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Academy Awards: Beauty and Fashion

What They Wore and How They Looked

Janet Bennett and Eleni Gage
washingtonpost.com Fashion and Beauty Editor and People Magazine Beauty Editor
Monday, February 28, 2005; 3:00 PM

washingtonpost.com's fashion and beauty editor Janet Bennett and People magazine beauty editor Eleni Gage were online Monday, Feb. 28, at 3 p.m. ET to talk about what the stars wore and how they looked at the Academy Awards.

A transcript follows.


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Janet Bennett: Welcome to our Oscars discussion this snowy afternoon in D.C. We're here to dish the dirt about the fashions of the celebs last night, so without further ado, let's get started.

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Eleni Gage: I think that last night's Oscars were a return to Old Hollywood glamour with a little flirtiness thrown in for fun.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Renee Zellweger is an attractive lady, but the whole super pale skin and ultra-slender figure just isn't cute. I don't think anyone would call Salma Hayek overweight, but a few extra pounds on a lady won't make her "fat." I'm not asking Renee to be Beyonce because she isn't, but no reason she needs to be so waifish. Real women have curves. I don't get the fascination with her on the red carpet: skin the color of a CSI extra, jet black, unnatural hair, no bustline at all? I don't see how women find it attractive and noteworthy, much less the men.

Janet Bennett: She is a bit waifish-looking, but I thought her Valentino gown was stunning and the red was wonderful.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What were your least favorites? I didn't notive any obvious disasters, but Laura Linney's feathers and Charlize Theron's train might have been a bit much.

Eleni Gage: Well, I loved Charlize's look. If you're not going to go over the top at the Oscars when can you wear the mile-long train, but I didn't think Laura Linney's look was as attractive as her outfits for previous awards shows. Her hair was too fashion forward -- not flattering or classic enough for such a timeless event. More appropriate for a runway show. And the color of the gown didn't do anything.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hilary Swank's dress -- loved it or hated it? I loved the back part ... not so crazy about the front.

Janet Bennett: I don't think Hillary Swank looked as fab as she could. The front was too covered up and the back was, what can I say, what back was there? Then again, who could wear that gown except someone so buff?

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Washington, D.C.: Hello,

I didn't really like what Natalie Portman was wearing and I definitely didn't like her hair. Would it kill her to smile?

Eleni Gage: Ha Ha Ha. I think Natalie might be afraid of being perceived as cute given her age and petite stature. I think her look was aiming for sophistication and I think, if that was her goal, she succeeded. Plus I liked the smoky eye makeup and the jewels in her hair. It was dramatic without saying drama queen.

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Arlington, Va.: Laura Linney, so beautiful; Laura Linney's hair last night, so horrendous! What would possess such a normally classy woman to go for the helmet/mullet look? I wanted to attack her with a bottle of shampoo every time I looked at her!

Janet Bennett: Absolutely agree. She's beautiful and has such great presence. Her hair was not her best asset last night.

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Laurel, Md.: What was with all the mermaid dresses? Is that the rage now?

Eleni Gage: The reason we saw so many mermaid dresses, I think, is because they're form-fitting and these women work out so much that they want to show off their figures. A mermaid dress conforms to the body but adds a little drama and flair with the tail at the end.

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Montreal, Canada: Am I the only one to think that Hilary Swank's dress did not look like it fit her properly from the front? It looked uncomfortable, coming right up to her throat, and the color was hardly flattering ...

Eleni Gage: I liked the high neckline of Hilary Swank's dress and I think it made the most of her broad shoulders. I actually think it fit her quite well because I kept looking for a wardrobe malfunction if she moved forward and that never happened.

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Washington, D.C.: I realize that Carlos Santana has a "look" that he stays true to, but would it have hurt him to have donned at least a jacket for such a prestigous event? Maybe show some respect for the Academy and the achievements of the great moviemakers being honored?

Eleni Gage: I bet Carlos thinks his performance showed enough respect on its own. After so many years in the business, he probably feels like he doesn't need to cater to the man.

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Manassas, Va.: I love the Oscars mostly for its high fashion. I LOVED Charlize Theron's dress and Emmy Rossum looked divine. I really didn't see any flubs last night ... well, maybe Melanie Griffith. Thoughts?

