rejecting the best dressed list

After the Golden Globes and with the Oscars looming, the red carpet has never looked less inspired than when flooded by Hollywood’s “Best Dressed”.

by Wendy Syfret
19 January 2015, 10:05pm

With the Golden Globes just past and Oscar nominations announced, it's award season in Hollywood. For those of us who live in a world with supermarket lines and dry-cleaning runs, the events translate to humble outfit watching. But as every media outlet scrambles to create and dissect their best and worst dressed list, I'm continually left disinterested.

Obviously as a fashion writer there are few things that hold as much appeal as other peoples' outfits. But while I can spend hours Google Image searching what various fashion types wear while picking up their mail, awards show dressing leaves me cold.

Because despite the constant outpouring of inventive and fun style from couture heroes, and endless waves of new designers breaking my heart and budget with their most recent looks, the red carpet is typically a desert of strapless dresses and tasteful shoes. And to me the reason is clear why some of the most stylish stars play it so safe—the constant looming presence of the 'worst dressed' list.

The recent Golden Globes were a lesson in dressing safely and after a season punctuated by interesting and fresh options like Marc Jacob's modern take on military and The Row's dramatic inversion of traditional shapes, it was sad to see so little imagination. But who can blame a young actor for not taking a chance, when those who do are so quickly dashed by the rocks of fashion commentary.

This year's victims so far have included Laura Prepon's Christian Siriano modern take on the classic gothic vamp, Melissa McCarthy's impressive DIY (possible) ode to Karl, and Keira Knightley's unashamed embrace of whimsy and romance in Chanel. Even Emma Stone and Lorde drew side glances for simply wearing trousers. You'd be forgiven for thinking we'd slipped back in time when some of the entertainment industry's biggest sweethearts were seen as being off the mark for not languishing in the world of column dresses.

The People's Choice Awards failed to offer any more inspiration, despite it being the more casual awards season kick off. Sarah Hyland was praised for looking like she was the richest-girl-at-your-high-school at a wedding, while Iggy Azalea was lambasted for her wide legged pants and detailed crop top. Although I admit that could be a personal affront, as I'm pretty sure I have that outfit in my wardrobe.

December's best of 2014 round ups confirmed our most boring fears. Blake Lively was endlessly untouchable and praised as the second coming of Grace Kelly where Rihanna accepting a CFDA fashion award in a crystal covered, see through, Adam Selman dress and doo rag drew eye rolls.

The rules of best and worst dressed seem so out of step with the fashion community at large I sometimes wonder how heroes like Iris Apfel or Kristen Mcmenamy would fare under current mainstream judgements. When the sight of Elizabeth Olsen in Miu Miu can be seen as bad taste you really have to wonder where the line is. Looking at the evidence, "taste" and "personal style" seem to be so inverted, often skipping the best and heading straight for the worst dresses is the quickest way to identify anything interesting being worn.

Arguably there are only a handful of events a year when beautiful creations which cost tens of thousands of dollars can be worn and admired. Sure, the wealthy will always have soirees away from our eyes, but Hollywood is the world where the unique mix of money, glamour, and dare I say it gaudiness, can play together so freely. To be clear, I don't mean that as a swipe, gaudiness is often the spark of humour that can elevate something interesting to something genius. Julianne Moore's Golden Globes Givenchy silver feathered dress was a shining (even blinding) example of this. A metallic feather detail may sound tricky in theory, but it was the touch of avian mermaid that removed the design from the sea of safe and into something transcendent. Unfortunately it was the exception, not the rule on the night.

As has been said so many times, fashion is best when it's free, when it's fantasy - where Tilda Swinton's and Cate Blanchett's can be elevated to living icons by resisting the pressure to be like everyone else. No one remembers who was the "best dressed" person at the 2001 Oscars, but we're still talking about Björk's swan dress. It was a joke at the time, but it's a fashion touchstone now. The larger issue isn't who is on what list, and whether you worship Solange or prefer Beyonce, but that the list exists at all.

Style, art, and choice are so varied and personal, how can we even begin to assign best and worst to them? It's like trying to explain what's funny or delicious, it's a matter of taste and variation. Approaching clothes with that sense of freedom and humour affords treats and rewards in the form of iconic moments to make us smile.

So far this award season it's hard to think of any style we'll been thinking about for years to come. Because although we're not offended, we're also not inspired. Hopefully everyone is just holding tight for the Oscars, where they'll bring their big, gaudy, flashy, and eye catching game. Because who wants perfect anyway? Life is to short, and clothes too beautiful to be flawless. 


Text Wendy Syfret

golden globes
iggy azalea
Julianne Moore
Iris Apfel
kristen mcmenamy
laura prepon
keira knightly
best dressed
worst dressed