Talking Oscar Fashion

Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly
Deputy Editor, Sunday Source, Fashion and Beauty Editor, washingtonpost.com
Monday, February 25, 2008 11:00 AM

Deputy Editor of the Sunday Source Suzanne D'Amato and washingtonpost.com Fashion and Beauty Editor Janet Bennett Kelly talked about Oscar fashion on Mon., Feb. 25, at 11 a.m. ET.

Photo Gallery: Red Carpet Fashions

Academy Awards: Oscar Dress Quiz

A transcript follows.

Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly, talked about wardrobe questions for summer, Tuesday, July 24, at 11 a.m. ET.

A transcript follows.


Janet Bennett Kelly: Welcome to our Oscars fashion post-mortem, where we dish and dissect what Hollywood wore to its biggest party of the year. There was an abundance of red on the red carpet -- did a memo circulate or were the stars celebrating the end of the writer's strike and the fact that they could walk the red carpet at all? Anyway, Suzanne and I welcome your thoughts and questions, so without further ado, let this show begin.


Conway, Ark.: Why is there little risk taken on the red carpet?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Good question, Arkansas. One reason may be that so many stars have stylists who pick their entire ensemble just so they can avoid making big bloopers on the red carpet. Did you hear Jennifer Garner says that she owed her appearance entirely to her stylist Rachel Zoe?

Thoughts, Suzanne?

Suzanne D'Amato: I think stars play it safe because of people like us, frankly. They know that a billion or so folks will be dissecting their outfits this morning, so they're trying to give us as little as possible to talk about (at least in a negative sense).
Of course, Janet and I are undeterred...


Mt. Lebanon PA: Is there a list somewhere of ALL -- that is, ALL -- of the Oscar winners? I didn't see a link to it on your site.

I'm not interested in the gowns, the glitter, and the cleavage, I just want to see who won for technical matters, music, you know.. the art of movie making?

Remember: regardless of how you cut it, it's still the film industry. It's "the movies" that matter.

Thanks much. HLB

washingtonpost.com: Academy Award Nominations and Winners

Suzanne D'Amato: Yes, movies are the reason these awards exist, but it's difficult to overestimate how important the Oscars are to the fashion business. Putting the right star in the right dress really can have a transformative effect on certain brands. Niche designers can become household names literally overnight. Do you remember, in 1995, when Uma Thurman showed up in a lovely lilac frock by a little-known designer named Miuccia Prada?


Falls Church, Va.: I was delighted to see the comeback of gorgeous necklaces on the red carpet last night! After a few years of the same ol look -- strapless gown sans necklace -- I'm glad that people are again donning beautiful jewelery.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Yes indeed. There was lots of bling on the red carpet. Jennifer Garner's diamond choker was stunning and the right complement to her Oscar de la Renta black dress.

Suzanne D'Amato: Jennifer was stunning, but I will say that I thought her necklace could have been an inch or two longer... this may be splitting hairs, but c'mon -- when you're paying to have Rachel Zoe as your stylist, you should expect perfection!


Washington, D.C.: Given the House of Lanvin has had the best collections for the last two seasons which even your own Robin Givhan described as "light and airy," was there any of Alber Elbaz's work on display last night? Thanks.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Yes, Washington, there was indeed. Best supporting actress winner Tilda Swinton wore Lanvin, although that particular dress was not "light and airy." Still, I think she carried it off.


Morristown, N.J.: Can you explain to me how Tilda Swinton, or any of her nearest and dearest, could have looked at her in that outfit and said "You look great!"?

I know some dress to shock, but there are so many others who I think really try but fail miserably. Don't they own mirrors?

P.S. Keri Ruseel looked fnatastic last night.

Suzanne D'Amato: Dearest Morristown, I must say that I disagree with both of your observations. I loved Tilda Swinton's dramatic, one-sleeved Lanvin dress. She's an actress who doesn't give a hoot about dressing like the Hollywood establishment, and I thought she looked dazzling -- and daring -- for it.
As for Keri Russell's Nina Ricci dress: A lovely idea, but it was a smidge too large up top. And that bland beige washed out her pale skin, I thought.


Anonymous: "Away from Me" star dimmed in the unflattering dress...did it look like her legs were varicose-marked? And the ruched sleeves...what did you ladies think? Julie Christie is so beautiful even at her age...whatever that it is...but the jewels were splendid?

