In their lamentable haste to set the agenda and furnish the world with their opinion on the best and the worst Oscar garments, most publications released their merely subjective takes on this matter in the hours and days immediately succeeding the ceremony which marked the 85th Academy Awards. A week, or the best part of a week, may seem a long time in which to consider outfits. In fact, I did not stay awake to watch the Oscars on Sunday night; instead watching it in parts over the following two evenings. And in the time which has elapsed since those evenings I have been considering those outfits which I saw carefully, so as to give them their proper due.
My analysis of 2013 Oscar dresses and dinner suits will be pictorial and broadly thematic, with themes indicated by way of headings.
Best Actress Contenders
Jennifer Lawrence beat out Jessica Chastain to win Best Actress for her part in Silver Linings Playbook; but I think Chastain edged Lawrence when it came to their respective garments. Jennifer Lawrence looks perfectly lovely, but in all truth I’m not convinced that her dress complements her ideally: its roundness doesn’t suit the roundness of her cheeks; nor do its three curves suitably adorn her hips. Perhaps the fault lies with the second curve, which comes in too much before moving into the skirt. Jessica Chastain, meanwhile, looks glamorous in an Armani dress which obviously complements her hair – though some commentators spoke and wrote as though this similarity of colour emerged only slowly, unapparent at first, then appearing as a sun through clouds.
Double-Breasted Dinner Jackets
Both Hugh Jackman – pictured here with his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness – and Chris Pine wore six-button double-breasted dinner suits, both with buttons in a keystone pattern, Jackman’s with a shawl collar and Pine’s with peaked lapels. Both look good. There are a few issues, however, with Pine’s outfit. Where Jackman has left his bottom-right button undone, creating a pleasant and relaxed diagonal when the jacket is in motion, Pine has left both bottom buttons unfastened; and though his jetted pockets are traditionally correct, their positioning aligned with the unbuttoned button holes together appear cluttered. More, Pine’s trousers seem a little tight in the thighs, and taper too much into an excess of fabric round his feet. Jackman’s trousers, on the other hand, break perfectly.
Apparently, so it has come to light, the dress Amanda Seyfried is pictured wearing above bore such similarities to the Valentino dress Anne Hathaway intended to wear to the ceremony that Hathaway ditched the Valentino fairly last minute, and went with the above Prada creation instead. This has caused all sorts of consternation, not least because Hathaway has been a long-time and much publicised wearer of Valentino.
Perhaps some things turn out for the best, for both ladies attended the Oscars wearing pale dresses, but in very different styles; and as both looked excellent, a victory was thereby obtained on behalf of variety. Anne Hathaway is supremely elegant in her pale pink dress, and I think all claims and concerns regarding its chest area were very much overplayed. Amanda Seyfried’s dress seems to have divided opinion, some saying it washes her out; I disagree, and instead admire the neck and the shape.
Foregoing the Bow Tie
Jean Dujardin was dressed impeccably last year, when he and The Artist swept the awards. Much discussion in the build to this ceremony centred round concepts of sexism and xenophobia and the film Zero Dark Thirty: were the Academy guilty of sexism in failing to nominate Kathryn Bigelow for best director; and did the depiction of torture in the film support the idea that America can disregard morals and laws in their pursuit of information? In all earnestness, one may wonder whether the real scandals of sexism and xenophobia do not involve instead Jean Dujardin, emblematic of male actors in Hollywood who do not speak an Anglicised or Americanised form of English, and are therefore marginalised, their talents wasted in lesser and infrequent roles; or else they’re made light of, as Seth MacFarlene, this year’s host, made cruel and unnecessary light of Dujardin.
As for his attire this time round, both he and Liev Schreiber, among others, wore plain silk ties rather than bow ties with their dinner suits. Indeed, the regular tie, usually tied in a four-in-hand-knot, is an increasingly common but nevertheless non-traditional substitute for a bow. It is non-traditional for a reason, for it is not an optimal solution to black tie. In theory, perhaps the higher buttoning point of Liev Schreiber’s jacket should offset the incongruity of the long tie. In this comparison, however, I think Jean Dujardin comes off best. His jacket is better for being slightly fuller and longer; his trousers are a better length; and the single-button jacket at least emphasises that he is wearing a dinner jacket. Schreiber’s dinner suit looks too much like a regular black suit.
