Hurt So Good
"It's like Hollywood prom." That wasn't Precious star Gabourey Sidibe's best line on the red carpet (more on that later), but she delivered it in two separate interviews. Well, Sidibe (who positively glowed in navy Grecian-draped Marchesa) was half right. It's a metaphor that rings true for attendees—the nerves, the limos—but for the rest of us, the Oscars is, of course, the Super Bowl of Fashion.
The effect of the red carpet as spectator sport is debatable, but its ascendance has coincided with the ever-increasing number of safe looks each year that leave fashion fans just a bit cold. This time, there was a sea of icy, neutral hues along with always-appropriate red, gently lapping away at any chance of a truly jaw-dropping ensemble.
However, "safe" is a macro complaint. On a case by case basis, there was little to argue about regarding any of the following: Best Supporting Actress winner Mo'Nique, sleekly draped in royal blue Tadashi Shoji; fellow nominee Anna Kendrick in a pale blush Elie Saab confection; or Kristen Stewart, pretty and smiling, in a midnight blue strapless Monique Lhuillier gown. Nor could you really quibble with the straightforward siren glamour of Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock in a lace-topped, liquid silver beaded Marchesa dress paired with red lips and Veronica Lake hair.
Those that gambled by upping the fashion quotient did just that. One of several haute couture frocks, Zoe Saldana's frothy-hemmed Givenchy gown didn't fully translate its runway sizzle. Charlize Theron's Christian Dior column, a couture look that was custom-made for her, had two rosettes of lilac satin atop the bust that were head-scratchingly distracting. Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Kruger fared better in Chanel, as did Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lopez in Armani Privé, and Demi Moore in Atelier Versace.
One of the best looks of the night was a lovely Carey Mulligan in strapless black satin Prada, its bodice encrusted with chunks of black Swarovski crystal. It curved up slightly in front, which reduced the heavy, gown-y effect that was a common ailment on the carpet. (Penélope Cruz looked gorge from the waist up in her wine Donna Karan Couture, but seemed to be drowning in the ball skirt.) Mulligan's pixie 'do also gave the look a fresh, youthful spirit. Miley Cyrus, take note! Another highlight was Meryl Streep, who looked perfectly breezy and at ease in her softly draped white jersey dress by Chris March, the onetime Project Runway contender who also dressed her for the Golden Globes.
Still, those longing for a major fashion moment had to content themselves by marveling at the perfect stubble of Tom Ford (who dressed hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, along with a bevy of A-list males) and his spontaneous shout-out to Donatella Versace. "Donatella's great and you look gorgeous!" Ford said after running into an Atelier Versace-clad Elizabeth Banks in a carpet traffic jam.
"If fashion was porn, this is the money shot," said Sidibe, quite memorably, of her dress. Actually, the night's top moment was yet to arrive: That would be when the brilliant Hurt Locker helmer Kathryn Bigelow, in Yves Saint Laurent, accepted her award for Best Director, the first female winner in Academy Awards history. We've been hearing a lot about the "power woman" on the runways this season. Here at last was the real deal.