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Published March 07 2010

A Swift display of Oscar’s worst fashion don’ts

Stupid Hollywood stylists.

They’ve taken so much fun out of the Academy Awards (which airs at 7 tonight on ABC). Long gone are the days when Liz Taylor would just throw on a Halston muumuu and show up to give an award.

Now celebrities spend more time choosing Oscar finery than they do choosing scripts. They are surrounded by a flurry of handlers and stylists who make sure they will look attractive from every angle. They are obsessed with wearing the perfect dress in the ideal color by the hottest designer.

This has really put a damper on the annual “Red Carpet Don’ts” list.

Thankfully, we can always look to the history books – or, at least, Google – for famous fashion faux pas. And so here it is: My list of Five Unflattering Moments in Oscar Finery.

Watch tonight. Who knows? Maybe the stylists will stumble, and we’ll be able to add to the list.

1. Seriously, I love Bette Davis. That voice, those gestures, that fierce determination to strip every bit of prettiness or vanity from her performances. And then there are those eyes – huge, intense, bulging orbs like a hyperthyroidal Chihuahua. But even if Davis’ performances rarely left you flat, the “gown” she wore to accept her 1936 Best Actress Oscar for “Dangerous” certainly did. It consisted of an unattractive, ill-fitting suit that barely looked sufficient for brunch at the Brown Derby, much less to accept the movie industry’s most prestigious award.

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a frumpy night.

2. My friend used to have an Aunt Eppie. Aunt Eppie showed up at family weddings dressed in something ridiculous, inserted herself into all the photos and danced with herself during the Grand March.

Sally Kirkland appears to be the Oscar’s Aunt Eppie.

Never mind that Kirkland’s career is colder than the vinyl seat of a Ford Focus in mid-January.

She never fails to show up at this grand event, looking like a cross between Divine and a Mardi Gras float.

Case in point: This hot mess, complete with super-hero cape and weary falsies, which she wore to the 2007 ceremony.

The only missing accessories: clown shoes and a live cougar.

3. Where do old swans go to die?

Preferably across the torsos of Icelandic songstresses.

In 2001, Bjork ruffled fashion feathers worldwide when she paraded down the red carpet in a dress fashioned to resemble a deceased Cygnus. Fashionistas worldwide weighed in. Was she kidding? Was she daft? Would this questionable fashion choice be her swan song?

Turns out Bjork was kidding, and her career emerged unscathed.

If only we could say the same for the poor swan.

Cause of death: embarrassment.

4. If Rob Halford married “Mad Max’s” Aunty Entity, their offspring would look like ’80s-vintage Cher.

The Decade of Excess, after all, was all about the former Mrs. Sonny Bono. She dated that bagel guy. She donned a fishnet bodysuit to dance before three-fouths of the U.S. Navy. Most importantly, she spurned fashion police with her built-to-shock Oscar ensembles.

My personal favorite: the post-apocalyptic showgirl look she sported to accept her Best Actress statue in 1986.

And, to top it all off, a spiky, ostrich-feather hat that looked more lethal than her hip bones.

Just wait till she gets a Lifetime Achievement Award.

I can see her now: riding a motorized scooter and sporting a leather bikini.

5. When in doubt, they say, wear black.

Apparently, “they” have never met Angelina Jolie.

Jolie’s macabre turn in a black, form-fitting gown at the 2000 ceremonies just screamed for unflattering comparisons to Morticia Adams.

But even Uncle Fester couldn’t compete with the most bloodcurdling specter of the night: Jolie’s oddly intimate behavior with her equally creepy brother.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com