Janet Bennett Kelly: The dress that Julie Christie wore was apparently a collaboration between her and her stylist. I don't think the result was the happiest of marriages and agree with you that Julie Christie is beautiful and another dress would undoubtedly have done her more justice. Liked her hairstyle, though.


Alexandria, a.: Am I the only one who thought Nicole Kidman's ensemble looked awful? The dress was frumpy and the necklace made it worse.

Suzanne D'Amato: I thought Nicole's Balenciaga dress was pretty -- certainly better than that scarlet gown with the mega-bow she sported at last year's ceremony. But the necklace was too long and as such, distracting. Did anyone else notice that it was slightly askew the whole time she was presenting?


Philadelphia, Pa.: What did you think of Nichole Kidman's necklace? Personally, I think she should have stuck with a simpler design because it overshadowed a great dress...

Suzanne D'Amato: Loved the necklace; loved the dress. Didn't love them together. I thought the neckline of the dress competed with the baubles, which probably cost more than some mortgages and definitely deserved their moment in the spotlight.


R.I.: Was Daniel Day-Lewis wearing brown shoes?

Suzanne D'Amato: Oh yes, he was. Brown, suede-looking, Rockport-type lace-ups. It's worth noting that his (black) tux jacket had brown piping, but...jeez.


Washington, D.C.: I can't really comment on the fashions because the red carpet coverage was sooooo lousy. Why does E feel like we need an idiot like Seacrest to try and make 10 minutes of conversation with the "stars"? Just show the clothes and move on? An interview with the "Rock?" give me a break! So no one stood out as looking particularly fashion forward in my opinion.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Agree, Washington, am not fond of E's coverage at all. No one took a great risk, that's for sure, but what did you think of Marion Cotillard's dress?


Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: When I first saw Marion Cotillard's dress, I wasnt completely won over by it -- but then as she made her way down the red carpet, I started to really warm up to it. It was definately a fashion risque but I think it worked -- she looked so elegant and glamorous, especially with her hair down. And of course her winning reaction and acceptance speech made it even more hard to not like her!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Agree, I warmed up to it as well and I think she wound up to be more of a risk taker than her fellow actresses by wearing this mermaid Jean-Paul Gaultier.


Richmond, Va.: Someone -- I believe it was Javier Bardem -- was wearing a four-button Prada tux. Are four buttons necessary? Is this new? What did you think of it? I thought it was a bit covered up. He's an actor, not an undertaker.

Suzanne D'Amato: I was so dazzled by Bardem's acting (and so glad he'd lost what Jon Stewart referred to as his Dorothy Hamill haircut) that I didn't stop to think about his tux. I merely noted that it was a bit tight around the torso. Janet, any thoughts?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I think this type of black tie works better on someone who is not as broad in the chest as Bardem. Agree that this buttoned-up look didn't suit him very well. He looked far better at the SAG awards, where if anything, he was a tad too casual in an open white shirt.


Washington, D.C.: I thought Anne Hathaway was "best-dressed" in her stunning Marchesa gown. Which woman do you think was best dressed?

Suzanne D'Amato: I thought Cate Blanchett's navy Dries Van Noten gown was thoroughly dreamy.
To my mind, Anne Hathaway looked like she was still wearing the lei from some Spring Break trip to Oahu.


DDL: I don't care what Daniel Day-Lewis wears. I rather like the fact that he wore what appeared to be brown mocs from LL Bean with his tux -- shows he doesn't care too much.

He is absolutely terrific looking, no matter what.

Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks for adding your take! His companion, Rebecca Miller, certainly didn't appear to mind.


Anonymous: Heidi Klum was the winner for best-dressed, far and away. Stunning. Not sure why she was there, but still. The E broadcasters didn't "get" her accessories. All of it was perfect.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Heidi Klum did rock the runway in that John Galliano red satin taffeta with the fab neckline. The designer made the dress for her and it showed off her assets, of which there are many. No, the E folks didn't get mixing pink with red.


Arizona: I agree with you that Tilda Swinton's dramatic dress did her proud. She's always interesting. But I wondered what you thought about her going apparently makeup-less. I've looked at some of the photo galleries this a.m., and I think that alongside Tilda, many of the actresses are overly made up. But it seems just a hint of eye makeup, including perhaps brown mascara, would help her avoid a frighteningly ghostly look. Or is she channeling David Bowie?

