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2012 Oscar Red Carpet: Belle's Best Dressed

It was a long, hard journey.  But finally, we’ve made it to the good stuff.  

Angelina Jolie in Atelier Versace

I almost left Angelina off of the list because I was annoyed by her brazen posing.  Every time she stopped to hold still, she pushed Brad Pitt aside to give the photogs some leg action.  But when Donatella gives you a gown with a slit, she expects you to work it, so I forgive her.

I love the neckline on this gown.  I love how the skirt is full and lightly flowy but still has structure.

Penelope Cruz in Armani Prive

It’s always nice when Penelope comes to play.  I love the neckline, the color is different but gorgeous and the pleating on the bodice, especially with such an ethereal fabric, is really quite wonderful.  She looks like she’s floating.

My only complaint was the hair.  She was clearly trying to channel Grace Kelly with a pinned do, but it doesn’t quite get there.  Probably because it’s coated in three inches of hairspray.

Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji

Let me tell you what’s really great about this gown: 1) It fits her beautifully and 2) You’ll be able to buy it in stores (probably without the train) in a couple of months.  Why more actresses don’t wear a gown that someone might actually be able to buy is beyond me.  Clearly, you don’t need couture to look wonderful.

Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton

I went back and forth on this one.  Was the peplum too long?  Was the brooch too much or not enough?  Was the layering overkill?

Then, I saw this photo and thought, “If that isn’t a red carpet gown, I don’t know what is.” The pink clutch was such an unexpected move, but it totally works with the bold grapefruity-coral color of the gown.

Kate Mara in Jack Guisso Couture

Rooney Mara brought her older sister Kate as her guest, and she got shown up in the dress department big time.  The pale lavender is lovely.  But what really makes this gown work for me is the sheer off the shoulder, it’s so sexy, but in a delicate way.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford

I loathe Gwyneth Paltrow.  Loathe.  So it takes some kind of dress to land her on my Best Dressed list, and this impeccably-structured Tom Ford is it.  

I also love the cuff bracelet, understated hairdo, perfectly chosen makeup and huge cocktail ring are flawless.  Damn you, Paltrow, damn you.

Emma Stone in Giambattista Valli

This dress was the right mix of wearability and drama.  The neckline brings the bravado, and the rest of the silhouette keeps it from being too much.  She never misses.

People keep saying this dress is too much like a Balenciaga Nicole Kidman wore a few years back, but I disagree. That dress had a column shape and was backless.  It was also true red while this is more of a dark raspberry.  The only thing similar is the bow, so it’s a bit hypocritical for fashion commentators who have a different name for every sub-shade of green to focus on one detail and pronounce the dresses identical.

Milla Jovovich in Elie Saab

I never thought I would be adding the star of Resident Evil 184 to this list, but the gown is just breathtaking.  And while the dress would be lovely on almost anyone, Milla’s statuesque figure, flawless skin and delicate air make it pure perfection.  There isn’t a flaw anywhere.

And the best dress of the evening award goes to….

Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen

If you said to me, “The dress is black velvet with gold braiding and a sweetheart neckline, but you’re going to love it.” I would have said you were crazy, but this dress proves me wrong. God save McQueen.

Chastain has been a B- player at best on this season’s red carpets, but this dress has rescued her from obscurity.  Against all odds, the look is somehow light and airy.  The hair is flawless and elegant.  And the makeup is just the right mix of done up and undone.  Ridiculously gorgeous.


    leave a comment

  1. amy b.s. says:

    i mostly agree with you, but angelina's ridiculous posing drove me absolutely crazy, so it ruined the dress for me. and jessica chastain's dress reminded me to much of that terrible dress beyonce wore to the oscars a couple of years ago and i couldn't let it go!

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  2. Katie says:

    Love the color of Kate Mara's dress, hate the sleeve.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  3. CatG says:

    The scolds are out on the internet full force today. Everyone always complains about how cold Angelina usually is…I thought it was pretty obvious this time around that she was just goofing off and having fun the whole time. And that's not-the-fark-allowed, apparently. Good god.
    In other news, I agree with all of your selections, esp. #1(Chastain – WANT) with the exception of Kate Mara. She doesn't fill that dress out properly, or its just not fitted right, b/c to me the top looks really sloppy and unflattering and just ruins the look. I also think it's not quite right for her coloring, but maybe that's just due to the lighting in all the photographs.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  4. Heather says:

    Surprised you didn't put Tina Fey on this list, she looked amazing.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  5. SarahT says:

    I have to agree on all counts but one…the Alexander McQueen. The bodice looks like something Nicole Kidman would've worn in Moulin Rouge! The dress would've been perfectly lovely without out all that gold on top, I mean just gold on the bottom half and train could've been amazing! So close!

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  6. renee says:

    i know i'm in the minority, but i can't stand michelle williams, ever. i think it's her hair. i hate the pixie cut and am a firm believer that no one can pull it off. some people might look better with the cut than others, but EVERYONE looks better with any other type of style(in my opinion, and again i know i'm probably in the minority).