Janet Bennett: Not too many flubs last night. The worst-dressed I have to say would go to Melanie Griffith. It didn't look good from either the front or the back. And she looked paler than usual.

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Arlington, Va.: Julia Roberts looked even more stunning than usual. Motherhood must really agree with her. Was this her first public appearance since giving birth?

Eleni Gage: Yes, it was her first public appearance since giving birth and I think it was a spectacular way to do it. Wait four months until you're back in great shape. Then show up at the Oscar telecast, which is what she did.

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Arlington, Va.: I was devastated that a woman as beautiful as Hilary Swank would do such an injustice to herself as to wear that dress she had on last night! I thought the cut was completely unflattering to her.

Janet Bennett: I didn't think it was the shape of the dress that didn't work. She has a body to die for, and the dress, particularly the back, emphasized her great, svelte figure. I think the color was a little draining for her.

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Washington, D.C.: What did you think about Gisele's dress/tent?

Janet Bennett: In a word, disappointing. Why hide that lovely figure under that big dress that I have to agree was very tent-like. Too bad.

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Great Falls, Mont.: I thought Cate Blanchett's dress was AWFUL! Who designed that and why did she wear it?

Janet Bennett: I have to disagree; I thought she looked very goddess-like in that Valentino, and I loved the belt, too.

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Renee: Actually, her dress was Carolina Herrera. While lovely, when she was up on stage, she clearly could not walk properly it was so tight. Good for newspaper poses, I guess, but not for her stage appearance. She might as well have hopped.

Eleni Gage: That's oneo f the risks of a mermaid train; they can be hard to walk in. Emmy Rossum almost tripped walking onto the stage.

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Rockville, Md.: I'm probably one of many viewers that were sad to see that no one was wearing an absolutely awful dress! Some dresses were less pretty than others, but where are the dresses like Uma's last year or like the ones Cher always shows up in?

Janet Bennett: There were no absolutely horrible dresses, but Melanie Griffith did not do herself a favor with her dress that had a plunging neckline and a very cut-out back. Not at all flattering for her.

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Gisele's lovely figure: Isn't she pregnant which explains the "tent"?

Eleni Gage: I haven't heard that she's pregnant. I think it's more a case of "I'm so gorgeous, I can wear whatever I want. Or maybe she didn't want to upstage the actresses. She did praise it for being comfortable. ANd with her in the white dress and Leo in the dark suit it did look very wedding-y. Maybe she's trying to give him a hint.

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Kingstowne, Va.: Chris Rock looked magnificent, as did Jamie Foxx and Clint Eastwood. You'd think, though, that claiming an Oscar statue would induce the usually elegant Morgan Freeman to knot his necktie. Wouldn't you?

Janet Bennett: An exceptionally good year for men, I think. Sean John was very dapper in his tuxedo as well. I agree, Morgan Freeman not knotting his tie is a fashion mystery.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Since E! won't do it, how about critiquing Star Jones Reynolds? I don't mean her hosting ability, but her dress, accessories, etc. I personally thought the tiara-like thing was too much, but was pleased that her makeup was more natural this time. The dress cut was unfortunate for the sideways position she was in on camera.

Eleni Gage: I'm not a fan of Star's fashion, necessarily, but I have to say that hair jewelry is a trend. Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johannson, Kate Winslet and Sophie Okonedo all wore jewels in their hair...some more successfully than others (I liked Kate's hairclips myself).

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Baltimore, Md.: I enjoyed the fashion overall, but my vote for the worst dressed would have to go to Gwyneth Paltrow. Her top looked way to tight at times and at other times it looked as if it was going to fall down.

I loved the way Oprah looked!!

Janet Bennett: Gwyneth's dress was indeed a disappointment. She looked washed out and pale and it was such a contrast to the way she looked when she accepted the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love when she also wore a pink dress. What a difference, though.

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Glow!: Jane and Eleni: How do Beyonce, Jenny Lopez, and other stars achieve that incredible glow that they always seem to have?

Eleni Gage: Two words: makeup artist. Actually, many of them do self-tanners, but for the Academy Awards, their makeup artists also use body makeup on them--sometimes mixing foundation with a pearlescent lotion. You can try this at home! Just use a body lotion with shimmer.

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San Carlos, Calif.: Somebody needs to tell Penelope Cruz that the only time a butt bow is justified is when you're maid of honor and the bridesmaid has a gun to your head.