Suzanne D'Amato: Her flaming tresses added so much color that I thought she was fine to be as bare-faced as she was. A bit of powder might have helped, but she doesn't strike me as the type to fuss over a shiny T-zone.


Bethesda, Md.: As much as Katherine Heigl irritates me, I have to say she looked stunning and was, in my opinion, the best-dressed woman there. Although I really wished she chose a color other than the bright red -- I think it would have been much more interesting in a darker red or other jewel tone. What did you all think?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Agree, Bethesda, Heigl looked stunning, and I have to say red is her color and she apparently knows it. For a moment there, I could have sworn Marilyn Monroe had been reincarnated.


Alexandria, Va.: Isn't Rebecca Miller the one that wore what is probably the most horrific dress of the evening? I'm not sure I'd trust her fashion judgment, even on men's shoes.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Yes, Alexandria, I'm with you. That was an insane-looking dress. Those red bows made it all the worse.


Washington, D.C.: I thought Cameron Diaz looked like she just got back from the gym. Ponytails are all right, but you have to do it artfully to make it work on the red carpet. Plus, her dress didn't fit. She was bulging out of it at the back.

I loved Nicole's dress and necklace. And when they cut from her to Cameron... well, one looked like a movie star and one looked like a gym rat.

Suzanne D'Amato: Cameron was a study in contrasts last night. I thought her dress was beautiful, and she certainly has the height to pull it off. But from the neck up, she looked like she was headed to a tailgate.
Still, you have to feel these celebs' pain (well, to some extent). If they look too polished with their hair and makeup -- as Hilary Swank did, I thought -- they get criticized for trying too hard. Tough to walk that line...


Washington, D.C.: I thought Cate Blanchett's gown would have been much, much prettier if it were floor length.

Suzanne D'Amato: I wonder if her baby bump gave it a little, er, lift?


New York, N.Y.: FYI, the female stars were asked to wear red dresses to promote heart health awareness. I think the women who chose not to wear red came off a lot worse (not that you should have a uniform, but still).

God, I wish Tilda Swinton would pencil in her eyebrows.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks, New York. I thought it was only Heidi Klum, who was going to auction her dress after the show. I have to say I'm glad not all the female stars wore red -- too much of a good thing and all that. As for Tilda Swinton, she dances to the beat of her own drum.


Dallas, Tex.: Am I the only one that thought that with her devil tatoo and her dress opened all the way up her leg we were seconds away from a Diablo Cody pole dance?

Suzanne D'Amato: I loved Diablo's tattoo and her jewelry. In refusing to go tastefully understated, she really stood out from the strapless-gown pack. But that slit in her dress really was a bit much.
On a side note, does she remind anyone else of Betty Rubble?


St. Paul, Minn.: Who did Helen Mirren's dress? I thought she looked amazing, and she knows what to do with jewelry (hardly any at all).

Janet Bennett Kelly: Helen Mirren wore a Georges Chakra red satin gown especially designed for the evening. Her drop sleeves were accented with Swarovski crystals! As Tim Gunn said today, one of the reasons she always looks fab is because she's so comfortable with herself.


Ill-fitting dresses: I don't understand why so many actresses wear a size dress that smushes their breasts. Some of the cleavage, especially with strapless dresses, look so ridiculous. I'm thinking Jennifer Garner, Cameron Diaz....it just looks like their dress is a size too small. Smushed breasts are not attractive!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hmmm. Can't say I agree with you on the smushed breasts. I think both Diaz's and Garner's dress fit them well. Can you imagine the alternative -- strapless dresses that are too big. They could look like they have another breast, which would really be unflattering.


Hackensack, N.J.: And P.S. What was up with Rebecca Miller's "outfit" and that sad-looking Valentino on George Clooney's arm candy?

Suzanne D'Amato: Hated RM's "outfit" (which was Lacroix Couture, by the way). Those scarlet bow-tied straps: Why? Why? And the glittery doorknobs on her sternum were another travesty.
George Clooney's date, on the other hand, was pretty but boring. The dress's print was straight off of some old lady's couch, yes...


