2011 Oscar Fashions

Feb 28, 2011

Join Holly Thomas Monday, Feb. 28 at noon ET, as she chats about the fashion on the 2011 Academy Awards red carpet.


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Photos: Red carpet fashions

Photos: The 83rd Academy Awards

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Complete list of winners


2011 Academy Awards

Happy Monday, and welcome to our Oscar fashion post-mortem! Let's talk about what we loved (Cate Blanchett's Givenchy) and what we didn't (Reese Witherspoon's Barbie hair) ... fire away!

Easily one of the best dressed in my opinion....and to see just how poised and mature she was when she was talking to reporters on the red carpet made her even more beautiful! Clearly the future of Hollywood and maybe a future style icon!

Agreed, I loved her Marchesa confection and thought she looked exactly like a 14-year-old should. If only I'd been so poised and eloquent when I was a tween ...

The elegant pink band atop the bodice of a sleek black column gown that Reese Witherspoon sported was top dress, by far. A classic, flattering look, will look good in "old" photos 40 years from now. Total win. Hands down.

Sorry, but I totally disagree. The gown was fine  if slightly boring. But her hair-do killed the whole look for me.  So dated!

There, that's all that needs to be said fashion-wise about last night. Sorry!

I thought she looked better at the Golden Globes myself. Wasn't wild about the striped sequin sheath but she saved the night with those gorgeous green earrings.

Was hands-down my favorite of the evening. I only wish she had worn it longer - such a good color for her and extremely flattering. I was surprised that red seemed to be the color of the evening, which I was happy to see - what do you think about any color trends?

I'm torn between the gorgeous red Versace dress you loved and the creamy Givenchy she wore to open the show as my favorite. I'm not torn, however, on the Vivienne Westwood ballgown with the mismatched necklace and crazy prima ballerina hair.

what did you think of mandy moore's dress on the red carpet? i LOVED it! i thought she looked so elegant, and it's so hard to pull off that mesh top. i also thought mila kunis looked amazing, such a great color!

Lots of Twitter love last night for Mandy Moore's sparkly gold gown ... I thought it was quite pretty, too. I spent the better part of the ceremony feeling concerned about Mila Kunis' decolletage, especially when she was standing next to Justin Timberlake.

My girlfriend was appalled by Cate Blanchett's dress, though I didn't find it THAT that bad. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. I take it I'm in the minority here?

I loved it ... by far the most directional, interesting choice on an otherwise bland red carpet. And I want to know what she puts on her skin and hair to look that amazing.

There seemed to a dearth of remarkable jewelry on the red carpet. Where were the jaw-dropping Cartier cabochons or the Harry Winston "wow" factors? Did I miss something? Overall, thought this year was restrained glam with too few nods to gauche or garish. I miss me some garish. Thank you, Miss Helena Bonham Carter, for your ongoing commitment to your wackily wonderful "I'm my own stylist" fashion proclamations.

Annette Benning's earrings were a sensational green color and really lit up her face. Also, I liked Natalie Portman's choice of tassel earrings. As for Amy Adams, the dress was okay, but I have no idea why she or any stylist would pair it with the diamond and green necklace. The bauble on her wrist was entirely sufficient.


I didn't like her dress, and I hated her unkempt hair. I thought Melissa Leo's dress was hideous. So were Cate Blanchett's & Nicole Kidman's.

Agree with you on Scar Jo -- I don't understand the point of arriving on the red carpet looking like you rolled out of bed, threw on any old designer gown and headed out the door. Melissa Leo definitely looked better on TV than in photos; I beg to differ on Cate, but ditto on Nicole. She could have done much better.

Best Dress of the night? Mila Kunis followed by Amy Adams. Worst Hair - Nicole Kidman

I thought Mila Kunis looked lovely in lilac; I wasn't as wild about Amy Adams's total look. The blue sequin sheath was flattering, but the necklace did it no favors. And, really, couldn't she have done something more with her lovely hair?

I thought it hit every curve and fit her so well... she looked elegant and beautiful and happy! OMG... Halle Barry was sent from heaven in that angelic gown! Jennifer Hudson was sassy and gorgeous!!!!!! Robin Roberts was goddess-like too! The young girl from True Grit was a princess. Loved Gwyneth Paltrow's liquid metal gown flowing over her body! Anne Hathaway is more gorgeous than I though before; every gown and the pantsuit looked perfect-- my favorite was the blue/purple gown but I'd take anyone!

