Oscars 2010: Red Carpet Fashion at the Academy Awards

Good-as-gold metallics and ruffles ruled the red carpet on both one-shoulder and strapless gowns at this year's Oscars.

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Holly Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 8, 2010; 10:00 AM

Who were Oscar night's real winners and losers? Holly Thomas took your questions about the fashion hits and misses on the Academy Awards red carpet.

A transcript follows.

Gallery: Oscar fashionistas and fashion faux pas

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Holly Thomas: Good morning, and happy after-Oscars day! Thanks for joining in after what seemed like an eternally long ceremony. Now, let's get down to business! Who had the best dress? The worst? Did you prefer Jennifer Lopez's futuristic hip train over Charlize Theron's oddly-placed rosettes? And what about Sarah Jessica Parker's Chanel couture? (Hint: I looooved it!) Now's your chance to play fashion police ... (And PS, we've had some technical difficulties this morning, so you may want to resubmit any questions you posted already.)

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Washington, DC: Who do you think wore Armani Prive better, J.Lo or the very nervous, Amanda Seyfried?

Holly Thomas: J.Lo definitely had the confidence and charisma to pull off that serious work-of-art gown, and I thought it was a bold move to accentuate her curvy figure with such a sculptural piece -- one that paid off dividends. Nervous or not, Amanda Seyfried's choice was a refreshing deviation from the young-starlet norm (strapless bustier + poufy skirt = boring). I didn't realize quite how enormously full the dress was until she was on stage ... how did she sit down?

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Washington DC: Can you talk a bit about the work of a stylist? Who uses them? Who doesn't? How much does it cost? Thank you!

Holly Thomas: Stylists bank highly on the Oscars, which is why the ubiquitous Rachel Zoe ditched Paris Fashion Week so she could get back to the states in time for the awards. It's usually pretty easy to pick out the stars that didn't use a stylist, but I was rather impressed by last night's red carpet ... no one appeared to have really gone rogue. TV personality/stylist Philip Bloch broke down the cost of Oscar styling in NY Mag last week (link following), and estimated it between $115,700 to a few million -- but since actors borrow most of their red-carpet items, the actual cost is more in the $10,000 range.

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washingtonpost.com: Most Starlets Don't Really Spend the Price of a House on Red-Carpet Styling (NY Mag)

Holly Thomas: The stylist breakdown ...

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Can we talk Sandy?: I thought Sandra Bullock looked awful. I thought the dress made her look old and the shiny material looked cheap (nor did I love the metal on pantyhose affect up top). Her makeup looked awful too and I didn't love her hair.

I thought she was a total miss all around. And yet some people were raving about the outfit on morning shows?? I like her, I'm glad she won (well, I think Meryl is overdue), but I thought she was a total fashion disaster.

Holly Thomas: I have to disagree with you here. I thought Sandra Bullock looked beautiful in a classic, old-Hollywood way -- that aesthetic can easily seem a bit costume-y, but I thought she looked natural and pretty, and I loved the red lip. I thought her hair looked sleek compared to the messy updos some other actresses were sporting (messy perhaps because of the weather, but still...) Anyone else want to weigh in?

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Bethesda, MD: Did you find Charlize Theron's dress embarrassing? I thought those 'cinnabon appliques' on her otherwise pretty dress were hilarious!

Holly Thomas: I admire the effort to do something different -- I was starting to think if I saw one more poufy, strapless confection, I might scream -- but those rosettes were just bad. Bad, bad, bad. Liked the hair and makeup though!

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Vienna, VA: Just wanted to say that my favorites of the night were Helen Mirren (she is GORGEOUS), Penelope Cruz and Demi Moore. I saw a few shots of Mariska Hargitay and she looked great, too, but I haven't seen a good pic of her gown.

Holly Thomas: I loved Helen Mirren's very elegant, age-appropriate dress. Not many women her age venture into strapless territory, but I thought the sheer sleeves were a beautiful touch ... it proves that a little bit of class goes a long way. Ditto Meryl Streep!

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Waltham, MA: My Worst Dressed of the evening went to Charlize Theron. What was up with the boob mitts? I also really liked SJP's dress. Kristen Stewart looked a LOT better than I expected (and she wasn't even scowling!), but my favorite of the night was Maggie Gyllenhaal. I loved the patterned dress. So interesting and pretty.