    I guess I did like her dress though ­čÖé (just the dress!!)

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  7. Belle says:

    Heather: I almost did, but I swore I'd never put her on in a black dress again. Kristin Wiig and the nude dresses are about to get the same treatment.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  8. Tel says:

    Belle, thank you for taking the time to post these lovely photos and commentaries. I agree with most of your picks–Emma Stone, in particular, could not have looked more perfect–but I completely disagree about Angelina and Gwyneth. (Although perhaps it's that I only viewed the photos, rather than watching the broadcast live). Angelina Jolie, beautiful and statuesque as she is, still couldn't pull off that horrible, heavy, poorly cut, velvet gown. It might work for Morticia Adams, but I could not find one redeeming aspect of that dress for a red carpet selection. As for Gwyneth, I like the draping, structure, and shade of the dress–even if it's a bit boring–but the cape makes it look like George Lucas should be having her lead a platoon of stormtroopers. At least in the photos, I think it looks ridiculous.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  9. K says:

    Almost all of my favorites are on your list, although I agree Tina Fey looked wonderful as well. I love Emma Stone and her dress (plus how adorable was she during her presentation?). I'm not a fan of Michelle Williams but I have to admit the dress is fab and Octavia's dress was flawless on her. Great choice.

    Finally, Gweneth's dress was extremely elegant but the hair…. it looked fine from the front, but from the side the limp pony was a total turn off for me.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  10. GoGoGo says:

    @Renee: I know what you mean about her hair, I like that she sticks to her guns, but her hair is so anti-bombshell it's kind of a downer on top of whatever she's wearing.

    Back in the 90s, she rocked a cool short shaggy haircut for a while that I personally would love see her bring back if she's keeping it short. (This was of course when Jen Lindley got all rebellious over the summer on Dawson's Creek… I admit it, closet fan here.)

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  11. Peapod says:

    Disagree on Angelina; however, I admit that I was distracted by the severe thiness of her arms. I loved Tina Fey's dress and Michelle Williams' dress. I guess I like peplums. My favorite was Rose Byrne. At first glance, I actually disliked it, but then as she continued to stand there, it grew on me. As soon as I saw the back, I was sold.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  12. Christine says:

    I second Heather on Tina Fey, and I think it's actually navy, not black. I also want to weigh in regarding Angelina Jolie. Her posing was wicked obnoxious, and she's too skeletal to pull off the heavy fabric of that dress.

    February 27, 2012/Reply
  13. Anne Shirley says:

    Surprised to see Chastain made it- that dress was too tight round the boob on her.

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  14. X says:

    Why you gotta be so mean?

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  15. zora.d says:

    wow, you are so right on putting Jessica Chastain at #1… In addition to everything you said, i think it's something about the color palette being so completely unexpected and unique this year, obviously there's a trend to go nude-for-you/pale shades, and the fact that she goes against trend AND it looks so exquisite just takes it to another level. Thanks for doing these, Belle, I can't watch the whole red carpet thing anymore, but I keep looking forward to your 'Dressed' lists!!

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  16. Moose says:

    I agree with Tel on Angelina… was drowning in heavy black velvet, Penelope Cruz looked positively average, and Kate Mara looked like she was just getting undressed.

    But wait a second… you hate Gwyneth Paltrow? Is that even possible? She has flawless and classic style! It must be the kind of “she-is-beautiful-and-has-a-perfect-husband-and-perfect-kids-and-lives-in-perfect-london-with-her-perfect-life” hatred, right?

    I usually agree with you on 99% of style questions, Belle, but not this time!

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  17. MA says:

    ugh Angelina Jolie. can't stand her. I am surprised that she swapped out her usual cold holier than thou stare for a look at me! look at me! self indulgent pose fest but either way, natch. Probably my least favorite person in Hollywood.
    On another note: I second Rose Byrne. At first I thought the sequins were black (apparently they were midnight blue) and I tend to think black sequins look cheap/tacky but after further review, that dress was KILLER. Especially from the back. She and Octavia Spencer made my night. I also really liked the dress that the girl from the Descendants (and Secret Life of the American Teenager. ha) wore but I didn't think it was right for her and I didn't like the makeup. The dress though, very cool.

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  18. J says:

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the dresses folks wore to other parties – I thought some of the choices for Elton John's party were way more fabulous than the ones worn to the actual awards

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  19. C says:

    I think Angelina's skeleton arms completely distract from the gorgeous-ness of the dress! Too bad!

    February 28, 2012/Reply
  20. Valerie says:

    I have the same complexion as Emma (pale, auburn hair), and have always been afraid to do full-on red (hair/clothing clash). Props to her for making this color look absolutely beautiful. I may even have to get a bright red dress next time.

    February 28, 2012/Reply