Thanks for weighing in! Loved Halle Berry too; wasn't a fan of Jennifer Hudson's hair/makeup, and she didn't seem all that happy to be there, but the color was fun.

but can we PLEASE bring back the weekly chats? I miss you two!

Thanks for the love -- we miss you too!

nothing about the fashion last night did it for me. there was no one that really stood out, except maybe cate blanchett and i'm still torn over whether i liked the look or not. everyone else seemed really blah. while halle berry, sandra bullock, etc looked pretty, i feel like i have seen them in those dresses/ with those looks before. and as much as giuliana and kelly osbourne raved about reese witherspoon on the pre-show, i thought the hairdo made her look like an overdone sorority girl!

I loved the way both Cate Blanchett and Haille Berry looked. I agree with you about Reese Witherspoon -- that hairdo was ill-advised.

The blue dress that Anne Hathaway wore toward the end of the Oscars was really great, too.

That Armani Prive looked awesomely superhero-y ... definitely not one for sitting down.

I was not a fan of Amy Adams' dress. The necklace just didn't go. And Scarlett Johansen's dress (at least from the front) looked like the back didn't fit. When she was presenting, there was fabric sticking out from behind her shoulder, making it look like it didn't fit right.

The necklace-over-dress got a collective "ugh!" from the ladies watching the show with me last night. And I didn't like the fact that you could see Scarlett's bra through her dress. It's the Oscars ... c'mon!

Who were your top 5?

In no particular order:  Halle Berry, Mandy Moore, Cate Blanchett, Mark Walhberg's wife Rhea Durham and Michelle Williams.

My top vote goes to Cate Blanchett. My next bests were Haille Berry, Hailee Steinfield, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marisa Tomei. The vintage dress Tomei chose was a daring choice, but it didn't fit her as it should have.

Who won the Men's fashion awards in your book? How does a guy distinguish himself on the red carpet?

I loved Colin Firth's shirt studs ... his friendship with Tom Ford has done him some favors in the style department. And I was a little swoony over Javier and Josh's white dinner jackets. For men, it's all about the details -- don't go crazy with texture a la Randy Newman, but opt for understatement, like James Franco's velvet and charcoal jackets.

Yes Reese looked like Mad Men, but loved Mila Kunis and above all, Jennifer Lawrence. Do the hair people work with the gown people? Sometimes the hair is just so off. Isn't the stylist supposed to keep that from happening?

You would think that all concerned would work together on putting out a look for presenters and nominees. But  Scarlett Johansson looked as if she hadn't combed her hair, and Amy Adams looked as if she did it herself. 

I hated it, and I liked him in a beard when he played John Rolfe to Colin Farrel's John Smith (Pocahontas?). Is it for a movie?

Oh, that beard is awful! I actually cringed a little when his lovely wife kissed him when he won the Oscar. He's filming a movie now, so let's hope it's for that, and not because he thinks it looks good.

Given designers aren't knocking on my door and I have a budget to consider, what should I think about when buying/wearing "black tie" appropriate attire? (Other than finding my Spanx.) Where in DC/metro can I find a selection of flattering and camera-worthy evening gowns? I ask for a reason.

Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase offers a fairly large selection of haute evening gowns from a range of designers. Saks Fifth Avenue -- across the street -- does, too, and so does Neiman Marcus.

wow, this is a beautiful woman and i was SO disappointed with how she looked last night. loved her earrings though ! what did you guys think?

It could have worked if it fit her in the bust ... at least she tried to make an interesting choice, considering how boring most everyone else looked.

can we just take a moment and pause on the angelic beauty of dame helen mirren? she looked absolutely fantastic, age appropriate, and polished!

Always love her ... so classy and chic without ever seeming dowdy.

I get that she was going for a Shanghai in the '30's vibe, but the necklace on the sparkly dress just didn't work for me.

Agreed. It was overkill. The necklace ruined the line of the dress. She should have followed the rule about taking one thing off when you head out for a glamorous evening.

How about some love for Helen Mirran? I thought she looked awesome without looking too dowdy.

And her hair and makeup were lovely, too!

Bold and perfectly American. (loved her SoCal relaxed glam hairdo too.)

I have to disagree -- I thought she looked ready for Baywatch from the waist up. Entirely too casual for the Oscars, especially since she was nominated. But Janet was a fan ... so we're on the fence here.

I could discuss this forever, but will try to keep my comments brief: Best: Jennifer Hudson - absolutely stunning. 2nd Best: Marisa Tomei Fails: Nicole Kidman Cate Blanchett (cat vomit yellow on the shoulders of her lovely lilac gown?) ScarJo's dress was good but her hair was bad. Bunch of outfits ruined by the wrong jewelry: Gwyneth, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman (tassel earrings too matchy matchy) And Melissa Leo's dress looked like a project I made with doilies in arts and crafts class as a child. Thanks for the chat!

Thanks for joining us!

Gwyneth Paltrow in theat sleek metallic dress by Calvin Klein. Most unique and fashion-foward of the bunch.

A vote for Gwynnie for best dressed. But that performance? Egads. Save it for karaoke ... or "Glee."

I can't find a photo of Anne's blue dress. Can you post a link?

#6 in this gallery shows her blue dress.

That was horrific. "Look, everyone, here is my chest!"

I did ... I thought she looked radiant and beautiful, and the dress was interesting. Not something everyone could (or should) wear, but I think she can pull off the very fashion-forward choices she makes.

I loved, loved, loved her dress. I hope I am not the only one!

I think Reese W. looked like she was going to prom - in fact, I wore a similar dress and hairdo to prom about ten years ago. Gwyneth Paltrow looked like she needed a sandwich and a break from botox. I loved Cate Blanchett as well. I didn't love Natalie Portman on the red carpet - she didn't look too "wow' - but loved her on stage, so maybe she was just a tired pregnant woman outside. I think you are right that it was a bland carpet - I know everyone liked Halle Berry, but she seems to wear the same flesh-toned strapless dress every year. Oh, a shout out for Jennifer Hudson too. Wow.

We agree about Reese Witherspoon, but not so much on Jennifer Hudson. Her tangerine dress certainly made a statement but I thought her hair was too prim for it. Also, I'm one with the crowd who liked Halle Berry's dress. I thought the pale sequins and tulle flattered her gorgeous face and body. She doesn't always weare flesh-tones; she wore an equally fantastic dress to the Golden Globes. It was vintage and it was black.

Can we retire the strapless dress with feathers on the bottom. Last night, it was Hilary Swank, but it's already been worn by Diane Lane and Penelope Cruz.

I wasn't a fan of Swank's sequin-top and feathery bottom dress either. It just didn't seem to do anything for her very lovely figure.

My God, what was THAT? And then having some gold things on her shoulders? More hideous than what Mark Ruffalo's wife wore. But on a positive note, where can I get Helena Bonham Carter's fan shaped purse?

Cate Blanchett is turning out to be quite the divisive subject today! And I think I might be the only one who thought Sunrise Coigney's Gaultier dress was kind of cool ... especially considering she probably had to procure her own outfit (as opposed to borrowing or commissioning something custom). Not sure about that purse -- is there a boutique in Crazytown? (I kid -- I actually love hHBC's unabashed quirkiness.)

at the Oscars decided to not wear a tuxedo? Sure one could wear something weird or outrageous, or dumb. But is there something good a man could wear other than a tuxedo?

I'm sure there is, but I think the traditional tuxedo really looks good for an evening like the Oscars. Take Colin Firth, for example. Fabulous.

With that hairdo, I thought she was Carrie Underwood.

Barbie or Brigitte Bardot were my first two guesses -- which adds to the surprise that some are calling it fresh and modern. Retro? Absolutely. Cute? Of course she's cute, she's Reese Witherspoon. But that doesn't mean we have to like the dress/hair combo.

I was all ready with my champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries to watch the Oscars. I got through the red carpet show, and then my toddler asked very, very nicely and politely if he could watch Shaun the Sheep. Sigh. I hope he appreciates my sacrifice. At least I got to see the red carpet. (BTW, is Christian Bale playing Grizzly Adams in a movie? That beard has got to go.)

I'm sure he will appreciate your sacrifice, if not now then sometime soon. I'm on the same page as you about Christian Bale's beard. Why does he want to cover up that good-looking face with fuzz?

I was channel surfing during the red carpet shows and thought the lighting during the ABC presentation made the clothes look much more vibrant. Anyone else notice this?

I thought ABC had a bit of a pink/red tint, which made everyone's teeth look less than stellar. And you know they all hopped in the chair for a whitening treatment before the show ...

i thought she looked absolutely amazing! from the pixie haircut to the totally flattering short sleeved gown, this was a total 180 from her golden globe flower sprinkled disaster of a look!

I liked it too ... with that hair, she can almost do no wrong.

Armani Prive gowns stole the show; especially that copper dress!

Thanks for chiming in!

totally agree with the "halle berry looks the same on every red carpet" thing. though she may not always wear the flesh toned dress, it's always the same style (strapless, fitted, frothy on the bottom). aside from her oscar winning elie saab maroon number, i can't think of any dress she has worn that has really stood out. plus, that hairdo and makeup is always the same, so it's hard to differentiate her looks.

Then, again, I give her credit for knowing the dresses to wear that will show off her numerous assets.

I only caught a glimpse of her, but it seemed very "Miss Havisham"-severe.

Um, I concur. This is a little frightening.

thought the dress was great, i don't think she was very comfortable in it. on the red carpet, she looked so stiff and like the dress was wearing her. and i don't know what it is, but she was just so angry while presenting! and i really didn't like the hair, some kind of weird fancy ponytail-y thing.

I think you nailed the problem with Jennifer Hudson. She didn't look comfortable. The hair really didn't help the situation, it was so tight and "done."  She looked nervous for some reason, too.


I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought her dress didn't fit. It looked funny on top. I REALLY liked Jennifer Hudson's dress. And I thought Natalie Portman was the one who really didn't look like she wanted to be there. Although she looked fantastic.

Between Natalie and Michelle Williams (and ... ahem ... James Franco), neither seemed very present. And didn't it seem like a lot of people stayed home? Looking back at red carpet photos, many of the usual suspects were noticeably absent.

Is it the new "in" thing to not tie a tie correctly as demonstrated by Robert Downing Jr. and Jude Law? Both the tie and the bowtie were seriously askew. But maybe that was on purpose?

It may have been on purpose, part of their little act there.

I know that she's not everyone's cut of tea fashion-wise, but I loved her dress. I think she looks really good in those fitted corset tops and I loved the shredded sleeves. I thought the fan clutch was a nice touch--good to see a clutch that's not a rectangle. I was watching the AP online red carpet show, and she showed them a garter she was wearing with a British flag hanging from it. So nice to see an age-appropriate dress on Hailee Steinfield--she looked so pretty and excited. And everyone needs to bow down before Helen Mirren. She really shows how its done.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

What about Mark Ruffallo's wife -- Sunrise or Sunset or something? Her dress was terrible, so dated and disco-dead. And her bust looked flat and awful, at least in the gallery on the WaPo site.

Also, can you pls post a better photo of Cate Blanchett's dress than the one in the waPo gallery? Can't get a good look... Thx

Sunrise Coigney is her name. Her dress.

Cate Blanchett's dress in full view.

While some of her dresses last night weren't the best, they were certainly better than the black and white "bow" dress she wore a couple of years ago. Sure it was a Valentino dress, but the bow dress was silly. Her taste has definitely matured over the years.

I think the best dress she wore all evening was the white strapless chiffon with the jeweled bodice. It suited her better than her other choices, which were too old or too silly (like that gold fringe number).

Did you see her dress? I could not tell if she was wearing a wrap over her dress or if one side of her dress had a long, black puffy sleeve. Whatever it was, it looked weird on TV.

Probably a little too editorial for the red carpet -- half-and-half dresses look best in photo shoots, for sure. I still kind of like it though.

Loved everything she wore, and amazed at all the different hairstyles over the course of the evening. She must have had a fashion SWAT team attending to her backstage. Shame about the actual hosting--although I'd say that was much more Franco's fault. He was a total dud. Liked Mila Kunis's dress, except that the lace on the decolletage looked like weird tattoos at first. Hated ScarJo's hair. I liked both the bright colors many wore AND the nude/neutral and sparkles that some wore. Better than too much black. Helena Bonham Carter was positively understated, for her. Colin Firth is showing his age a bit, but so well that I doubt anyone minds.

