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.

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Julia: That was a fantastic dress. Leslie Mann should have presented. Or tap-danced! We need to see more of that thing. She should wear it in Judd Apatow's next movie. Or just gardening.

Amanda: Out grocery shopping at Ralph's.

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Julia: Another dress I loved: The red charmeuse worn by Megan Mylan, who won for best documentary short. I love it when the laypeople outdress the starlets.

Amanda: That was a good one.

Julia: Mylan's dress was beautiful, flattering, telegenic, and interesting, with those strange winglets on the back and the Champagne-colored lining they revealed.

Amanda: I wished the winglets had been a bit snugger, but that's my only complaint. One thing I liked about this year, at least from a fashion perspective, was the game-show-like array of actors and actresses who came up to present. It made it easy to get a full-length view of many more dresses.

Julia: And we got to see more actresses of different ages.

Amanda: Precisely. There were some eccentric choices up there. Like Shirley MacLaine's black tux.

Julia: I loved that!

Amanda: I imagine those diamonds she was wearing were imbued with some talismanic powers.

Julia: The power to make Anne Hathaway weepy, at least.

Amanda: And Angelica Huston's maroon spandex with silver spangles. I was reminded of the costumes I used to wear for dance recitals in the '80s. And yet, I liked it. It was original.

Julia: She always looks fantastic. I wouldn't give this outfit particularly high marks.

Amanda: No, but it was amusing. And that's worth something. The boring bar is so low that it's become easy to impress me. Just be different. Try something new.

Julia: I know. It's bleak.

Amanda: An Old Hollywood Glamour wasteland.

Julia: Any wishes for next year?

Amanda: I hope we see more in the way of sartorial daring. And that the actresses who are willing to be a bit out there—and risk being flayed by the press—come back. Where were they all? Where was Cate Blanchett?

Julia: Or Gwyneth Paltrow or Cameron Diaz?

Amanda: Or Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst?

Julia: All right, so let's hope for big years for all of them. And let's hope Leslie Mann delivers an Oscar-worthy performance, gets nominated, and then wears that dress again!

Amanda Fortini is a Slate contributor.

Julia Turner is Slate's deputy editor and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast. Follow her on Twitter.