Janet Bennett: Rene Zellwegger made the same mistake last year; it always seems as if the dress is wearing you instead of the other way around. You would think with all the help these stars get, this kind of thing wouldn't happen. But if it didn't, it would get boring.

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Laurel, Md.: Do the stars' wardrobes bear any relationship whatsoever to the clothes I'm likely to shop for this year, in terms of fabrics, cuts, colors, etc? Or are Oscar clothes just sort of a "playground of the rich" that has nothing to do with the clothes anybody else wears?

Eleni Gage: Trends you might follow: color. Blue was big at the Oscars (actually all Oscar season) and is big for Spring as well. You don't need to worry about fishtails or hair jewelry unless you want to, though.

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Alexandria, Va.: Catalina Sandino Moreno looked beautiful, and her age, unlike Scartlett Johanson (that hair!). Who did Ms. Moreno's dress?
And I liked Hilary Swank's dress, although it probably looked better live.

Janet Bennett: I think Moreno's dress was by Cavalli. I don't know what was up with Scarlett Johanssen's hair--frizz city.

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Eleni Gage: I had a great time participating in this discussion and I promise not to buy myself any yellow fishtail dresses with bows on the butt. Unfortunately, I have to run to another appointment now. Thanks for your questions!

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Washington, D.C. : Why? Why? Why? Why does Johnny Depp look like a clown on the Red Carpet? Whoever is grooming him up needs to get fired.

Janet Bennett: Johnny Depp is such a wonderful actor that it is painful to see him look so ridiculous. I don't know if it's his way of rebelling or what.

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Washington, D.C.: What's with the pale-on-pale look? Cate Blanchett with yellow, Gwyneth, they all looked washed out. On the other hand, I loved Kate Winslet's gown on her -- fit like a glove, interesting neckline, brilliant blue made nice contrast to her skin.

Janet Bennett: Great color for Winslet, I agree, and Gwyneth Paltrow did look very washed out. On the other hand, Cate Blanchett looked like a goddess in that Valentino. The yellow was daring and an unusual choice, but I don't think it washed her out; her makeup balanced it all out.

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Arlington, Va.: What was up with Al Pacino last night? His face was gray and his hair was wild. It looked like a cigar had exploded in his face!

Janet Bennett: The last couple of times I've seen Al Pacino he hasn't looked much different.

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Mount Vernon, Va.: I thought Renee Zellweger, who's a beautiful woman, looked like a mess last night. Her makeup was all wrong for that hair color, and the dress looked like it was made from the draperies at Tara! Someone get her a good stylist!

Janet Bennett: Don't like her hair color either, and she's probably too thin, but on the other hand I really loved her red dress. It was hot.

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Alexandria, Va.: The dress that stunk the worst to me was Beyonce's mermaid silver number. It made her hips look enormous and wide. As a black woman, I'm proud she's showing off her curves, but she really needed to look in the mirror again on this dress.

Janet Bennett: Did you see Beyonce when she first came on the red carpet?
She was wearing a black, strapless Versace with dynamite rectangular diamond earrings and she looked positively awesome. That silver dress was not a winner in my book either.

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Annandale, Va.: Many of the women at the Oscars had fishtail dresses this year. They're "in" this year, but there were so many that I didn't think the actresses differentiated themselves and their styles enough. I always thought the Oscars were about looking special ... not alike ...

Do they all use stylists when choosing gowns, and if so, do the stylists ever get together and compare notes to see who's wearing what?

Oh, and my personal favorite looks: Cate Blanchett's dress. Jamie Foxx's suit. Emmy Rossum's jewelry.

Janet Bennett: It does seem as if everyone gets the same memo and then dresses accordingly. The fishtail style does accentuate a good figure, though, and maybe that's what they were going for. I agree with you on your personal favorites!

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Denver, Colo.: Please tell me that the "mermaid" silhouette isn't going to make a comeback. I noticed it on a number of gowns last night and just hate it.

Janet Bennett: The mermaid look may make a comeback, but since there are very few women who would ever think of wearing that style, it won't be in fashion for long.

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New York, N.Y.: Is it just me or did Scarlett Johannsen's hairstyle look like a mohawk?

Janet Bennett: Everyone is picking on Scarlett's hair. I've never seen it look like that before; a serious hair malfunction, I'd say.

