By MIA FREEDMAN
So there we were, sitting in front of the TV yesterday watching the Oscars red carpet and composing social media updates about the actresses and their frocks.
Apparently there were men on the red carpet too but nobody notices them. A suit is a suit is a suit. Pretty much. Armani? Whatever.
There were some dresses we liked (Naomi Watts) and some we didn’t (Anne Hathaway and everyone wearing white strapless which was almost everyone). But when we were composing our tweets and facebook updates, we didn’t want to be bitchy so we chose our words very, very carefully.
We were ducking imaginary punches from accusations of “anti-women!” if we dared to say anything negative about any of the dresses.
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There are those who insist any discussion of red carpet fashion is sexist and demeaning. They claim it’s shallow and trivialises the work these women do as actresses and (less often) as directors.
Well, sure it does. It is a bit weird when Dame Helen Mirren or Dame Judi Dench or Merryl Streep or Tina Fey is asked ‘who are you wearing?’ instead of about their work.
I can think of few things more intimidating than having to walk a red carpet and have your frock judged by the world when you signed up to be an actor not a model. No question, the stakes and the pressure and the scrutiny has become ridiculous.
As a recent article in the Guardian pointed out:
Such is the emphasis placed on the dresses female celebrities wear to these things that they are now deemed to “make” or “break” a career. One poorly chosen bright pink sheath dress and there goes your cover interview with Vogue and, with it, your movie deal. One chic little vintage Jean Dessès dress and, no matter how many bad Bridget Jones sequels you make, your place in fashion’s hall of fame is for ever secure.
Because there is now such a fuss about who wears what, this then means that the women – understandably, really – wear extremely safe and boring things, thus undoing the primary feminist joys of fashion, the previously mentioned individuality and self-expression.
Instead, female celebrities are asked to water themselves down even more than they already had to just to become celebrities, rendering themselves into Identikit fembots, all looking as thin, bland and indistinguishable as possible.
Frankly, I think those adjectives describe this year’s Oscar’s looks pretty accurately.
Which brings me to this.
What if you don’t like a dress? If you don’t think it’s flattering or does the actress any favours? If you think they could do better or have more fun or show less flesh or more? And if you say that or write it? Well how very dare you, some will say. You and your JUDGEMENT. Stop being a BIATCH.
I don’t want to be a bitch and I’m not one. Even though I watch Fashion Police on E!, I find Joan Rivers a punish. Occasionally she has a funny line but most of the time she’s just graceless and senselessly horrible. Calling someone a ‘stupid c–t’ is not clever or funny. It’s just lazy and foul.
Having said that, I don’t think it’s necessary or justified to gag all commentary about red carpet fashion or that saying a frock is unflattering or ill-fitting or just…dull makes you ‘anti-women’.
Because look, for more than a decade now, the red carpet has been as much of an industry as the movies themselves. There was US$100m on the Oscars red carpet yesterday – from the frocks to the stylists to the jewels, the publicists, the designers, the media.
I think it’s very different to critiquing someone who dressed themselves. But that’s not what this is. Every actress employs a cavalcade of professionals who themselves are inundated with the best possible selection of frocks, jewels, shoes and hair and beauty gurus to choose from. Studios pick up the bills. The dresses and accessories are loaned for free. There’s even free Spanx.
There is not a single person on a major red carpet who is wearing her own clothes. So we’re not discussing the PEOPLE wearing the clothes. We’re just discussing the clothes.
Can the two be separated? I think they can. I have no problem with admitting I’ve worn some ridiculous things in my time. I’m probably wearing something right now that I will look back on (next week?) while laughing, cringing or vomiting.
I don’t confuse ‘who I am’ with ‘what I wear’. So I don’t see it as feminist sacrilege to say there are some Oscars looks I liked more (Jackie Weaver) and some less (Amanda Seyfried).
Sometimes stylists just get it wrong with the outfits they source for the celebrity and sometimes the celebrity herself gets it wrong – just like the rest of us (if we had stylists and designers falling over themselves to dress us) and I think it’s OK to have an opinion.
I’m not suggesting we be nasty, bitchy or focus on the faces or bodies of actresses because those are things they cannot change without radical surgery and we really don’t want to encourage them to have any (more) of that.
But discussing red carpets hits and misses is pretty harmless. So long as everyone keeps their head and doesn’t lose their shit over a frock being life or death.
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Do you watch the red carpet arrivals at major events? Do you like commenting on the dresses? Do you watch television shows like Fashion Police?