Alexandria, Va.: What about Jennifer Hudson? I thought her dress made her chest look funny.

Janet Bennett Kelly: As much as I wanted to like Jennifer Hudson's dress, I agree with you. That halter was not flattering to her full figure. It made her look too full busted and the halter dress that Callista Flockhart was wearing made her look far too skinny.


Hackensack, N.J.: Wanted to mention that Rachel Zoe herself recently said she'd never put a client in a black dress on the red carpet because "black doesn't register on TV." Which I think is absolutely true, visually. So what gave with Jennifer Garner?

Suzanne D'Amato: Hmm... I don't know about that. I have a copy of Zoe's fashion advice book, "Style From A To Zoe," right in front of me. Inside, there's a full-page pic of Keira Knightley, one of her clients, in a black tea-length Ossie Clark dress. And one of Liv Tyler in black Marchesa, too.
I agree, though, that black is rarely the best choice for television. (White's not great either.)


Maryland: I get that simple is elegant, but I thought Amy Ryan's dress was just boring. And whoever told Julie Christie she could wear a cocktail-length dress to the Oscars should be fired. Loved, loved, loved Anne Hathaway's hair and makeup, but the dress didn't do anything for her figure.

Janet Bennett Kelly: That Calvin Klein was a tad boring, but I thought Ryan's slightly messy updo and bling earrings and bracelet made it work okay. Julie Christie has a stylist with whom she designed her dress with -- what can we say. Agree with you there about Anne Hathaway's look last night. The dress was pretty but not great on her. There were moments in "The Devil Wears Prada," like when she goes to the Costume Institute ball, when the dress was far better suited to her figure than this Marchesa.


Re ill-fitting dresses: My complaint about the strapless dresses was not smushed breasts, but rather the underarm flab they created. You know these women couldn't work out more, so it's got to be the fit of the dresses. Not cute.

Suzanne D'Amato: Yes, when you see that pesky underarm issue on someone like Keri Russell, you know it's got to be the fit of the dress, not the fitness of the woman.


Washington, D.C.: Helen Mirren looked lovely I thought. Too many actresses of a certain age go way too frumpy, but she wore something festive and cut well for her figure. Other end -- Miley Cyrus, cute dress but the color was too old for her. That dress in a pastel would have been perfect.

Goerge Clooney's girlfriend? Yikes, it looked like a prom dress from Forver 21 at the mall. (she and Miley should have switched dresses and both would have been better off).

Janet Bennett Kelly: Agree. Helen Mirren did look festive in that Georges Chakra red dress. Don't agree about Miley Cyrus, though. I liked the red and I loved the cut on her. Thought she nailed it in that Valentino.


Washington, D.C.: So who did you think were the best and worst dressed of the evening?

For me, Hillary Swank, Marion Cottilard and Jennifer Garner Stood out.

As for the worst, Ellen Page, Tilda Swinton and Jennifer Hudson did not do any favors for themselves.

Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks for providing this list. Here's mine.
Best: Cate Blanchett. Marion Cottilard.
Worst: Jennifer Hudson. Amy Adams when she sang that song about scrubbing toilets in an embroidered sheath and high-heeled mules.
Chatters, who are your bests and worsts?


Springfield, Mass.: Did you have an opinion of Ellen Page's hair? Maybe she and Cameron Diaz went to the same salon.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I think her hair suited Ellen Page far better than her dress, which looked as if it could have been her mother's. Don't mind the messy updo look -- it softens the formality of the look.


Washington, D.C.: This might be somewhat out of your realm but in regards to the Red Carpet coverage, I too disliked Ryan Seacrest and his interviewing capabilities but I equally hated Lisa Rinna on TV Guide (she's so overly gushy). Is there anyone you think who could do a better job than those two clowns?? This is kinda sad but I do miss Joan Rivers, as outlandish as she may have been!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Red carpet coverage was lame last night, agreed. Here's hoping they can find some personalities with more authority and knowledge for next year's awards ceremonies.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi, ladies. Great observations. Was wondering why you think it is that all of us watching can see all the fashion/hair/makeup/accessories problems so clearly -- and these actresses and their stylists either cannot or do not. Thoughts?

