Was it the worst night in fashion history at the Oscars? – KION546
Oscar Holland, CNN
This week marks two decades since Hollywood served up one of its most unreceived red carpets ever. On a night of big wins for ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and the first ‘Lord of the Rings’, the 2002 Oscars were – in true Y2K style – awash in spaghetti straps, bare midriffs and evening wear inform.
At the time, former Cosmopolitan editor Marcelle d’Argy Smith called it “a night of fashion goofs”, before calling out several stars for their efforts. Julia Roberts, in a black Armani dress, looked ‘boring’; Whoopi Goldberg, who hosted the ceremony dressed as a glittering peacock, brought “a kind of circus element to the proceedings”; and Barbra Streisand was “swaddled” in a burgundy velvet “envelope/tent/curtain.”
Other damning reviews were recorded for Best Supporting Actress of the Year, Jennifer Connelly, who opted for a dishwater-colored tulle dress and a not-quite-matching scarf (a hue described by Smith as “pale dung-colored” and by Scripps Howard news agency as “phlegm-colored”). Elsewhere, Cameron Diaz divided opinion in a floral-print dress, ’80s Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland sported a misguided jeweled bindi and Faith Hill took a painfully literal approach as she teased her performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with a strappy rainbow. colorful Versace dress.
However, the night will be remembered for one of the most maligned outfits in Oscars history: Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous “gothic” gown (pictured top). The shapeless Alexander McQueen creation featured a crinkled taffeta skirt and sheer bodice that left little to the imagination. The actress’ heavy eye makeup and milkmaid braid helped secure the outfit’s place on “worst dressed” lists for years to come.
In a characteristic critique of the evening’s looks, longtime Vogue editor Suzy Menkes, then of the International Herald Tribune, wrote that Paltrow, obviously braless, “looked like she was going see his personal trainer. (She also described Connolly as “dreaming like a drowned nymph”). Guardian fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley meanwhile wrote that the star “became a harvester” in “gap year braids, gothic eye makeup and goofy jewellery”.
There was probably worse to come. At the Vanity Fair after-party, “Meet Joe Black” star Claire Forlani wore what can only be described as a sequined breastplate held together by dangerously thin string ties; Selma Blair arrived in a barely there fringe dress that looked more like a shabby tablecloth and Heather Mills opted for a bizarre midriff-carrying two-piece. Actress and author Suzanne Somers’ dress could have easily served as cheap curtains, and TV host Daisy Fuentes appeared in jeans and a blouse, as if she’d forgotten it was one of the most popular nights out. Hollywood’s most exclusive.
The most boring “ever”
What really angered fashion critics weren’t the well-meaning flops, but the collective lack of ambition. Just a year after Björk’s unforgettably eccentric swan dress, the 2002 red carpet looked like a sweet, low-risk affair.
Maybe it was for good reason. Held just six months after the September 11 attacks, the event was engulfed by tight security and an understandably restricted atmosphere. Armed police stood guard, stars were sent through metal detectors and fashion watchers who were lucky enough to secure a spot on the red carpet had to undergo new background checks, a reported the LA Times. In keeping with the national mood, many stars arrived in respectfully understated dresses, with Reese Witherspoon, Glenn Close, Helen Hunt and Renée Zellweger among the many celebrities to wear black that evening.
That was no excuse for Menkes, however. Calling the contestants’ efforts “the most boring Oscar outfits ever”, the reviewer singled out Naomi Watts’ corseted dress without adventure as a “sea of black”, writing that “even Gucci, usually a certificate death for sexy clothes” had made the “calm” star gaze.
Samantha Critchell, then fashion editor for The Associated Press, was more diplomatic, describing the evening’s red carpet as a “conservative” fashion carpet on which “many stars played it safe”. Looking back, 20 years later, she attributed their style choices not to 9/11, but to concern over the growing interest in red carpet styling.
“In the early 2000s, fashion became a microcosm for the rest of the world,” she told CNN in a phone interview. “I started covering the red carpet with Jennifer Lopez’s Versace dress how did it stay closed (at the 2000 Grammys) – we didn’t do ‘nightly’ fashion coverage in the media” hard-news “until now.
“We realized that these dresses were going to define you. And I think it had more to do with fashion’s rise as a force in pop culture – and a force in real time – and realizing that the people were sitting at home judging these outfits.
“There was no E! and no pre-show until then, and I think the picks were probably safer because I didn’t know how to go about it.
As for the more risque looks, Critchell speculated that many celebs were “playing against type” by offering something unexpected or different from previous outings. Nicole Kidman’s frilly pink Chanel dress contrasted with the elegant Dior chartreuse gown she wore to the 1997 ceremony, while Jennifer Lopez’s classic gown and bouffant hairstyle were juxtaposed with the more raunchy looks she was stalwarted for. become known.
Even Paltrow’s outfit can be seen as an attempt to avoid being typecast, Critchell said. “She had been the princess a few years before (in 1999) in that pink Ralph Lauren dress, and I think she was playing against that,” she added.
“Celebs haven’t had the chance to show their other sides like they do now. You already know them, you know what their style is, you know their opinion on everything. But it wasn’t uncommon in 2002, or in any of those other (pre-social media) years, someone played against what they were doing before, because they didn’t want to be stereotyped.
Rays of hope
There were a handful of hits in the middle of the flops that night. Kate Winslet’s one-shoulder Ben de Lisi dress was widely praised, and the men of the evening fared better among critics, with Will Smith praised for his Ozwald Boateng suit and gold tie.
There was really only one winner, both on the red carpet and on the awards stage. On her way to becoming the first black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress, Halle Berry was stunned by a dress that transformed the fortunes of its designer, Elie Saab. Like Paltrow’s outfit, it consisted of a sheer top and taffeta skirt, though Berry exuded glamor in crimson and champagne, with strategically placed floral details completing the look.
“I think Halle Berry’s outfit has stood the test of time,” Critchell said. “It’s not a dress anyone would wear today, but it was the prettiest one at the ball. She was predicted to win, and as fashion writers we were all waiting for her turn. He filled the moment; it was memorable, and it was just for best actress.
Still, while the outfit is now considered one of the best Oscar looks, it wasn’t a hit with everyone in the night. The Guardian’s Cartner-Morley wrote that Berry’s outfit, with its “garish embroidered mesh bodice”, offered “a lot to cringe at”.
Its contrarian take is a reminder that good red carpet style is in the eye of the beholder — and so whether 2002 was the Oscars’ worst year depends, as always, on who you ask. Indeed, given the current interest in all things Y2K – a revival that heralded the return of low-rise jeans, cropped tops and butterfly clips – the power of hindsight (and the opinions of Gen Z fashion) may be more favorable to the 2002 release than one might expect.
“I don’t think it’s the worse– dressed,” Critchell said. “I don’t know if there would ever be a time you could define like that. But that was a different time.”
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