Imagine a red-carpet world with no brand ambassadors. A world in which actresses collaborated with, rather than were “dressed by,” their stylists. A world in which caustic on-air and vicious online commentary didn’t lead actresses to, time and again, default to the path of safety. Imagine a red carpet of real fashion!
It’s difficult (and perchance obnoxious) to suggest what other people should wear. But half the fun of the Oscars is in the sartorial speculation and follow-up conversation, even if the latter is too often mean-spirited and, from a fashion standpoint, ill-informed, especially when an actress dares show an adventurous side.
But with the Paris couture collections recently concluded, here are suggestions not of what these talented ladies should wear, but, based on their past choices crossed with a hoped-for dash of daring, what one observer would like to see them wear.
These choices hail from the latest couture runway not only because haute is the only way to go—no nominee goes off-the-rack to the Oscars; everyone wears if not the real thing, then de facto couture, made and often designed just for her. But with the fall fashion season just under way, there’s not enough new ready-to-wear out there from which to choose, and the best dresses from prior seasons are by now overexposed. So, with apologies to Prada, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy and more, it would indeed be lovely if…
MERYL STREEP “Into The Woods”
Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep. Whom does she have to impress? Often in recent years Streep’s red-carpet efforts have telegraphed either that she’s genuinely above it all or that she wants to downplay her distinctive beauty. Then came the Kennedy Center Honors when she looked beyond gorgeous, working the patrician side of the siren range in royal-blue Paule Ka. For the Oscars, she might consider a more languid look with a touch of bohemian mystique.
Suggestion: Armani Privé’s graceful embroidered gray-blues.
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY “The Imitation Game”
A real fashion girl, Keira Knightley is willing to go all in on a look (her short Chanel wedding dress, worn with flats; her divine butterfly Golden Globes dress, also Chanel, with giant winged insect on her wrist.) Now that she’s pregnant, she can experiment all the more with silhouette. Keira, Raf Simons’ pleated, ribboned wonders for Dior are calling your name, right down to their companion sparkle-plenty second-skin boots.
Suggestion: Dior’s supersize, superchic triangle.
EMMA STONE “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Thank God for Emma Stone. She loves to take a chance. In doing so, she’s shown tremendous range, alternating from construction to flou, and moods from ingénue charming to ultrachic. She could practically close her eyes, point to one of Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel beauties and look as if she were born to wear it.
Suggestion: Chanel’s flowing shirtdress over shredded, embroidered faux tweed.
REESE WITHERSPOON “Wild”
Reese Witherspoon radiates real. It’s a huge part of her appeal. Over the years, she has maintained that quality on the red carpet while upping her glam quotient. While she’s shown an affinity for short dresses, she hasn’t gone there for the Oscars—yet. A short dress with no waist is probably a long shot, and the red boots are definitely too much for prime time. But if she’s at all superstitious, Witherspoon wore Dior when she collected her Oscar for “Walk the Line” in 2006.
Suggestion: Dior’s lavishly embroidered modified midcalf sack dress.
FELICITY JONES “The Theory of Everything”
It’s difficult to get a handle on Felicity Jones’ innate style, as she has shown tremendous range on the red carpet. Whether that indicates a genuinely adventurous spirit or indecision, it’s hard to say, but she’s definitely a young woman who can carry off a little eccentricity, particularly when it swings storybook romantic or good-girl tough. And she’s not afraid of a sleeve.
Suggestion: Giambattista Valli’s houndstooth party dress.
PATRICIA ARQUETTE “Boyhood”
Patricia Arquette vacillates between embracing her hourglass silhouette and relaxing the fit just a bit, typically in dark shades. For the Oscars, Arquette should work the curves with a soupçon of restraint for an elegant, more fashion-forward look. Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli would surely recolor one of their splendid white gowns from the special couture collection they showed in New York in January. About that sheer skirt: See-through is runway-and-pop-star-only. All good designers know how to line a look.
Suggestion: Valentino’s white T-diaphonous skirt combo.
MARION COTILLARD “Two Days, One Night”
Marion Cotillard is not afraid of a difficult silhouette, even if, to date, she has kept her most-adventurous inclinations on the down-low for the Oscars. Elsewhere, she experimented with some of Raf Simons’ most challenging Dior shapes. She’s got the body and the brass to rock a tummy-baring look.
Suggestion: Karl Lagerfeld’s exquisitely embroidered flamboyant pink midriff ensemble for Chanel.
LAURA DERN “Wild”
Laura Dern is a runway traditionalist, favoring body-conscious, nicely embellished gowns in pretty, feminine colors. She looks lovely, but not memorable. With her fabulously lithe model body, she could get away with much more fashion. She’d look amazing.
Suggestion: Bouchra Jarrar’s ivory look with artful embroidery and the ease of a T.
ROSAMUND PIKE “Gone Girl”
At the Golden Globes, Rosamund Pike bared her not-yet-taut post-baby midriff, triggering a real conversation about beauty and body image. Still, that Vera Wang dress was in Pike’s comfort zone, the skin show softened by the fluid lines of a goddess dress. For the Oscars, she might try a more constructed take on revealing romance.
Suggestion: Ulyana Sergeenko’s folkloric siren gown.
JULIANNE MOORE “Still Alice”
It seems that Julianne Moore has upped the embellishment quotient of her red-carpet selections, most recently at the Golden Globes, when she dazzled in feathered silver Givenchy. This might be the time to trade up to gold. It is Oscar’s color, after all.
Suggestion: Valentino’s intricately wrought gold gown.