(Melissa Leo, winner for Guest Star in a Comedy, in a really interesting take on a tux, plus a tiny yet bulky blue scarf that stylists probably had to restrain themselves from yanking off her whenever she passed by.)
The Emmys were last night! I watched the whole thing so I could help The A.V. Club livetweet it, and it turns out it was terrible, with the possible brief exception of the So You Think You Can Dance team breaking rank by putting effort into something. I do not regret the minutes I spent checking the quality of light on last night’s Boardwalk Empire instead. (They’re still in their early-season sowing, but as always, their actors are almost universally interesting, and there’s already enough looming disaster that the payoff should be really interesting.)
But of course, the real interest was outside the Emmys, where stylist teams and harried makeup artists were brandishing platform heels and eyeshadow brushes to herald the beginning of red carpet season, where their brand loyalty will be pushed to the limit, the delivery of “What are you wearing?” begins its development into a surreal chorus (destined to eventually underscore a David Lynch movie about celebrity culture), and actress after actress will have the job of a lifetime as they have to pretend to be excited about shoving their hand into a box that’s been decorated with tiny topiary wallpaper as their manicures are judged live on national television by something named The Mani Cam.
I’m assuming that this year’s Emmys red-carpet energy went mostly into the manicures, since almost everyone who had to Manicam it was wearing a ring twice the width of any of their actual fingers and on top of having to know their designers and jewelers, at least two of them were asked the provenance of their nail polish. With all this tertiary prep, it’s no surprise that many of the dresses seemed a little lackluster, though some were lovely, and as always for a red carpet, there were some doozies. Early trends seem to be blue, black (yaaay), and dresses onto which someone has rapidly stapled dozens of things nobody wanted or asked for or anything.
WHITE LIGHTNING DIVISION
Always a favorite: it looks slightly bridal (which is handy when you want people to give you awards and marry your career), it catches the eye on a crowded carpet, and there’s no better way to prove you are industry-standard slender than by donning a reflective column of white.
Sandrine Holt, wearing some flapper-statue business beautifully.
Cobie Smulders, actual statue? We’ll never know.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a very funny actress in a dress that is perfectly fine, and seems like background texture for a more interesting dress.
Kata Mara, in that more interesting dress, reminding me not to be so hasty to discount Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Lesson learned.
Ellen Burstyn, in a very nice evening jacket and some subtle sparkle.
Lily Rabe. If she can enjoy her neutral-wrapped toga/tee half-dress that makes me wonder if she’s secretly cosplaying someone who’s a welder by day and an actress by night, I think we can all support her. What a feeling!
But not everyone enjoyed the vaguely-bridal feeling of strapping on a pale neutral. For some, the only option for a formal occasion is to go as dark and awesome as you can.
GOTH DANCE PARTY DIVISION
They’re the cool kids and they know it, and when you look at them, you wish you were out behind the theater wing, smoking clove cigarettes and making fun of the senior superlatives.
Vera Farmiga! Love it. (This is the kind of thing I can see wearing to the opening of a Punk couture fashion exhibit, unrelated to anything in particular that may have happened lately, similar-theme-wise.)
Amy Poehler’s a vintage Goth; her synth band does a lot of Twenties covers.
Christina Hendricks is a classic Goth; she has a pair of jeans with passages of Christina Rossetti poems written on them in Sharpie.
Lena Headey, punk goth, who I genuinely feel would have been happy to match her white shoes to some white tap pants and march down the red carpet waving at everyone, because she’s just not taking any of it seriously. (I dig it, Lena. First round’s on me.)
Merritt Weaver, utterer of the best acceptance speech in years, who’s not particularly Gothed out but probably got to stand with them after ditching her Homecoming Court date for being a jerk, and just wanted to have a smoke and talk shit about everyone. She’s already getting cool points in this picture for not quite being able to hide how weird she thinks this whole thing is. Also her dress is Old Hollywood and very nice, and we know my feelings on a nice evening sleeve.
Robin Wright, leader of this pack, is so Goth she’s skewing kind of Battle Princess of Mars, and I’m fine with it.
NOBILITY OF MARS DIVISION
And Robin Wright had an entourage this year! A stalwart cadre of ladies weren’t afraid to risk looking like a Star Trek ambassador, and strapped into some slightly-SF dresses that actually mostly worked, self-casting themselves in some amazing space-court intrigue.
Betsy Brandt, Duchess of Mars. Seemingly loyal and true, but from an ancient house whose patriarch was a traitor. Will Robin Wright of Mars be able to trust her? Will she know before it’s too late?
Gia Coppola, Saucy Garden-party Attendee of Mars, who doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the actual court mechanics, but loves a good pannier (and probably swans past at a crucial moment, rescues our heroine from an awkward social situation by dropping a bon mot of devastating gossip, and swans right past again, because she can move quickly thanks to her skirt).
Jessica Lange, Casually-pollinating Matriarch of Mars. These ladies eschew pregnancy; their bodies allow them to grow a fine fluff when they have decided to reproduce, and the spores will float gently on the warm breezes of the Red Planet until they find ground on which to take root and grow into a huge plant that will eventually part its leaves and reveal a child of Mars. (Sure, that makes no sense, but the biology of the actual Princess of Mars was no better, so.)
Kristin Connolly, Deco Chevron Assistant of Mars, who has a winsome face, and is often ordered to stand still in a room when someone wants a little visual interest, but not too much!
