News flash: Keira Knightley was not well reviewed on social media for her look during Sunday night’s Golden Globes. Knightley, who’s pregnant, was called out because her dress didn’t fit any of the handful of red-carpet archetypes, almost all of which start with a skin-baring bodice, usually strapless. (There were plenty of those on view, the women wearing them trending pretty and forgettable.) With its deep ruffled bib collar and ribbon-marked empire waist, Knightley’s Chanel Couture dress drew comparisons to Laura Ingalls Wilder, a Pilgrim, and at least one musing about her turn in “Pride & Prejudice.” All were intended insults.
Au contraire, you negative tweeters. What in the world is wrong with a Laura Ingalls Wilder/Jane Austen/Virginia Colony reference, especially in the hands of a design master, Karl Lagerfeld? Between Lagerfeld and Knightley, they gave the exquisite primness a Goth spin — he, by opting for a bold insect embroidery over a schmaltzy floral, and she, by not wrecking her look with the wrong accessories. Instead of matronly glitz, Knightley wore a giant, otherwise quite real-looking butterfly affixed to her wrist. Divine.
I’ve grouped my other favorites into categories. The Modernists (a term used oh-so-loosely in awards-show context) include the much-celebrated Emma Stone in her Lanvin jumpsuit with its trouser cut. Ruth Wilson, who, in a tight Prada column with geometric, subversively frayed seams (alas, not apparent on television) showed that body-con need not be a bore. Felicity Jones and Taylor Schilling went for fresh takes on the ballgown. Jones wore a dark teal-ish blue (the evening’s most powerful color) Dior with slightly futuristic bodice. Schilling wore Ralph Lauren, her look particularly interesting because while there’s nothing intrinsically inventive about a halter cut, here, Lauren’s graphic take in the context of a ballgown looked fresh, making red (the night’s most oversaturated color) far from mundane.
Lorde gets honorable mention. Modern, yes, but a too-big diamond choker lessened the impact of her chic Narciso Rodriguez midriff-baring smoking. My first thought was, “Too old for her;” second thought, “Superhero, but no, right the first time.” Though I don’t agree with Holly Golightly that diamonds are always tacky on women under 40, I do think that more often than not, the-young-and-beautiful don’t do themselves any favors by piling wattage.
Barely There: In an embroidered Miu Miu with plunging neckline, Sienna Miller showed an alternative approach to showing skin on top, while in silvery Chanel Couture, Dakota Johnson looked otherworldly provocative.
Retro Yeah: Amanda Peet rocked her disco-inspired J. Mendel.
Retro Nay: Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace. Hudson couldn’t have looked any hotter. But the how-naked-can-you-get approach to red-carpet dressing feels passé. (Hello, J.Lo in Zuhair Murad.) While it must be near-impossible to turn down a red-carpet request from a major celebrity, Donatella should have said no to this one: The dress read like a snapshot from a moment in time, a time past. Donatella fared better with Jessica Chastain — all glam, bronze goddess — and Amy Adams in a lovely draped number.
In terms of sartorial controversy, there wasn’t much. But kudos to Rosamund Pike for bringing the body-image issue into focus. She clearly knew what she was doing; as taut Hollywood midriffs go, five-weeks post-partum, she hasn’t got one. While I’d love to be all PC and say I think she looked fabulous, I’m not quite there. First of all, Pike’s white Vera Wang goddess dress looked as if the bodice had slipped a bit. But I love the real-woman audacity.
In the sexy, shiny category, Julianne Moore worked a mysterious vibe in Givenchy Couture and Reese Witherspoon nicely updated the notion of Hollywood glamour — she worked the concept while avoiding overt retro. Still, when I heard the credit, Calvin Klein Collection, it struck me that the crystal bombshell gown had no connection whatsoever with Francisco Costa’s runway aesthetic. I then thought of a conversation I had with Francisco little more than a year ago, when he broke down his designing responsibilities into three categories: runway, pre-seasons and red carpet. Yes, he acknowledged, the last category is a discipline unto itself, one often not reflective of the brand’s runway message. I think that’s counterproductive, particularly as the red carpet becomes increasingly generic with the exception of the handful of outliers at each event, such as the ladies noted above. But it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
“It’s a different side of the business,” Costa said. “It’s a major importance.”