Monica Corcoran Harel is contributing to Deadline’s Oscar coverage.
Unlike monotonous years past when a color or style prevailed, tonight’s Academy Awards Red Carpet teemed with extremes. Actresses either went strapless and exposed chiseled clavicles or opted for demure long sleeves. Some coerced their hair into crazy Cinnabon updos, while others played it loose with windswept, just-got-lucky-in-the-limo waves. All in all, it was a good night for fashion. Meryl Streep channeled a female Oscar in gold lame Lanvin, Rooney Mara didn’t wear black and Sacha Baron Cohen claimed to be wearing “Galliano with socks from K-Mart.”
When it came to color, a majority went white — a hue the costume designer Edith Head once said “can be gay or somber.” In the case of 20-year-old Shailene Woodley in a mod Valentino Couture gown, the look was a bit matronly and Babe Paley circa 1960 for such a dewy star. Gwyneth Paltrow, whose bright white Tom Ford column gown with an architectural duster stood out like spilled milk, looked bright and awake. Rooney Mara, however, seemed more like a Tim Burton Goth bride in her Givenchy dress with a bondage-style back and transparent train.
Red, too, made a strong showing thanks to Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Michelle Williams. Portman’s vintage polka-dotted Christian Dior gown was charming, though the hem was slightly wrinkled. (Shouldn’t limos come equipped with steamers?) Stone’s scarlet Giambattista Valli — embellished with a toaster-sized bow on the left shoulder — had critics hissing that it was too redolent of the Balenciaga dress Nicole Kidman wore to the 2007 Oscars. Oh, stop. Doesn’t Hollywood make the same movies every year? Williams, ever the gamine, looked great in that coral Louis Vuitton with a sweet peplum waist that gave her some curves.
Green, which is not an easy color to pull off, worked for Viola Davis. Her emerald Vera Wang popped against her burnished skin and was fitted at the hips like a coat of latex paint. Unfortunately, Berenice Bejo’s mint Elie Saab made her look slightly seasick. Glenn Close went with an iridescent shade of dark green in a super cool Zac Posen gown with matching tuxedo jacket that felt both youthful and old Hollywood.
With so many strapless gowns and fitted bodices, cleavage hardly got its due. Would a boatload of A-list boobs get horny 14-year-old boys to put down the Xbox and tune in, I wonder? Thankfully, Jennifer Lopez pulled out all the stops in a sequined Zuhair Murad that was slightly tacky — think sexiest mom at the Bar Mitzvah — and showy with a dangerous neckline. Davis sported what I like to call the applauding cleavage, with her breasts pressed together in a peek-a-boo bodice.
But it was the big girls who stole the show this year. Octavia Spencer gets my vote for best dressed in her gorgeously draped Tadashi Shoji with an ultra flattering sequined starburst at the waistline and foxy train. Note to plus-sized women: Tadashi Shoji should be your new best friend. He can cut for ladies who really lunch and his designs are always classy and well constructed. Melissa McCarthy also looked stunning in a dusky rose Marina Rinaldi with fluttering sleeves and jeweled collar and waistline.
Did anyone else miss Tilda Swinton?
Organza Armani Prive gown in periwinkle blue with Platinum and pear-shape diamond necklace (56 carats) by Chopard.
Dusky rose Marina Rinaldi with flutter sleeves and jeweled embellishments.
Ill-fitted black and white Marchesa dress with gold embroidery.
Complicated Gold lame Marchesa with a giant rosette on the hip. Looked great on the runway, but not so much on the red carpet.
Mod but not so youthful soft white Valentino Couture. Platinum and diamond wire drop earrings by Harry Winston.
Givenchy white gown with conceptual bodice and bondage-style back. Platinum and diamond ring with a miniature portrait circa 1910 by Fred Leighton.
Emerald green Vera Wang gown with crystal appliqué on fitted bodice and pleated skirt.
Stoic Tom Ford column gown with a matching duster jacket in snow white.
Sequined racy Zuhair Murad with cutout sleeves and a plunging neckline. Lorraine Scwartz gems.
Scarlet chiffon Giambattista Valli with a huge bow on the shoulder and pleated skirt.
Black and gold strapless Venetian-esque McQueen with full skirt.
Antique white Gucci column with a shirred and sequined skirt and tight, sporty bodice. Platinum and emerald-cut diamond necklace by Tiffany & Co.
Hotter than Hades black sequined Vivienne Westwood with open back and Chanel jewels.
Simple and smart midnight blue custom Carolina Herrera with a peplum flair at the waist. Platinum earrings with sixteen oval cut blue sapphires (47.36 carats) and sixteen mixed shape emeralds (2.94 carats) by Bulgari.
Taupe strapless J. Mendel with a shirred skirt. Platinum and diamond chandelier earrings by Neil Lane.
(Photos: Getty Images)