Suzanne D'Amato: It's always so easy (and fun!) to judge when you're sitting at home in a T-shirt and jeans. But could you do much better if you had to style yourself for a ceremony such as this? Do you know which colors, fabrics and silhouettes flatter you, and how to pair them with jewelry, shoes, hair, makeup, etc.? Because I'm sure I'd end up as the Jennifer Hudson of the night! It's tough to be fashion-forward in a way that will appeal to a billion people.


Washington, D.C.: May I ask a dumb question? I'm a guy so please forgive me. How do you know who is wearing which designer? Do you know by looking? Do you get a list from the Oscar organization? Do you ask each star individually?

For what it's worth (not much, I'm sure), I thought Tilda Swinton looked like the Grim Reaper. Horrible dress.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Folks are clearly divided about Tilda Swinton. Depending on where you sit, she either looks like a black crow or a individualist.


Washington, D.C.: Yes, Heidi's dress was beautiful but I think Helen Mirren's dress was FABULOUS.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Both women rocked the carpet in red dresses that suited their figures to a T.


Raleigh, N.C.: What was up with that bizarre floral under-bust piece on Anne Hathaway? She's normally so lovely and fresh-looking. Making matters worse, the next presenter was Katherine Heigl, looking smashing in a similarly hued red dress. Even my 9-year-old daughter, to whom dressing well means a clean T-shirt to climb trees, said "Now THAT's what a pretty red dress SHOULD look like!"

Suzanne D'Amato: Agreed on Anne Hathaway's dress (see my previous Oahu comment). As for Katherine Heigl, she looked...fine. I don't know. I don't quite get what all the fuss is about.


Alexandria, Va.: Let's give Sarah Larson a pass for her bad dress. Sure, it looks like she made the dress from old curtains -- but she went from Vegas cocktail waitress to dating perpetual-bachelor George Clooney. It's a Cinderella story. I wonder if any mice helped her sew it?

Suzanne D'Amato: Perhaps some of the cast on "Enchanted" was on hand to help her last night.


washingtonpost.com: Photo Gallery: Red Carpet Fashions


Gaithersburg, Md.: I would love to see Tim Gunn cover the Red Carpet. Who wouldn't want to hear his opinion on the dresses of the evening?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I couldn't agree with you more. He was on the "Today" show this morning with Stacey London.


New York, N.Y.: Best: Helen Mirren, Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Warner.

Worst: Kelly Preston (gag-inducing orangey yellow), Rebecca Miller (down to the scary shoes), Cameron Diaz (get thy roots to the hair stylist NOW).

Suzanne D'Amato: I'm assuming you mean "Garner" in the best category. Thanks for chiming in!


Washington, D.C.: Were there any stars who went blingless, a la the year of Blood Diamonds, or did they all quickly forget?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I can't think of any who went without any jewelry at all. Don't know though if everyone wore diamonds of some kind.


23112: Swinton looked undead. Garner was gorgeous as usual but I wasn't totally a fan of the hair. Hathaway...fabulous, wouldn't change a thing. And Heigl looks great in pics but her actual appearance on camera was too distracting. Those are the impressions that remain with me from last night.

Janet Bennett Kelly: That's what makes vetting Oscars fashion so much fun -- we all have differing opinions about what works and doesn't on the red carpet.


Silver Spring, Md.: Best dressed -- that lady who won for "Freeheld" (short doc) and, sorry, I loved Mrs. Day-Lewis's dress

Suzanne D'Amato: Yes, both of the "Freeheld" winners looked great, I thought. As for Rebecca Miller's dress -- well, it takes all kinds...


New York, N.Y.: Sorry, I meant Jennifer Garner, not Warner. Note to self: Get more caffeine.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I know you meant Garner. Thanks for saying though.


Jennifer Hudson: I was really looking forward to seeing her. But evidently the "Oscar show" designers don't know how to design a dress for her. The latest issue of Essence magazine has her looking fantastic. But I see many actresses in the wrong color outfits. If Hillary Swank tries too hard, she looks great and should keep up the good work.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Jennifer Hudson is a lovely woman, and some designer needs to do better by her!


Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks so much for chatting with us today. I hope you had fun discussing Oscar fashion's hits and misses. Janet and I will be back on Tuesday, March 4th, at 11 a.m. to give fashion advice suited for the real world, not the red carpet. Please join us then!



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