these guys but the sheerness kept them from being anywhere close to prim.
Things wound down on Monday with Giorgio Armani and a collection of familiar Armani cuts in greys with some hot pink then orange making an appearance. Since Italians aren’t too familiar with Halloween, he might be forgiven for his color choices but there were a couple of pink and orange taffeta looks that were the most interesting. Having the girls look awkwardly out into the audience over and over was nearly as distracting as the oversize fedoras they wore but there were no other surprises here. Saturday’s Emporio Armani’s mix of Parisian schoolgirl and medieval page was more fun.
So, that’s it for Milan. Get ready to break out your sheer black, fur-trimmed Goth girl shit in a few months ‘cause it looks like that’s what’s coming.
P.S. — Leaving you with a little Dolce: