The red carpet arrivals at the Oscars always bring out the Madame Defarge in fashion critics. All the trolls come out of their caves to mock, knock and hurl derision in a colloquial, condescending tone as if given half the chance they’d have done SO much better. At the Academy Awards we have the privilege to see some of the world’s most beautiful women dressed in the most expensive, exquisite dresses, dripping in magnificent jewels and groomed like Best in Show at Crufts. You’d think the critics would fall down and worship but no.
Actresses must be rather irked to be judged by spiteful bedroom bloggers – doubtless wearing nothing more soignée than a Onesie – squinting into a flat screen while sharpening their the knitting needles to skewer ‘fashion faux pas’ in over-familiar, pithy little put-downs. It’s not really a fair fight. Take Anne Hathaway. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, looked terribly pretty in an icy pink satin Prada column dress and gave us a mini fashion moment by wearing an important Tiffany & Co diamond necklace with the drop falling from the nape of her neck. And yet tout le Twitterati noted that the darts on the bust of her dress gave the illusion that she’d taken a leaf out of Jean Harlow’s book and used the old ice cube trick to perk things up a bit. It’s all rather puerile don’t you think?
The scrutiny Oscar actresses are subjected to reminds me of an old gag Barbra Streisand used to tell about a Jewish lady who goes to the butcher for a chicken. She pokes it, she prods it, she squeezes it, she holds it up to the light and then hands back the chicken saying ‘I don’t want it’. The butcher says, ‘you’ll pardon me, lady, but could you pass a test like that?’ Which of us could? Granted, one could say an actress putting on a frock for the world’s press isn’t really up there in the ‘nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen’ stakes. But, really, the pressure is immense and entirely disproportionate.
I thought the standard of frockage at the 2013 Oscars was tremendous. Jessica Chastain’s golden Armani Privé siren dress was a study in classic Hollywood glamour beaded with the brilliance of a Jean-Louis to lead the eye round every curve. The tight sweetheart bodice falling into a modest train was sexy and statuesque and the soft rose gold silk set off her glossy mane of strawberry blonde hair to perfection. I adored Renee Zellwegger’s Carolina Herrera gold column dress. After all, if you’re not up for an Oscar why not dress like one? Rather nice to see an antique gem-set gold Van Cleef & Arpels minaudière on the red carpet.
These genius little boxes of delights – usually designed to contain powder compact, lighter, clock, lipstick and change purse – will be the subject of The Goldsmiths’ Company’s Ultravanities: Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour exhibition in June. Interesting how few necklaces were worn on the red carpet, no? Certain necklines are designed to show-off a diamond necklace draped across the decolleté such as Nicole Kidman’s rather marvellous L’Wren Scott black and gold Gustav Klimt sequin fishtail dress. The ladies who did deck their throats with diamonds chose to wear important pieces back to front like Hathaway and the rather lovely Best Actress Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence.
Lawrence’s strapless Dior Couture dress was a magnificent feat of engineering worthy of the late, great Christian himself. Losing one’s footing en route to the acceptance speech was not the fault of the dress that hovered rather brilliantly an inch above the floor. I’d surmise that nerves and adrenalin kicked in hence the stumble. And do you know what? Honit Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. Meryl lost a stiletto at last year’s BAFTAS and laughed it off with immense style. If Jennifer Lawrence is replaying that moment in her head I would only say she got to go to bed with Oscar that night. The rest of us only end up in casualty.
Adored the Hollywood Musicals theme at this year’s Oscars. Dressed like a gold-plated oil tanker, Dame Shirley Bassey rocked it out belting Goldfinger to a standing ovation and Adele showed precisely why Skyfall deserved the Best Original Song Oscar. Only at the Oscars can the producers bring Beyonce and Hugh Jackman together in a medley of musical numbers and squeeze Catherine Zeta-Jones back into fishnets to revive her role as Velma Kelly in Chicago. Perhaps the most underpowered performance of the evening was Barbra Streisand. The Way We Were tribute to Marvin Hamlisch was necessarily pianissimo on a night when only fortissimo will do.
A personal fashion favourite was Fan Bingbing in Marchesa’s shocking pink satin sculpted ball gown. Isn’t it interesting watching the drip feed of Chinese models on European catwalks and the steadily rising influence of China on Hollywood? Miss Bingbing wearing Marchesa is like one degree of separation from one of her films being produced by Harvey Weinstein. Still, when the only Asian actresses in mainstream Hollywood history are Anna May Wong and Lucy Liu perhaps it is time for a star who has risen in the East to conquer LA.
But the future for Hollywood was predicted in the ad breaks on British television. I watched with a quiet chill in my heart last night as a CGI Audrey Hepburn starred in an advertisement for Galaxy chocolate. Apparently her sons who control the estate gave permission for mother to be artificially resurrected on the grounds that ‘she loved chocolate’. How terrifying for a star to know that even after death image rights can be sold and a zombie computer-generated self can be played like a marionette when one is cold in the grave. Computers possessing a human body is the stuff of Sci-Fi nightmares. Apparently it is coming true and deceased movie stars are the guinea pigs. One can only shudder at where it will all end.