When it comes to the red carpet, three counter-currents are in style play. There is classic Old Hollywood glamour, the fairytale princess and modern minimalism. To win the star wars on the red carpet, the gown has pay tribute to at least two of those three clashing currents.

You want glamour, but you want modern. The big tulle gown or prom number (remember Gwyneth Paltrow in pretty pink Ralph Lauren with an ill-fitting bodice?) really doesn’t cut it, at least for the fashion crowd.

The spring haute couture shows in January and the fall ready to wear collections, now under way, are prime shopping ground for the red carpet.

Valentino’s haute couture collection was the stuff of dreams, a breathtaking lineup of nymph-like goddess dresses in velvet and chiffon, with models wearing serpentine headpieces and golden chains: A red velvet gown plunging gown pleated in the manner of Fortuny is a sure red carpet winner – in fact it may have been designed with the red carpet in mind it’s so perfect – for Cate Blanchett perhaps or, Emily Blunt. For Saiorise Ronan, there were ethereal options from Valentino, in sheer flowing whites, with embroidered butterflies, or creams sprinkled with sparking fairy dust.

For the gal who wants the fairy tale fluff, Giambattista Valli did a red strapless with full tulle skirt.

Gucci is all the rage these days — although the fall show was almost pop punk – there was one blush tulle gown with lovely embroidered vines — it just needs to lose the oversized red poppies.



So what trends are we expecting Sunday night on the Oscar red carpet?

Colourwise, cream, blush and whites have been gaining ground in recent years, with some standout whites, both good and bad – Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford with cape in 2012 may have started the current run on white.

Whites can be somewhat ingenue or ultra glam (Madonna in Marilyn Monroe-esque getup in 1991) – but Lady Gaga pulled off white in a totally novel manner last year with a white Azzedine Alaïa gown with red dishwashing-worthy gloves.

Jennifer Lawrence pulled off classic Old Hollywood ina  white Dior haute couture gown worthy of Grace Kelly in 2013, and promptly tripped on the podium on her way to pick up her best actress Oscar. She was totally endearing.

Red is often a red carpet winner – and J. Law does it best in Dior. At the Globes in January she wore a simple red column with subtle cutouts and in 2014 a similarly clean red gown with a peplum.

Lupita Nyongo’s red caped Ralph Lauren at the Globes in 2014 was simply a stunner.

Colours are hot, too, and screaming yellow, sometimes marigold, stands out. Michelle Williams did that in Vera Wang in 2006; J.Lo, never one to be shy, also trotted out a mustardy marigold number by  Giambattista Valli at this year’s GGs to widespread acclaim.

Black is not so popular these days, but still stands out TO ME as the most elegant and sophisticated.

Print usually does not play well on the red carpet. It’s too busy, and tends to drown the star herself.

The big details to look for are the plunging neckline à la J. Lo in Versace at the Grammys in 2000. We saw many of those at the Globes in January.  Of course, J.Lo’s jungle print gown, which probably prompted the invention of Hollywood tape, was the nakedest of them all, with Amy Adams in red Valentino in a nod to her role in American Hustler a second contender.

Cutouts and the Angelina Jolie leg, courtesy Versace, are other details to look for.



Cate Blanchett is the reigning queen of the red carpet, but scored an unusual flop in a pink fringed Givenchy at the Golden Globes. Her wins have been legendary, particularly the ethereal Armanis, but last year a black Maison Martin Margiela with raw edge hems and turquoise choker was a stunner.

She’s so cool and confident she carries almost anything off.

J.Law: With the absence of designer Raf Simons, Dior’s spring haute couture collection was underwhelming. And the spring ready to wear show was mostly about georgette scalloped shorts with sheer overlays. Of course, the house can whip up something for her. Or perhaps she will go elsewhere.




Alicia Vikander, the new Swedish star of the Danish Girl, is the current fashion it girl. She’s lovely and had a huge spread in Vogue recently. She also has a contract with Louis Vuitton, and wore a juvenile apron-like glimmering dress to the Golden Globes. Other LVs were more successful – like a colour blocked fully sequinned number. And a dove grey  velvet Valentino worn to Cannes last May was the perfect marriage of modern and Old Hollywood, with its simple lines and train. I’d love to see her in the January haute couture Valentino. Actually, that show was so beautiful it could outfit the entire red carpet.

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Rooney Mara wore a frilly beige McQueen to the Globes, but could redeem herself with another gown from Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen. The recent collection in London was breathtaking – with butterflies, embroideries and cutouts. I like her in black, and there was a covered up semi-sheer striped gown with keyhole neckline and ruffle details that would suit.

Jennifer Lopez  Marchesa’s spring collection was royally ornate – Elizabethan even. But one dress – #10 – a molten gold number with a lace capelet had Hollywood glam written all over it. A match for J. Lo.

Saoirse Ronan pulls off ethereal beautifully – like the angelic white Saint Laurent with wings she wore to the Globes. I am thinking Valentino, but this time the lighter embroidered chiffons.

What happened to individual style and individual personality on the red carpet?

The stylist rules, making sure her star shines. Some characters might deliberately flout the rules of good taste for attention, but that and genuine bad fashion are increasingly rare. Jane Fonda in ruffles, anybody.  Of course, good taste is subjective, but when something is really beautiful – Jennifer Lawrence in Dior reds, Lupita Nyong’o in Ralph Lauren red, Cate Blanchett in Armani fleshtone tulle, everybody agrees.

So where are the Bjorks, Barbras, Chers and Dions of yesteryear?

Here is a list of some icons.

1969 Streisand in sheer pantsuit by Montreal born Arnold Isaacs

1986 Cher fashion struck in a feathered headdress and stitched triangle dress by Mackie

1998 Sharon Stone in Vera Wang ballskirt and white Gap shirt

1999 Dion in backwards Dior

2000 J. Lo in plunging Versace

2001 Bjork swan

2014 Pharell Williams shorts


Happy viewing!

And here’s a link to a chat I had with Sonali Karnick on CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend all about the red carpet.