Oscar Dress Recap: Some Exceptions to the Ballgown Rules

It’s almost as easy to fawn over Sarah Jessica Parker’s Dior Couture confection as it is to eviscerate Miley Cyrus for the wacky pageant dress that she undoubtedly donned in spite of her stylist’s best intentions. Every February, the same celebrities wearing the same designers receive the same accolades from the same publications.  We’ve read People gush about Nicole Kidman’s consistently blah beige dresses since we were old enough to follow the Oscars. The formula for wowing the tabloid fashion tribunal is simple: tulle, strapless, beige or red (actresses who make this color decision can expect to find themselves in identical two page spreads of “daring divas” or something equally inane in US Weekly, OK! and Life & Style).

We can’t be the only ones so bored that we wish Roberto Cavalli would finally go to prison for those tax fraud charges. But, every year, lost in a sea of Jennifers, Nicoles and Naomis, there are a handful dresses that make the mind-numbing parade of Harry Winston drop earrings and beaded bodices almost worth it.  We’d like to pay tribute to those dresses here, even if said wearers do land on People‘s worst-dressed list.

1) Natalie Portman bucked the beige convention in a fuschia gown by a semi-emerging line, Rodarte. The label, headed by Laura and Kate Mulleavy, has ascended from obscurity to the radar of every major fashion editor and high-end retailer in just three seasons. [Editor’s note: Fun fact, Anna Wintour put both sisters on a diet and there was an article about it in Vogue.] A little Oscar dress exposure is never a bad thing (um, unless the Oscar dress in question is horrible. In which case, you’d better pack up your sewing machine because you’re moving back to Kansas).

2) Tilda Swinton continued to represent the avant-garde in an artfully draped Lanvin.  We’re sure this ensemble will be the target of much media snark. We also doubt she cares.

3) Beyonce surprised us with a truly bizarre black and gold number by her mother’s label, House of Dereon. The fishtail silhouette paired with a splashy floral pattern made her look like a lounge singer from outer space in a good way.

4) Finally, ever the iconoclast, Gwen Stefani looked amazing in the distressed Chanel haute couture gown she wore to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Goth chic. Some women just won’t wear a strapless, tulle ballgown.