The 2011 83rd Oscar Awards Red Carpet Report

It’s Friday evening and the start of Oscar weekend. As I look out of my window, from high up in the Hollywood hills, I can barely see through the heavy mist and fog. My hairdresser and manicurist are both running late due to the treacherous rain and gridlock traffic.

John David Whalen and Kirsten Lea wearing Armani Privé & Diane Von Furstenberg © Michael Caufield/Getty Images

The dress I had planned on wearing is not suitable for this type of weather and without sounding terribly ungrateful, I would rather stay home and watch a movie than venture outside to celebrate the nominated ones. But tonight my friends are hosting a pre-Oscar event for the Kevin Spacey Foundation and I have promised to attend.

My guest is actor John David Whalen, who co-starred opposite Kevin Spacey in the political comedy, Casino Jack. I decide to ditch the dress, opt for some sleek Diane Von Furstenberg trousers with an Armani Privé blouse. Now, much more comfortable, I can feel the evening’s potential for the first time.

By Saturday, the rain has cleared (I’m sounding far too British) and I’m excited to wear a Sass & Bide dress to the Harvey Weinstein pre-Oscar party at Soho House in West Hollywood. Last year, this event was packed with A-List stars, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Jake Gyllenhaal and my dear friend Quentin Tarantino. This year, the stars were less in abundance, but included Oscar nominees Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and King’s Speech Director Tom Hooper.

Colin Firth, Tom Hopper, Helena Bonham Carter @ Harvey Weinstein 2011 pre-Oscar party

Jennifer Lawrence wearing Calvin Klein © Getty Images

It is now Sunday and I attend a private viewing party to watch the Oscar arrivals and compare red carpet notes with my fellow fashionistas. I am admittedly feeling slightly tentative since I was not a fan of many of the dresses from the Golden Globes, but by the end of the afternoon, we were all very pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the 2011 Academy Awards.

While Natalie Portman was certainly the star of the night in terms of her big win, it was fellow nominee Jennifer Lawrence who held the limelight. The rising star of Winters Bone was the first nominee to arrive on the red carpet. She looked flawless in a simple, but stunning red dress by Francisco Acosta for Calvin Klein. Jennifer’s natural beauty was highlighted by perfect hair and make-up and minimal jewelry. The fact that she arrived first and set the bar so high in terms of her look meant that her image was repeatedly shown throughout the two-hour red-carpet rundown and millions commented that they never knew who she was before, but now she is firmly on their radar. Her look was certainly one of my favorites.

Hailee Steinfeld wearing Marchesa © AFP

Fourteen-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld also won instant approval for her sparkling nude Marchesa gown, which she so tastefully helped design. She told reporters how she imagined the dress she wanted to wear, then sent a sketch to the designers for inspiration. It was the mark of a couture connoisseur in the making. Her simple ivory headband kept any potential critics from saying that she was dressing beyond her years. Her entire look was extremely impressive.

Mila Kunis wearing Elie Saab © DR

The next star to cause a stir on the carpet was supporting actress Mila Kunis in a provocative yet graceful, lavender Elie Saab creation. No one wanted to say it, but at first sight, it looked as if she had her nipples on display. At closer view, one was able to see the carefully positioned lace trimming above a very low neckline. This made for an unforgettable look.

Nicole Kidman wearing Christian Dior and Keith Urban © DR

Many fashion critics were anxious to see what Oscar veteran, Nicole Kidman would be wearing and the reviews have not been entirely positive. At one point in her career, Nicole was known for consistently being the best dressed at every awards ceremony. She followed that with several years of not quite getting it right. There are many who would love to see her make a great fashion come back, but it seemed this was not that year. While others did not appreciate her cream colored Christian Dior gown, I personally loved it, particularly from the front view. I loved the embroidery, which was classic Nicole and I even loved her bright heels, which I felt added a nice dash of color to the otherwise pale tone. I was not a fan of her necklace, but otherwise, I felt this was a great look for Nicole.

Amy Adams wearing L'Wren Scott © Darren Decker/A.M.P.A.S

Amy Adams is one of my favorite actresses and I would have loved to have seen her win for her outstanding performance in The Fighter. This time last year, the then pregnant actress kindly let me pat her baby bump at the Vanity Fair party. Yesterday she caught everyone’s attention in a crystallized, midnight blue L’Wren Scott gown that brought out the blue in her eyes and showed off her perfectly toned silhouette. The dress was stunning. Many critics did not appreciate the contrasting Diamond and Emerald Cartier necklace and bracelet, yet after reviewing all of the looks this year, I have to say that this was actually my favorite look. While the necklace does not instantly sit well on the high neckline, I found the contrasting colors to be striking in photographs, particular with Amy’s porcelain skin tone and golden red hair color.

Another look that made for a topic of discussion was Cate Blanchett’s lavender Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci gown. The circle cut out bodice was the main point of controversy, though I would add that the lime green bead work, particularly on the back of the dress, was more poignant. The pleated drapery and structured shoulders made this a perfect example of couture as art.

Cate Blanchett wearing Givenchy © DR

Sunrise Coigney wearing Jean-Paul Gaultier and Mark Ruffalo © DR

Certainly the most avant-garde look was a Jean-Paul Gaultier design, worn by Marc Ruffalo’s wife, actress Sunrise Coigney. The striking black and gold asymmetrical dress, which stood out for it’s very high, dressy shoulder pad, was accentuated by her blunt cut hairstyle and red lipstick. Often an effort to push the envelope can end in disaster but I feel hers was an example of creative dressing making a bold fashion statement.

Gwyneth Paltrow wearing Calvin Klein © DR

Calvin Klein represented his label very well this year dressing Gwyneth Paltrow in a sleek silver lamé dress that was geometrically cut to suit Gwyneth’s pencil figure perfectly.

She may have won an academy award for her role in The Fighter, but Melissa Leo certainly won’t be winning any awards for her choice in gown. She wore a reflective Marc Bouwer creation that fashion critics have already noted “looked like a lace doily”.

Melissa Leo wearing Marc Bouwer © DR

I thought the dress was very age appropriate. It reminded me of the famous Catherine Walker dress and jacket that Diana, the Princess of Wales wore during her visit to Hong Kong. Sadly, the texture of this dress let Leo down. It appeared creased and ill fitting and I did not feel her choice of jewelry was Oscar-worthy. On a more positive note, her hair and make-up were beautifully natural and golden.

Halle Berry wearing Marchesa © DR

Fantail dresses were on trend again this year. Halle Berry certainly did not let me down with her magnificent Marchesa gown, which perfectly complemented her flawless mocha skin tone. This was one of my favorite dresses.

Jennifer Hudson wearing Versace © DR

Meanwhile, Jennifer Hudson looked ravishing in a tangerine fantail Versace gown complete with diving neckline that emphasized her perfectly portioned bosom and fantastically svelte figure. Her stunning make-up combined with her bright smile and well-deserved self-confidence made her glow with the presence of a true superstar.

Host Anne Hathaway also wore a strapless, red fantail dress by Valentino and posed on the carpet with the designer. While her bright red lipstick may have seemed the obvious choice, I’m personally rather tired of it. She has big lips. We get it. I don’t feel that the bright red lipstick compliments her white skin tone and it was a little too much with the red carpet and the red dress. I feel she would do better to take a note from Jennifer Lawrence’s make-up artist and try a nude lip color for a change.

Anne Hathaway and Valentino © DR

Scarlett Johansson wearing Dolce & Gabbana © DR

Some of my least favorite looks included Scarlett Johansson’s plum colored, lace Dolce & Gabbana gown. While the dress was not offensive, it was a step down in style for the Hollywood starlet who usually lights up the red carpet. Her bed-head hairstyle did nothing to compliment the look and nor did her sparkly orange eye shadow, which also looked a mess.

Michelle Williams wearing Chanel © Wenn

Michelle Williams, who was nominated for her leading role in Blue Valentine wore a short-sleeve Chanel dress and many commented upon her similarity to screen legend Mia Farrow. The dress itself, while beautifully beaded, was somewhat plain and against her fair skin, made her look washed out. While some love her pixie cut hairstyle, I don’t care for her brassy shade of blonde hair color and dark roots. Michelle’s Mona Lisa smile further added to her awkward look. She arrived with fellow actress Busy Phillips, who looked vibrant and confident in a black, strapless fantail gown by Douglas Hannant. Busy certainly won my vote for best date of the evening.

Busy Phillips wearing Douglas Hannant © DR

Penelope Cruz wearing L’Wren Scott © DR

Fashion critics have been quick to complain about the fierce jewel encrusted, burgundy L’Wren Scott number that Penelope Cruz confidently pulled off. Some believe it looked too tight and would have looked more appropriate in Las Vegas. Personally, I think she rocked this dress and I was thrilled to see her looking so incredibly sexy after having recently given birth to her first child – a time when most new mothers look worn out and tired. Since she was not a nominee, I found her attire completely appropriate.

Céline Dion wearing Armani Privé © DR

Another beauty who I am in awe of was Céline Dion who looked picture perfect in my favorite designer of all time, Armani Privé. Céline, who had just given birth to twins, had an envious figure and carried off the beautifully textured, long sleeve dress with utmost sophistication. Her plunging neckline highlighted an emerald gem necklace, reminiscent of L’Amour de la Mer necklace made famous in Titanic. I particularly loved her golden hair, both in color and style that perfectly complimented her brown eyes and natural make-up.

Reese Witherspoon wearing Armani © DR

The star who won everyone’s vote for best hairstyle was Academy Award winning actress Reese Witherspoon. She arrived with a sixties bouffant ponytail styled by celebrity hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai. The style, which is already being requested across the globe, places Fekkai as the leading celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles, above Ken Paves. Reese wore a simple black and white strapless Armani gown, but it was her hairstyle that garnered her the most attention. Many critics noted her similarity to Sharon Stone in Casino.

Sharon Stone wearing Versace © DR

A smoky-eyed Sharon Stone was a poster child for graceful and glamorous aging, looking as sexy as ever in a black feather Versace gown.

Helena Bonham Carter carried a clutch bag in the shape of a fan, but failed to win any fans with her eccentric style. The British actress attended in a black velvet outfit created by Award winning costume designer, Coleen Atwood. I had seen Helena the evening before at Soho House, where I thought she looked wonderful. While maintaining her signature style she pulled off a look that impressed onlookers. Sadly, this was not the case the following day on the red carpet when it really mattered. Many commentators have stated that Helena ‘doesn’t care how she looks’. I disagree with that assumption. Having grown up following her in the British press, I would suggest she has a very distinctive bohemian style and the fact that she had Colleen Atwood design her Oscar attire, tells me that she does care about how she looks, she simply has a unique style that most people find difficult to relate to. I have been told that she rarely hires a stylist, which also indicates that she has a strong opinion of how she wants to look and rebels against following any standard trends. Her make up was perfect and highlighted her stunning bone structure. She is a natural beauty who has been admired for her striking features since she was a child. I am sure she appreciates that she is finally getting the overdue recognition for her talent as an actress.

Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter wearing Colleen Atwood © Getty/AP

Natalie Portman wearing Rodarte © DR

Natalie Portman, who was the favorite to win Best Leading Actress, kept audiences waiting with bated breath to see what she would wear. As she was the last nominee to arrive on the red carpet she consequently had everyone’s attention. While Natalie’s stunning facial features are always appreciated, her fashion sense is often described as hit or miss. Yet this year, when all eyes were on her, she impressed everyone in a perfectly fitted, equally elegant, off the shoulder Rodarte gown. I was extremely impressed with her look. The drapery was exquisite, the Swarovski crystal detailing just right and I particularly appreciated how the darker shading just below her bust, accentuated her baby bump in the best possible way. Her sleeves covered part of her upper arms, an area that most pregnant women are often keen to hide, and at the same time, covered her armpits, a small detail that is commonly overlooked. Commentators have noted that Natalie often wears Tiffany jewelry and may well be sponsored by the company. I adored her fringe drop Tiffany earrings and felt they added a modern, slightly edgy touch to her look. Her make up was flawless and her hair, worn to one side, completed an award-winning style.

Overall, this was a very good year for Oscar dresses, with very few looks falling below the incredible high standard that viewers have come to expect. I was particularly pleased to note a diversity of colors and designs this year, with the all too common strapless dress being replaced with more original creations. Halle Berry was interviewed shortly before the ceremony and commentated that she loved seeing how each star presents themselves and enjoyed admiring their interpretation of glamour. I couldn’t have put it better myself.


Post by Kirsten Lea