Holly Thomas: I think Charlize Theron and Zoe Saldana might actually tie for Worst Dress, but I LOVED SJP's Chanel couture -- she's the quintessential risk-taker, and I admire the fact that she chose something that wasn't "flattering" in the traditional sense, but it reflected her personality and her own sense of style. I also thought Kristen Stewart looked very chic, and I adored Maggie's hand-painted Dries Van Noten -- another off-the-beaten-path choice that I think paid off beautifully.

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NYC: It seemed to be a night for Marchesa, though not always a good one. I thought Sandra Bullock's dress was lovely, and I adored the midnight blue, jewel-encrusted number that Gabourey Sidibe rocked. However, Vera Farmiga, WHAT were you wearing?! It looked like a tragic bedskirt from the '80s.

Holly Thomas: Aw, I loved Vera's raspberry number -- I thought the pleating was amazing, and I loved that she broke out of the nude/metallic/black box. But it also reminded me a teensy bit of cupcake liners ... maybe that's why I loved it? What do you all think?

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Chicago, IL: Maybe this is just me, but I can't wait for strapless gowns to give up their go-to status. Even a body like Cameron Diaz's gets fleshy overhangs on the backside, and a strapless bodice tends to leave a slightly saggy bust for many; too-overflowing for others. I loved Vera Farmiga's raspberry pleated strapless, and Mariska Hargitay's bluegray strapless. But many others were not the most flattering even to these superb figures. The weight of a big skirt makes the top worse. Strapless bodices move awkwardly, too. Brides, please note this kindly meant comment. Other necklines are more flattering to the face and figure.

Holly Thomas: Note my earlier comment about strapless bustiers + poufy skirts = boring. I'm ready for more interesting silhouettes to return to the red carpet, too, which is probably why I'm so fond of Sandra, Meryl and Queen Latifah's looks. The one exception to the interesting neckline rule? Diane Kruger -- I thought her cream-and-black number was terribly unflattering.

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Sandra Bullock: To me she looked splendid. I loved the curved column effect. The dark/light nap of the velvet and the sparkles kept the nude tone from looking washed-out. Her glossy dark hair and the coral lipstick made the outfit. I noticed the same coral lip color on many actresses and it looks fresh to me.

Holly Thomas: Two cents for Sandy B. ...

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Huh?: I was confused about what went on during the director's acceptance speech for Music by Prudence. Elinor Burkett appeared from nowhere. What happened?

Holly Thomas: This took place during my one water break of the night ... can't believe I missed the Kanye + Taylor moment of the Oscars. Anyone else know what happened?

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SJP dress: Loved the dress, just not on her. It may have looked better in person, but on the red carpet the color was off and I though someone taller and curvier would make this a wow dress.

Holly Thomas: I think her boyish figure is actually what made it work ... a sack dress is not kind to curvy figures, after all. Anyone else?

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Cambridge MA: I thought Kate Winslet's gown was gorgeous. What is your take?

Holly Thomas: Loved it! I thought it was one of the more interesting strapless numbers I saw. And her necklace and earrings were a stunning choice of accessories.

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Phila., PA: Loved Sandra Bullock's as well as Kate Winslet's gowns -- and I thought that was the best Cameron Diaz ever has looked. Vera Fermiga -- wish she'd chosen something else. Didn't understand the "fans" on that at all.

Holly Thomas: Cameron Diaz was my fantasy version of a living Barbie doll -- in a good way. Loved that she went feminine and flirty (and showed up late so she wouldn't have to do so many red carpet interviews -- so honest!), and her hair and makeup looked polished and beautiful.

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Washington DC: Maggie Gyllenhal's dress looked exactly like my beach cover-up... you know, the big piece of tropical-print fabric I wrap around me when I get out of the pool, to pretend that I'm not actually mostly naked in public.

Holly Thomas: Probably not for everyone, but it suited her aesthetic and personal style to a T ... Maggie favors directional designers as opposed to the usual red-carpet suspects, and I think her hand-painted number was understated and modern.

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Cherry Hil, NJ: Glad for Mo'nique. Very flattering sapphire blue dress. Wished she'd lightened up with the "serious" thing. Maybe she will now.

Holly Thomas: That color was great on her!

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DC: What about the men? Did anyone stand out to you?

Holly Thomas: I liked Ryan Reynolds' hand-tied bow tie, and I thought Colin Firth looked very dashing. I like pretty much anything Robert Downey Jr. wears, and his round glasses and blue bow-tie were just quirky enough to be interesting. Tom Ford, on the other hand, had a little too much going on for my taste. And what was up with Keanu Reeves' sideburns??

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SJP: Boyish figure? Is that a euphemism for painfully underweight? I saw a picture of her from the side and all her ribs were visible. She looked awful. It's not even about the dress. It's about the aging fake tan, the aging hair and the aging emaciation. Eat something!

As for Sandra B, the dress was pretty, but I think it should have been worn by someone with a more defined waist. She looked sort of shapeless through the middle. Also, it was kinda obvious to wear the gold, as in, I know I'm going to win!

Holly Thomas: I use boyish to refer to slim, straight up-and-down body types, as opposed to curvy. I thought her makeup was a tiny bit harsh (OK, I may have been a little afraid to look directly in her eyes), but the hair was at least a change from the standard-issue chignon. Sandra Bullock is dividing the masses today! I stand by my earlier call, and 'd probably wear gold too if I thought I might win my first Oscar ...

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I admire the fact that she chose something that wasn't "flattering": Sorry, but some of us think the whole point of fashion is to wear clothes that are flattering. I like SJP, but her dress/hair last night were a huge miss.

Holly Thomas: That's the beauty of "the whole point of fashion" -- it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a means of playing up your best assets, a means of expressing how you feel, or a mix of both. It was a fashion-forward, interesting choice for a fashion-forward, interesting person ... at least she wasn't boring, right?

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Washington DC: I think that the first job of fashion is to flatter the wearer. No matter how avant garde or complicated, a gown should FIT, and should never overshadow its wearer. You know the old rule about stand in front of the mirror, and take off the first thing that catches your eye? Charlize Theron should have taken off the rosettes, and SJP should have taken off the whole thing, because it looked like a cross between a mumu and grandmother's wedding silver. All bad.

I thought Vera Farma-something pushed the envelope well. It was a lot of dress, but it wasn't wearing HER.

But for color, cut, visual interest etc, my vote goes to Elizabeth Banks. She just looked great.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for chiming in!

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on strapless..: If you are going to wear it, at LEAST stand up straight! (eh hem Miley Cyrus!)

Holly Thomas: Amen! I was literally shouting at the TV to make her stand up straight ... nothing kills a beautiful, outrageously expensive dress like bad posture.

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Bigelow: Here's a woman winning a huge "mens'" prize, and she's dressed in a power gown. Her hair could have been less droopy, but the gray silk gown with a beaded simple bodice said, "I'm running with the big dogs." She looked sexy in a non-kitteny way.

Holly Thomas: A flattering, commanding choice ... good for her!

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Men: Jake Gyllenhall: Jake Gyllenhall looked great! I never really noticed him before but he definitely stood out last night - maybe because of good the good facial grooming.

Holly Thomas: True, and it doesn't hurt that his interviews were impossibly charming...

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Carey Mulligan:: I thought she was absolutely charming. Usually, I don't care for mixed hemlines, but a peek at those fab shoes was worth it! She succeeded where Miley and Zoe failed: age-appropriate, but with flair!

Holly Thomas: I loved it too! A lot of critics dissed the uneven hem, but I thought it kept the dress from overwhelming her tiny figure. And I loved the gamine hair and great earrings.

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Favorite dress: Best costume winner Sandy Powell's. It's nice to see a print sometimes (other than those that look like someone's grandma's sofa upholstery or drapes)!

Holly Thomas: I absolutely loved her dress and hat, not to mention the piles of bangles on each arm. A great, unexpected mix of current fashion and classic Oscar style.

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St. Paul: I know the options for men are pretty limited, but who do you think looked the best? The worst?

Holly Thomas: Best -- Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges. Worst -- George Clooney, hands down. It pains me to say it, but that hair was just awful.

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Bethesda, MD: Really liked Anna Kendrick's look on tv. Also Meryl Streep often looks not so good and she really went for it last night - maybe she thought she had some shot at winning this time.

Holly Thomas: I was so pleased that Meryl Streep went for elegant and timeless instead of the borderline bohemian, Earth Mother aesthetic she's chosen in the past. Strong shoulders, gorgeous draping -- the perfect choice for her. Anna Kendrick, not so much.

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More Men: As a Clooney fan, I was appalled at how shaggy his hair was. Ruined the look for me.