And Heidi Klum, Lady Trying-Too-Hard of Mars.
BLUE DRESSES DIVISION
For those who didn’t want to risk looking like a guest star on TNG, which I respect, a beautiful color can still get the job done. Particularly blue, apparently – there were so many that I had to do a necessary break from the usual ROY G BIV, because otherwise it would have been flickers of color drowned in a sea of semi-matte space fabrics and a little matte crepe-back satin.
Edie Falco, who prepared for awards season this year by finding a jolly good town where they could even dye her eyes to match her gown. (She also gave a touching speech about James Gandolfini during the perhaps-ill-advised “Someone talks about a dead person” segments they had scattered throughout the night, and then a huge slideshow of people who apparently didn’t rate anyone taking up air time to talk about their contributions. Not that it was awkward at all.)
Tina Fey, who seems increasingly resigned to being squeezed into liquid dresses, and the enormous platform heels she was wearing as if to keep her hem out of the dirt. (Though I actually think she might rate the Secret Designer Hemming Service given to short celebrities of a certain level of fame, in which case someone chose those shoes for her on purpose, which she doesn’t seem thrilled about.)
Margo Martindale, looking lovely. I really enjoy a well-done jeweled collar in lieu of a necklace, and I appreciate some subtle cape action.
Allison Williams, in a standard dress in a great shade of blue, hemmed to a magical length that is almost but never quite too long.
Jane Krakowksi, in an odd rear-peplum superseamed teal number, wearing some of the jewels that will be thrown into Jenna Maroney’s open Emmys coffin, because somehow Jenna Maroney has gone unrecognized as a character and will never win an Emmy now unless we crowdfund a miniseries. I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU, RURAL JUROR.
Connie Britton. Beautiful color and texture in a classic silhouette, unexpected in recent years, for good reason (velvet can skew upholstery pretty fast), but done just right.
NOT BLUE DRESSES DIVISION
There were some! Some.
Mayim Bialik, in a lovely green dress that’s a slightly better color on top than on the skirt, in a great cut. I think maybe the flowers on her cuffs make it look like she’s cosplaying Poison Ivy and wrapping her entire midsection tightly in vines for plot reasons unbeknownst, but there are far worse things; it’s such a nice look overall that she doesn’t even end up in the Things on my Dress Division. You’re welcome, Mayim.
Alfre Woodard, whose dress is a gorgeous color, stamped with a pretty cool foil pattern, and edged in a lacey business I could have done without.
Sofia Vergara, wearing the dress she always wears; she reminds me of a ’90s TV cartoon character who had an animation template for exactly one dress, your color choices could vary so long as your distinctive silhouette never did.
Lena Dunham, in a dress that looks about right for what I think of Lena Dunham.
Linda Cardellini. I tend to like these origami dresses the more kelpy they look, since when they’re too symmetrical they lose the carefully-unstudied feeling and when they’re too loose it looks like a Bedsheet Emergency; this is somewhere in the middle of that extremely scientific range.
Alyson Hannigan, in a purple mess.
Anna Chlumsky, aggressively foreshortened by the camera, in a dress that looked very Deco cool when we weren’t sitting in some kind of judge’s seat staring down at her.
Rose Byrne. She doesn’t want any pleats or ruffles. She wants a dress so sleek that if you stare at this picture long enough – a picture in which she casts no shadow – from the hem up, it starts to look as though she is a 2D cutout leaning against the backdrop. (I can’t unsee this; I hope you can’t, either.)
Michelle Dockery, who had to walk to the red carpet over a mountain of dresses thrown at her by designers desperate to have her even so much as touch their garments with her little cat feet. This is the dress that she chose. And I’m torn on it; it’s an interesting color combination, but something about the neckline with that hem makes it look as though she hiked the front of the dress up to tie that huge bow behind her neck, and I’m not sure that’s the intended effect, or that it’s worth it. She’s a budding style icon, that’s clear by now, but I’m surprised how often I don’t get why her team put her in whatever they put her in.
Mindy Kaling, in a dress that neatly handles the “glitz around the neckline” requirement, and also evening sleeves!
It also avoids the feeling that the embellishments are tacked on, a phenomenon I often think of as the Project Runway effect, for what I’m sure is absolutely no reason.
Of course, those dresses happen anyway.
I CAN PUT THE MOST THINGS ON MY DRESS DIVISION
Well, let’s see, shall we?
Anna Gunn, graciously opening the division with a partial black-lace overlay that’s actually fine.
Elisabeth Moss, cautiously raising the bet with allover texture and sparkle, but done subtly and in classic colors.
Emilia Clarke, swanning into the lead with a dress that looks ever so slightly as if it has been papier-mached with Kleenex.
“I can carefully stretch a leather bow tie across my bosom,” says Zosia Mamet.
“I have forgotten how to inhabit clothing,” says January Jones, whose main talent is inhabiting clothing.
Kiernan Shipka, getting away with it because she’s literally like thirteen and it’s still fine for her.
Aubrey Plaza, who thought she’d have to make do with racing stripes, but found a carton of flower barrettes at the last second. Entry salvaged!
Laura Dern is stoked. “There’s no way anyone can beat me in this category! I have this in the BAG.”
And Kerry Washingon says, “YOU RANG?”
Head over to Yahoo! for more where these came from.