The best and worst Oscar dresses.

The language of style.
Feb. 23 2009 4:32 AM

Oscar Fashion Report Card

The Cotillard effect, the bead brigade, and the best dress you didn't see on television.

(Continued from Page 1)

Amanda: I like when people let the essence of their non-Oscar-night selves remain.

Mickey Rourke. Click image to expand.
Mickey Rourke

Julia: It's the awards-robot look I can't stand. I liked Anne Hathaway's and Marisa Tomei's gowns, but they could have swapped, and no one would have noticed.

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Amanda: Interestingly, Angelina Jolie, who one might think would veer in a slightly more punk direction, always dresses in an extremely understated, almost nondescript manner. Tonight her emeralds, be they real or fake, and her tattoos were the standout elements of her look.

Julia: I always take Jolie's awards understatedness as a bit of cooler-than-thou nonchalance. She knows there's more to life than getting dolled up, so she doesn't go overboard, and then she looks like a knockout anyhow. Did you notice, by the way, that Brad Pitt was wearing some enormous rhinestone ring?

Amanda: I did! There was a fair amount of man-jewelry on display. Will Smith was wearing a diamond lapel pin of some sort.

Julia: And then one of the Slumdog awardees was wearing a sash of what looked like Mardi Gras beads. Another thought about Freida Pinto: She and a number of other young women tonight were wearing a fabric I associate with old ladies, beaded chiffon.

Amanda: That's usually a mother-of-the-bride look, you're right.

Julia: Freida had it, Kate Winslet had it, Anne Hathaway's Nixon dress had it, Sophia Loren finally actually managed to look like a mother of the bride in it ...

Amanda: Oh dear, Sophia Loren. Hard to pick at her, because she is Sophia Loren, but that dress was mother-of-the-bride hits the prom. I really liked the beaded see-through arm on Frieda Pinto's dress, though. I thought the dress managed to maintain a certain youthfulness.

Julia: I thought the beaded look worked for Pinto—and Hathaway, actually.

Amanda: Let's talk about Kate Winslet. Love it or hate it?

Julia: I thought Winslet looked a little matronly. Perhaps if she'd had looser hair, the dress wouldn't have seemed so staid.

Amanda: It was matronly, and it was busy. There was too much going on there. The lace reminded me of a Spanish mantilla—as though she decided not to wear it as a veil but to pin it around her waist. But I give Winslet points for the rich color.

Julia: Yes: That was a great gray.

Amanda: I wish we saw more gray at the Oscars. Gray works when the material is luxe.

Julia: Meryl Streep was also in a gorgeous neutral.

Amanda: I felt it was a bit too neutral.

Julia: Really? I was just glad she managed to avoid the Beaded Chiffon Triangle, which she often falls into. It was great to see her in something with a soft, interesting, modern cut. It was as though all the starlets had torn up her usual outfits for usable scraps, and she'd had to wear something with youthful chic.

Amanda: The cut was sleek and minimalist and modern; I did like that. Last year she wore grade-school-art-teacher jewelry, and there was none of that this year. But really, who cares when you have 15 Oscar nominations!

Julia: Agree.

Tilda Swinton. Click image to expand.
Tilda Swinton

Amanda: The only true bit of fashion derring-do we saw was from the inimitable Tilda Swinton. What did you think?

Julia: I always want to applaud Tilda for being so out there. When actresses turn up in awards-robot attire, I think, "Be more adventurous!" But then Tilda will show up in something crazy, and I think, "Not that adventurous." Her less successful looks throw my desire for the interesting or avant-garde back in my face.

Amanda: Her clothes are always high fashion in the truest sense. Did you really think this was so out there?

Julia: No, for her this was fairly tame. But it was out there for the Oscars in that it wasn't a gown, but separates, and that it wasn't designed to flatter her figure but to obscure it.

Amanda: Her hair and makeup were kind of David Bowie.

Julia: Yes, I liked her sharp lip this year. But I just kept worrying that the dress was going to come untucked or untied. How about the two Princesses Poufy, Sarah Jessica Parker and Penélope Cruz?

Amanda: Penélope Cruz's dress, I read, was a 60-year-old vintage Balmain. The lace was gorgeous. Still, I thought it looked kind of like a wedding dress.

Penelope Cruz. Click image to expand.
Penélope Cruz

Julia: Cruz almost always goes with a dress that would look fine on a cake topper.

Amanda: I preferred her dress to SJP's. She needed a bigger size, or different upper-body undergarments.

Julia: Agree about SJP. She and Goldie Hawn were vying for weirdest décolletage of the night.

Amanda: You could see Goldie Hawn's tan lines.

Julia: That, I kind of love. She's an actress who hasn't adapted to the world of the spray-on tan and still gets actual sun? Good for her.

Amanda: Great that she tans, but I'm not sure I want to see her tan lines peeking out of formalwear.

Julia: Point taken.

Amanda: Did you notice we saw some disco-inflected numbers? Viola Davis' gold-lamé gown, and Jennifer Aniston's dress, with its diagonal spangles. That dress was right for her: It conveyed her Malibu Barbie essence—tanned, toned, blond—without being remotely tacky. Nor was it boring.

Julia: You're right, it wasn't. I also loved Davis' gold accordion pleats. The dress was sexy and interesting. There was a lot of great glitz and shimmer tonight. I liked Tina Fey's shimmery number, too.

Leslie Mann. Click image to expand.
Leslie Mann

Amanda: And Leslie Mann, whom we didn't see on-screen but whom I did spot on the red carpet, was also disco-inspired, though in silver.

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