I agree Jake Gylenhall looked great, as did Ryan Reynolds. I normally love Robert Downey Jr in a tux, but I thought his blue bowtie looked a little large or something?

What didn't you like about Tom Ford? I thought he looked really great too. I didn't really know what he looked like, or that he was so cute!

Holly Thomas: I thought the cut of Tom Ford's tux jacket was interesting enough as it was -- the square-cut lapels, the boutonnierre and the pocket square combined seemed too much of a contrast to his normal, ultra-cool approach to formal dressing.

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Philadelphia, PA: Rachel McAdams in that Monet-watercolor gown. Beautiful. I do like her better as a brunette, and i think dark hair would have complimented that dress even more. But that was a fabulous print.

Holly Thomas: I thought she looked lovely as well, but I go back and forth on the print. On the one hand, it's a very pretty watercolor pattern. On the other, the color scheme gave me a tiny flash of "motel bedspread." Overall, I think I'm a fan, but I did waver for a moment.

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Philadelphia, PA: Rachel McAdams in that Monet-watercolor gown. Beautiful. I do like her better as a brunette, and i think dark hair would have complimented that dress even more. But that was a fabulous print.

Holly Thomas: Another opinion on Miss McAdams ...

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Sandy Powell: Was she the one that won for costume design? I thought her dress was the best out of everyone's.

Holly Thomas: That was her -- I thought she looked striking!

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I agree with a previous poster: Best dressed was the woman that won for costume design (or something similar). I think it was her 3rd Oscar? She looked amazing.

Holly Thomas: Ditto!

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Washington DC: Mariska Hargitay looked fabulous -- but isn't a big enough star to get covered for her fantastic dress choice. Carey Mulligan also looked great, along with Helen Mirren, Penelope Cruz, and Elizabeth Banks

SJP was as always a complete disaster. What exactly was that top piece of her dress supposed to be -- a crystalline carburetor? The only thing worse was Tina Fey - her dress was not flattering at all. Very few women can pull off a one strap gown -- and even fewer can pull off something that looks like it has leopard spots. Bad call.

Holly Thomas: I actually like Tina Fey's Michael Kors dress -- I liked that she went a little au courant with the one-shouldered silhouette. And that she didn't feel the need to go for a slit up-to-there.

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Clooney: Yeah, the hair wasn't great. However, it pleases me to see he tends to date age-appropriate women. The hostility toward Alec Baldwin during the show was just a joke, right? He was so deadpan I couldn't tell and Liz Kelly thinks he was actually mad. But he doesn't seem the type.

Holly Thomas: I was shocked at how mad he seemed ... not sure what's going on there. It probably didn't help that Steve and Alec's intro was just painful. But George certainly does have a type when it comes to girlfriends -- beautiful brunettes with killer figures, look out!

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Tin Fey: She looked great! Much better than the Golden Globes.

Holly Thomas: Two cents for Tina Fey ...

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Nosy Parker: I thought Queen Latifah's gown last night was elegant, fitted properly without being too tight, and suited the magnitude of the occasion.

Holly Thomas: I agree! Very flattering and figure-conscious.

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Diane Kruger: LOVED her dress! I want to wear something like that if I went to the Oscars. Also liked Maggie's and SJP's. All beautiful, unique and fitting for who they are.

Holly Thomas: Diane's frock just reminded me of a bedspread cinched in all the wrong places, but it probably stood out more because she normally looks fantastic in everything she wears.

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Central Mass: Jeff Bridges' companion (wife?) looked simply perfect. What a beautiful, classy dress and flattering hairdo!

Holly Thomas: Agreed, and what a classy lady!

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Fashion Forward?: Fashion forward is a fine goal -- if you pull it off. SJP just looked terrible. My wife loves her -- and even she sat on the couch in amazement at her bad taste. Being different doesn't require you to look that bad. See Carey Mulligan or Helen Mirren for inspiration on how being different can actually be fantastic.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for joining in!

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Washington, D.C. Oscar lova: On the dresses:

-Charlize Theron - Princess Leia incarnate

-Zoe Saldana - Something died and was sewn on the bottom. Ironic, Miss Nav'i.

-SJP - Get where she was trying to go with it, but didn't look great on her.

-Sandra Bullock - PERFECTION. She looked beautiful.

