At the 85th Annual Academy Awards, a sea of washed-out, ho-hum gowns made the red carpet less than stellar. In fact, it was the blandest gathering I can recall in the last 10 years.
You would think that with the world's best designers and stylists at their disposal, Hollywood's finest could come up with looks that wouldn't fade from memory in 24 hours. But there weren't many gowns that made a lasting impression.
However, there were a few that caught my eye and the attention of some of Houston's best fashion experts.
Granted, Charlize Theron would look good in a burlap sack, but the actress, with her pixie cut (she had shaved her head for a movie role) and white Dior Haute Couture peplum gown and Harry Winston diamond bracelet combined high fashion with movie-star elegance. Our panel, who included designers David Peck and Amir Taghi, along with fashion experts Roz Pactor and Kay King, agreed that Theron looked stunning.
The panel was divided on Jane Fonda's canary yellow Versace gown. It does have an '80s Dynasty vibe, but at 75, Fonda looks incredible and has the panache to pull it off. (I want the name of her plastic surgeon.)
Fonda, the only woman on the red carpet bold — or foolhardy — enough to wear yellow, accessorized the gown with Chopard jewels, Jimmy Choo "Ingrid" sandals and "Claire" clutch.
Most observers liked Jessica Chastain's Armani Privé flesh-colored sequin mesh strapless gown better than I did. I thought she looked too washed out. But the red lips and Veronica Lake hairstyle channeled old Hollywood glamor.
"It's a very 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President' kind of dress," she told the E! Channel's Ryan Seacrest, referring to the gown Marilyn Monroe wore when she infamously sang birthday greetings to John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s.
Pactor and I both thought Naomi Watts wore the gown of the evening: a pewter metallic one-shoulder Armani Privé. So what if the beading around one breast seemed a little odd to some? Amid all the gowns that looked to the past, it was the one futuristic design in the pack.
Her hubby, actor Liev Schrieber, regretfully mirrored many of the men on the red carpet: He forgot to shave.
Speaking of not shaving, George Clooney looked like an old man in a scruffy beard. (Hopefully he's growing it for a movie role.) But his squeeze, Stacy Keibler, was one of the evening's top fashion winners, in a Naeem Khan silver and black metallic beaded halter gown with a black belt at the waist that accentuated her statuesque figure.
Halle Berry said Donatella Versace designed her silver and black art deco gown "because I said I want to go as a Bond girl to the Oscars." Opinions were mixed. I thought the shoulders look dated, and it's not Berry's best choice, but others thought she looked stunning.
Nearly everyone agreed that 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis looked adorable and age appropriate in a navy Armani gown with a matching shawl, navy flats and sparkly headband.
She carried a puppy purse, which she said she loves to bring to awards shows because "it it sparkly and fluffy." Her character in Beasts of the Southern Wild is named "Hushpuppy," so it seemed like the right thing to do.
Kerry Washington was among a handful of actresses to wear a bright color on the runway — Best Supporting Actress nominees Sally Field and Jackie Weaver also wore red, along with Jennifer Aniston — but the Django Unchained co-star wore it best.
Washington's coral red Miu Miu strapless gown with an embellished bodice really stood out amid the other bland gowns. "The slight nod to the '60s was perfect, as was the color. It was both fashion forward and refreshing," Peck said.
Peck didn't like Helen Hunt's simple strapless silk and satin navy gown — "the lovely color looked like a wrinkled mess," he said — but I'm including it because it came from H&M's eco-friendly Conscious collection. It could have used a good pressing, but I think it looks better than many of the couture gowns on the red carpet. It may have helped that Hunt accessorized it with $700,000 in diamonds.
Reese Witherspoon said her 13-year-old daughter helped pick out the blue Louis Vuitton gown she wore to the Oscars. It's never a good idea to have your teenager select your clothes. Although the color was vibrant, the gown was ill-fitting. But Witherspoon has great hair.
I thought Jennifer Lawrence's Dior Haute Couture gown looked too bridal and overwhelmed her with mounds of fabric that tripped her up when she walked up the stairs to accept her Best Actress statue.
But other panelists thought she looked stunning in the strapless pale pink and white gown with elaborate full skirt and body-hugging top, with a small necklace that cascaded down her back. And I have to admit that, once onstage, Lawrence looked like a princess.
First lady Michelle Obama was one of the evening's big winners in a custom-made Naeem Khan smoke gray and silver art deco-inspired beaded tulle gown with a square neckline — even though she wasn't in Hollywood. Obama appeared via satellite from the White House to announce the Best Picture winner.