Which Oscar dresses were best?

The language of style.
Feb. 25 2008 4:50 AM

Oscar Fashion Report Card

Why so many black dresses? And which ones were best?

(Continued from Page 2)

Amanda: I'll give you the mermaid complaint. If I could have changed that dress in any way, I would have straightened the bottom.

Julia: Dana Stevens noted in Slate's Oscar dialogue that she's tired of the "sparkly mermaid" look, and I know exactly what she means: Bedazzled all over, flared at the bottom, close-fitting around the hips. Renee Zellweger fit the bill tonight (and her dress even featured, pinned to the breastbone, a spiny, sea urchin-looking brooch). Tired. But Marion Cotillard's dress, which was by John Paul Gaultier and was explicitly mermaid-y, was by far my favorite of the night. In fact, it may be my favorite Oscar dress ever.

Renee Zellweger. Click image to expand.
Renee Zellweger
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Amanda:  That dress was hands down my favorite look of the night. The craftsmanship was exquisite: It looked at once vintage and of the moment; it had fine details and a bold, telegenic cut. It was a fresh take on the mermaid look.

Julia: Exactly. He was like, I'll show you mermaid.

Amanda: You could call it a witty dress. Which in a way makes it rather French.

Julia: I think the key was that, instead of focusing on the mermaid shape and using sparkles to make the whole thing look vaguely wet, Gaultier focused on the idea of scales. And scales are creepy! Evocative of reptiles and sexy because they suggest a slithery movement, the mechanics of which we don't understand.

Amanda: It was slithery and sexy, and yet the color lent it a certain innocence.

Marion Cotillard. Click image to expand.
Marion Cotillard

Julia:  And to make matters even better, the white scales were edged with gold, so they stood out on-screen. I'm not sure the detail work on her dress was better than that on, say, Hilary Swank's, but we could see it, and it was beautiful.

Amanda: And it fit her!

Julia: Perfectly. Her dress had everything: wit, beauty, inventiveness, telegenic detail, a bit of risk. We couldn't ask for more.

Amanda Fortini is a Slate contributor.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast