Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fashion CSI: Charlize Theron's Oscar Gown

Gather round, loves, we're playing fashion detectives today. Our subject? The ravishing Charlize Theron, whose red-carpet gown at the Oscars received the fashion equivalent of capital punishment from a jury of onlookers the world over.

Exhibit A:

The perps? Those roses on the bodice, which, to shift metaphors for a sec, sit like a pair of coconut shells on a all-male grass-skirt kickline, comically emphasizing the breasts while underlining their absence of volume.

The gown is by Dior, a fashion house which, while guilty of some doozies in awards-shows past, rarely gets it this wrong. Can we recreate the scene? I think so. But to understand the motives, we need to step back in time . . . .

To American designer Charles James, whose over-the-top ballgowns, here photographed by Cecil Beaton, were assembled from acres of fabric, especially their billows at hip-level and artful folds at the bust. James specialized in presentation-type gowns worn by young, slender girls entering society. The voluminous silhouettes of these dresses amplified their figures, emphasizing curves that were not necessarily evident underneath.

John Galliano at Christian Dior drew heavily upon Charles James in his Spring 2010 couture show. Producing among others this dress, whose damasked duchesse satin poufs below are balanced above by emphatic corollas of fabric decorating the bust. This gown is, I believe, Exhibit B, where it all started to go badly wrong.

Not that the original is a wrongdoer itself. It is over-the-top and gorgeously so--even that dropped bustle/fanny pack assemblage round back must have looked fantastic in motion. But it is frankly too much to walk the carpet and moreover wholly unsuitable for a long sit in the Kodak Theater, where all that extraneous yardage would crush and wrinkle and look sullen. Charlize, as the face of Dior, was going to wear a couture creation, but it couldn't be this exact one.

So the swags were stripped off. Which meant [and this is a dramatic recreation now, who the hell knows what really went on] . . . the corollas at the bust must have looked top-heavy. More Mae West than Team Charlize thought apropos. So having vandalized the original shape in such a dramatic way the decision was made to just keep going, and the roses were shrunk into submission as well. But . . . the fatal misjudgment . . . left on!

And everybody managed to convince themselves that this was the right choice. An error in judgment that meant poor Charlene's version of gown will remain forever in the lineup of crimes against fashion. Case closed.

(photo of Charlize Theron by Jason Merritt, Getty Images. Cecil Beaton's photo of Charles James gowns here at Vogue.com. Photo of Christian Dior spring 2010 couture, by Monica Feudi/GoRunway.com, from style.com)


  1. It's a shame that that dress turned out the way it did. I also thought that the shade they chose really did nothing for her. How awful it must be to have to hear all of the reviews the day after of how bad you looked. Glad it wasn't me!

  2. It was as if the dress were a map and the rosettes were the "x" leading us to treasure!