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Bethesda, Md.: I heard that Halle Berry was to wear a pair of million dollar diamond encrusted shoes. Does anyone know what happened? It was never mentioned on the red carpet.

Janet Bennett: I heard something about shoes from Stewart Weitzman that were big bucks ... anyone else know anything?

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Re: Julia: I missed seeing Julia and everyone's raving about how she looked! Can anyone link me to a photo so I can see for myself?

Janet Bennett: She was positively glowing in a black strapless gown, and it was fun to see her again after her "maternity leave."

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Arlington, Va.: How can stars like Hilary Swank take money from someone like Calvin Klein and then show up in a Guy LaRoche? Does CK deserve a refund?

Janet Bennett: When it comes to dresses for the Oscars, it's war.

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Linthicum, Md.: Am I the only one who absolutely loved Hillary Swank's dress. I thought the front provided a sophisticated and demure style while the back dipped oh so low in a suprisingly tasteful way. Very few women could have pulled that off and look as well as she did doing it.

Janet Bennett: I wasn't mad about the dress, but I agree with you -- there are not many women on this planet that could pull that look off like she did.

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No mishaps: I was a little disappointed that there were no mishaps. What is a red carpet without a swan dress?

Janet Bennett: It does make it a little more gossip worthy when there's something truly awful to talk about like Lara Flynn Boyle's tutu look a couple of years ago and Bjork's swan dress or whatever that was.

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Washington, D.C.: I thought Spike Lee's choice of white suit was bad. Also, his hat with the little too-too looked stupid.

Janet Bennett: Especially since this was a year when so many men looked wonderful, particularly Sean John, Leo and Jamie Foxx.

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Washington, D.C.: It looked to me like Renee Z. was having a difficult time walking across the stage to present her award. How can they sit down in those dresses?

Janet Bennett: What can I say, it isn't easy being beautiful?

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Diamond Shoes: Regina King (actress in Ray) wore the Stuart Weitzman shoes this year. They were made from earrings that had belonged to/been worn by Marilyn Monroe. Here's a link to a photo of one of the shoes: Stuart Weitzman Shoes

Janet Bennett: Here's the answer to the question about the million-dollar shoes.

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washingtonpost.com: Oscars Ceremony Photos

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Silver Spring, Md.: I thought this was the worst dressed Oscars I've seen in years. Scarlett Johansson looked like she had a bird's nest on her head and her dress just didn't do a thing for me. Hilary's was ok, she has the figure for it. Also liked Renee's but I am in agreement about her pale skin/dark hair look being too extreme. Beyonce is way over exposed and shouldn't have worn that chandelier style earrings and necklace duing that one song; and Melanie Griffith looked awful. Heard some stars are now being paid to wear certain clothes - the ultimate way to market yourself I guess. Very few ladies looked glamourous to me.

Janet Bennett: The worst-dressed really? Have to agree about Melanie Griffith, but I thought for the most part, there were no outrageous mistakes.

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Rockville, Md.: Maybe it was just me, but I thought Renee Zellweger looked like death last night! The red dress on her pale frame with that harsh black hair was awful. And the top of her dress, the "lace" part, looked like her bra was showing! Who told her this was a good look?

Janet Bennett: Poor Rene. A lot of people seem to be taking her to task for her hair and her dress. Personally, I loved the red.

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: Hi there!
As an Asian female, I was very glad to see two whole Asians featured at the Oscars, Zhang Zhi Yi (so cute!) and Sandra Oh. Hopefully this heralds a wave of diversity for Hollywood.

Janet Bennett: Thanks for bringing that up. Zhang Zhi Yi looked marvelous in that black dress with plunging neckline and lariat necklace, and Sandra Oh was lovely as well. They also happen to be very good actresses!

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Arlington, Va.: No one looked awful, but I was bored! All the dresses were the same three colors. Snore. I am all for understated elegance -- in a rainbow of colors!

Janet Bennett: I counted more colors than that: red, yellow, navy, royal blue, pink, green, silver ....

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Janet Bennett: Thank you all for joining us. It was great fun dishing about the fashions. Hope you'll all join my discussion this Wednesday at 2 p.m. with dermatologist Dr. Paula Bourelly. We'll be talking about what's new in skin care. Until then. Stay safe on the roads.

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