I am not convinced that either of these dresses worked out for the individuals involved. Anne Hathaway’s short haircut suits her well; but whilst I’ve liked Charlize Theron particularly since Young Adult a couple of years ago, her short hair is too severe, and doesn’t have her looking her best. I don’t see the logic to the top half of her outfit, or find flattering the way it protrudes from her waist. Kelly Rowland so nearly pulls her dress off, but not quite: viewed from the front, it is just a little too architectural and jutting at the top.
All three of the producers who ascended the stage to receive Argo‘s award for Best Picture look good. Ben Affleck’s outfit is the most stimulating, comprising a fairly typical modern five-button waistcoat (without lapels, and, alas, Affleck has buttoned all of his waistcoat buttons), wing collar, and pleated shirt front. Grant Heslov’s dinner jacket fits him well, and he offers a contrast in shirt studs. George Clooney went for a somewhat louche look, spending most if not all of the evening with his dinner jacket undone, and without a waist-covering underneath, instead displaying the satin waistband of his trousers.
I do wonder – taking the cases of Dujardin and Clooney, for instance – whether some men deliberately dress down when they appreciate that they are not to be the focus of an evening’s attention. Dujardin’s long tie and Clooney’s casual appearance perhaps reflect the fact that the former was presenting rather than receiving an award this year, whilst the latter was keen to allow Affleck his moment.
It is interesting also to note the same three men’s attires for the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. Argo won Best Picture at the BAFTAs too, but all three men wore long silk ties for the ceremony. It may be that they hoped a more prestigious moment awaited them. Here, Heslov looks the best with his peaked lapels and well-cinched four-in-hand. Affleck’s dinner jacket seems to pull a little, and his tie isn’t tied effectively; whereas Clooney’s combination of shawl collar and long tie doesn’t work.
Silver and Black
Halle Berry’s Versace outfit is too strong in the shoulders, exacerbated by the thick stripes of the shoulder pieces. I much prefer Stacy Keibler’s take on silver and black, with its high neckline, sweeping pattern and belted waist.
The Younger Gentlemen
The buttoning point of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dinner jacket is too high, its quarters too closed, and he could possibly have used some padding around the shoulders. As it is, he is all hips. Eddie Redmayne’s outfit is very fashion-forward: very slim fitting, with short jacket, and with slippers by Alexander McQueen. I don’t like the slippers, and I think the dinner suit is too small throughout. Daniel Radcliffe’s pockets display an interesting variety, jetted pocket on the right hip, flap pocket on the left; regardless, his suit fits him really well.
I will limit my thoughts here towards suggesting that all of these ladies wore bold colour well; and we should appreciate them for it at least until next year. An additional thought: the black diagonals on Reese Witherspoon’s blue dress seem an almost overly and overtly simple device, but they function so effectively and suggestively to depict her waist.
Django Unconstrained by the Proprieties of Formal Evening Wear
These makers of Django Unchained appear more brazen in their choice of dress than they do in their choice of film: Django is an entertaining film which never lagged for me despite its length (and more, I was content with Tarantino’s role within it), but it also felt fairly formulaic. Samuel L. Jackson’s burgundy velvet jacket, with shawl collar, manages to be neither formulaic nor especially entertaining, offset by grey shirt and off-black trousers. Jamie Foxx – at the Oscars with his daughter – wore a well fitting suit with black satin peaked lapels, but I’m not fond of the black shirt and, again, it’s a dinner suit that looks too much like a regular suit in its cut and in some of its features. Quentin Tarantino looked willfully disheveled, with open collar and tie slung anyhow.
Christoph Waltz, however, always appears precisely and pleasingly fitted; and so this picture may serve as a reward for reading to the close of this piece.