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At the Stella McCartney store party last week, Lorne Michaels explained why athletes often do so well hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

This story first appeared in the January 18, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Unlike actors, he said, athletes are “used to working in front of big audiences without knowing the outcome.”

That insight may (with a little editorial manipulation) shed light on why, this past weekend, football completely trumped the Golden Globes for entertainment value: the former, two days of fabulousness; the latter, several hours of snoozola — sartorially speaking.

The football games had suspense (four lead changes in the last four minutes, 49ers-Saints); a blow to the faithful or the triumph of reason, depending upon your side (Patriots-Broncos), and the fall of the mighty (Giants-Packers).

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The Globes had a whole lot of fashion ho-hum. And when it comes to the awards circuit, the (mercifully) toned-down Ricky Gervais notwithstanding, the clothes are the entertainment. Sunday night’s baseline look was pretty. Hollywood is populated by beautiful, mostly extremely thin women who have at their disposal the very best the worlds of fashion, jewelry and beauty have to offer. Of course they look pretty when they get all decked out. But must pretty swing so boring?

That’s where Michaels’ pith comes in. The Globes, and all fetes on the major awards circuit, are live events played out before massive television audiences and more than a few official critics (who may or may not know much about fashion), most of whom play to that mass TV audience and some of whom relish the cheap laugh that mocks the beautiful and famous. Which is to say, many of the morning-after critics celebrate the tried-and-true, the retro, the Charles James homage, and most importantly, the formfitting, at the expense of anything that might look remotely new, fresh, interesting or the slightest bit anti-cookie cutter. The irony is that the biggest style icon of the day is Lady Gaga. No matter how out-there her look, she garners raves from critics and audiences alike. And for a reason: She takes chances, she’s audacious, she’s herself. Most other celebrities seem held to the extreme opposite standard, the more devoid of personality, the better. Unless a woman is overtly wacky, and preferably young — Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry — she’s celebrated for not rocking the fashion boat.


At least that’s the impression one gets from most awards shows, the latest Globes included. Perhaps fearful of how the live, unscripted television moment will be received, most attendees prefer to play it oh-so-safe rather than throw out the Hail Mary of something truly memorable, fantastical even, hoping it will be well received. Or maybe this gives them too much credit. Maybe most actresses, even the best, brightest and most beautiful among them, are really just like us — they find a look that works and they stick to it. (One who seems to be pushing things a bit is Rooney Mara, at least based on her looks for her round of “Dragon Tattoo” premieres. Though it would play to my premise to note her football lineage, that’s probably not the reason.) Thus, the endless parade of glam mermaids and strapless standards.

I admit to an antistrapless bias, especially when the event is about the pictures, whether still or moving. (I put weddings of the nonfamous in the same category as awards shows: Twenty years hence, all that’s left are the photos and, knock wood, a marriage.) In person, a dress is about silhouette, color, fabric, detail. On the small screen, even given the best high-def has to offer, the latter two play distant second to the former. Various strapless incarnations converge into maybe three prototypes, their specifics blurred more so once the red carpet is over and most shots are of audience members seated, and the presenters and winners at the podium. On Sunday night, it made for mundane viewing. A glorious few bucked the monotony train.


Tilda Swinton: You can’t love fashion and not respect her style. She wears Haider Ackermann; he doesn’t wear her.

Michelle Williams: She dresses her offbeat, charming persona. The covered-up Jason Wu looked more alluring than conservative.

Rooney Mara: Her Nina Ricci worked the pretty side of Tattoo Girl edge.

Emma Stone: Beautifully timeless in Lanvin, versus Natalie Portman, who was beautiful, too (she can’t miss), but disappointingly retro in Lanvin.

Zooey Deschanel: Young and interesting in Prada, versus Freida Pinto, uncommonly generic in Prada.

Amanda Peet: Not an hourglass in past-season Marc Jacobs tiers.

Heidi Klum: Not an hourglass in minimalist Calvin Klein. The necklace felt stylist-not-approved, but what the heck; points for that, too.

Katharine McPhee: Short and young, in Donna Karan. (Lea Michele, it’s a quick trip from 25 to 40; slow down.)


Jane Fonda: The body’s miraculous.

Madonna: Reem Acra dress, interesting; needling Gervais, swell. But greatest kudos for correcting her own grammar onstage.


Surprise, surprise! New York and London caved on the dates.

Personally, I rooted for the CFDA. Americans lose so many holidays to collections, at different moments: Martin Luther King Jr. Day to men’s or couture, and July 4th to couture. Presidents’ Day — for parents of children of a certain age (high school juniors) — that’s a tough one, a major college-visit week. As for September, starting the shows so soon after Labor Day stinks. But such are the woes of employment, which pale compared to those of unemployment.

The dates debate became a battle of wills. Ethically, it may be bereft to fight only the battles you know you can win. But this skirmish didn’t resonate on a plane of moral righteousness. It was about two sides wanting different things out of full-on self-interest. For New York, and to a lesser degree London, long the recipient of the global shaft, it was an albatross from the get-go. Caving early, the cities would have seemed like good sports. Crying uncle after so long feeds their age-old image of fashion inferiority, one that’s never been less deserved than it is right now.

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