Agree with you on most everything but Anne Hathaway's array of dresses.  She looked best in the white strapless with the jeweled bodice. The other ones didn't suit her very well in my opinion. As for Colin Firth, he was probably tired after tireless promoting "The King's Speech." Loved his look in Tom Ford tuxedo. Elegant.

Such a severe haircut paired w/ a very 80's silhouette. Just. too. much. - yuck.

I loved her hairdo. The Jean-Paul Gaultier dress was an interesting choice. Don't forget -- she's not the movie star.


I read that Colin Firth's wife, Livia Giuggioli, has been wearing dresses to the awards ceremonies this year that are sustainable and ethical (in terns of materials, labour rights, etc). Last night's was made from "recycled" vintage dresses of the 1930s (the era of "The King's Speech." Thoughts?

If she's been doing this for each ceremony (can only confirm last night's at the moment), it's admirable ... I thought she looked very pretty last night.

Reese would have looked wonderful had Julia Roberts not done that look 10 years ago (even the hair). I, too, loved Cate Blanchett's dress. (I think we're in the minority on that.) Nicole Kidman. While I loved the dress, it just made her look hippy and in need of Spanx. Didn't think it was possible but true.

I remember Julia Roberts's vintage look from 10 years ago. I didn't like the look then, and I certainly didn't like it on Reese Witherspoon.  I didn't think Nicole Kidman's dress made her look hippy. I may be the only person who thought it was architecturally interesting.

Do you have any quick thoughts on/impressions of accessories (jewelry), shoes and hairstyles?

Other than a noticeable lack of them? It seemed a lot of attendees either forgot jewelry completely (Hilary Swank), or made unfortunate choices with it (Amy Adams). I saw a lot of prom hair and a lot of I-did-it-myself hair, neither of which wowed me ...

She had a great dress, and seems to generally nail the red carpet. I don't remember too many I hate. I'm pretty surprised so many people hated Cate Blanchett. I also loved Natalie Portman's dress, but then I'm six months pregnant and feeling her pain!

Thanks for joining!

But that dress made Nicole Kidman look like Judy Jetson! And I don't care how thin you are, no one needs HIP FLAPS.


I haven't heard you mention her yet. I liked her dress - maybe because it was actually interesting, a la Cate - but it got a lot of hate this am. Thoughts?

It definitely looked better on TV than in photos, which made her look a bit stumpy. A decent, age-appropriate choice ... but once she opens her mouth, is anyone really looking at her outfit anyway?

ok, so am i the only one on the planet who thought gwyneth paltrow looked horrible last night? i thought she looked old and washed out, the hair looked dirty and limp, and i did not care for the weird earrings and waist brooch thingy. top that with her horrific performance, and it was just a horrible horrible night for her all around!

Are you talking about when she sang or in the Calvin Klein dress she wore on the red carpet. I agree with you about her gown on the red carpet, but I thought she looked lovely in the metallic Calvin Klein.


Does the glitz of the night indicate the economy is recovering. No more somber simple dresses.

Agreed that there was a lot less black than in years before. But there wasn't as much jewelry, which many chatters have pointed out.

How hard can it be to find a good-fitting tuxedo? So many of the actors looked uncomfortable. You'd think if they were such good actors, they could play the part of being at east in something they're not used to wearing. Any men's fashion statement made last night?

I don't think they were uncomfortable because the tuxedos didn't fit. Just that they're not used to wearing them!

Love the Oscar chats, but not the negative comments about spouse's outfits. I just think "civilians" should be off-limits, unless it's to say something nice. Same goes for teens and kids.

Generally, I agree (hence my defending Sunrise) -- you have to consider that "civilians" have to dress themselves and don't have the luxury of borrowing from this designer and that jewelry company. But then again, everyone can look in the mirror before they leave the house, so there is that ...

Was it just me, or did his tux look too small? He looked like a schoolboy at times.

A little petulant, I agree.

Thanks for all your comments and questions. It's always good sport to hear what everyone thinks about the clothes on the Red Carpet. For more fashion give and take, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

In This Chat
Holly Thomas
Holly E. Thomas writes "Trend Report," a weekly fashion and beauty column in the WP Magazine.

Fashion Q&A's Archive
Janet Bennett Kelly
Janet Bennett Kelly is the online fashion editor for The Washington Post and the editor of DC Scout.
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