-Rachel McAdams - Best dress of the night, in my opinion. Girl crush on her dress.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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Amston, Conn.: Hi Holly -- I have to give it up for the younger Hollywood set. These upcoming stars and their teams put alot of thought into their outfits last night and it showed. Gorgeous, sophisticated looks namely from Carey Mulligan (who rocks that pixie haircut), Zoe Saldana and Amanda Seyfried. Congrats ladies and we look forward to your future success both off and on the red carpet!

Holly Thomas: Thanks for this -- I agree that young Hollywood was stunning last night. (With the exception of Miley Cyrus ... I don't love these dresses with bustiers that look like actual underwear.)

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Seminole, FL: This really isn't a fashion question but I have to know. Did it seem to anyone else that Jeff Bridges was drunk or high when he won his award?

washingtonpost.com: The dude abides.

Holly Thomas: Not sure, but I'm sure the crowd out there has an opinion on the subject ...

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SJP: I think the issue I have with SJ wasn't her dress (which was lovely), but the heinous fake tan. She looked orange.

washingtonpost.com: Agreed!

Holly Thomas: I already put it out there that the makeup was a little scary ... better to be pasty than orange, in my book.

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lots of leg: Is it coming back to have excessively high cut slits in the dresses? Some on the side, some up the middle... It seems like the actresses were constantly fidgeting to stay intact and unexposed.. I understand the concept being sexy (except on mariah carey) but I'm not convinced..

Holly Thomas: Yeesh, I agree -- Mariah Carey's dress just made me nervous. Even Ryan Seacrest seemed a little distracted by her constant toying with it.

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Highland Park, NJ: I have no idea who Anna Kendrick is or who she was wearing, but I loved her dress. Ditto for Elizabeth Banks. As for Sarah Jessica Parker, I adored the Chanel. It was like watching Audrey Hepburn walk the red carpet. I thought she was absolutely stunning.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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Washington DC: What do you think of Zoe Saldana's dress? I personally think they should have stopped at the knee, all the tinted ruffles and the split were just too much.

Holly Thomas: I liked it more when she stood still, but once I saw it in motion and realized how stiff and bulky it seemed, the effect was ruined. A good example of how sometimes "over the top" equals "too much."

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20002: I loved Rachel McAdams. I loved the criss- crossing, the pattern, the earrings... She is definitely in my top 5. I also liked Maggie, although she could have used better undergarments.

And who let Miley Cyrus out of the house like that? It is probably the same person who also forgets to tell her to stand up straight. Seeing her slouch makes me grateful my grandmother used to balance a book on my head!

What are your thoughts on Robert Downey Jr? I thought he looked a little too quirky for the black-tie affair. Jeff Bridges, however, looked impeccable. As did Jesse James.

Holly Thomas: I feel the same about RDJr as I do about SJP -- two stylish people whose red-carpet style is simply an amplified, more formal take on their everyday style. Personally, I admire their willingness to make unexpected choices, although (obviously) not everyone agrees!

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Worst fashion trend: Those gladiator platform high heels, a/k/a as the Podiatrists' Full Employment Act. They also make even the leggiest of women look short-legged. (At least Demi Moore's dress-matching pair were close to flesh-toned, so didn't chop off her leg lines).

Holly Thomas: Lots of bad shoes last night -- Anna Kendrick's and Zoe Saldana's were my least faves.

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Vienna: Poor Miley looked awful! But what a shock how nice the ditzy Cameron Diaz looked. And Meryl. And Queen Latifah. And Rachel MacAdams. And Jennifer Lopez.

You know, I thought Robin Williams looked good!

Holly Thomas: So much positivity -- thank you!

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Washington DC: SJP has a boyish figure?? First, I hate that term. It's insulting to women with straighter figures. But second, that woman is as hourglassy as they come!

Holly Thomas: A quick Google image search shows she's definitely not hourglass-y in the traditional sense -- at least not standing next to Penelope Cruz or other hourglass gals. She plays up a tiny waist with nipped-in silhouettes, but I still consider her less curvaceous than her counterparts. I have a boyish figure and don't consider that an insult, but obviously, I mean no offense.

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Props to Chris March: Project Runway alum, notorious for costumey design, made a beautiful dress for Meryl Streep.

Holly Thomas: I agree!

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Holly Thomas: Thank you all so much for your insight and observations on last night's red carpet looks -- hope the debate has given your Monday a good kickstart! Tune in again tomorrow for our regular Fashion Fix discussion at 12.

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