[Before we get to current fashion, I have an article at The Toast about Victorian rational dress and cycling, “I don’t think I’ll venture on dual garmenture”.]
Ah, the Emmys. The Emmys can mean a lot of things. An evening to honor the year’s most awardable TV shows based on a complicated rubric in which actual quality is often way down the list; a way for designers and stylists to begin the complicated mating dance that will eventually culminate in the Oscars – or, for a lucky few, the Met Costume Institute Gala. For us at home, it’s a chance to celebrate the increasingly murky TV/movie divide, and get early hints about what the Stylists’ Guild has in mind for us in the coming red carpet season, just like whatever the first vegetables are that bloom in a season of however long growing stuff takes, I know shockingly little about vegetables.
It was, by and large, a lovely and tasteful year on the red carpet for the Emmys, an awards ceremony in which almost everyone has realized the cost-benefit analysis of hiring whoever needs hiring to make you look effortlessly, fashionably employable. I appreciate that. I also appreciate everyone who showed up looking slightly ridiculous, because they serve a useful purpose, just like things in a vegetable patch that provide shade and whatever even though they’re probably poisonous.
Let’s run down this red carpet.
My pick for look of the night: Robin Wright showed up in a long-sleeve faux-tux backless pantsuit and no jewelry, and it looked damn good. (Yes, she has that weird hem red carpet pants so often do where it looks like your legs are just tubes instead of having feet and shoes, but ugh, look at this, it’s a pass.)
But honestly, it was a tough call this year. Deco looks poised to be a huge trend this red carpet season, so a lot of people looked pretty great.
LOOKIN’ GREAT DIVISION
Amanda Crew, whose work I had to look up because I’ve never watched an episode of Silicon Valley, in what is a serious contender for my look of the night. The t-shirt formal is a tricky but rewarding silhoutte, and the creeping Deco ivy of her embellishment is gorgeous without taking over the lines of of the dress. It’s like the most beautiful silver filigree wedding dish in the world, and I love it.
Taissa Farmiga. God help me, I think this dress is so fantastically, fascinatingly oddball that I love it impossibly much. It’s like a horror move broke out during a bridal shower, neck-first. What a delight.
Lizzy Caplan, whose dress was a gorgeous, chic black cutout dress, and a white train that honestly did nothing for the rest of the silhouette except to declare that she was prepared to walk all the way up to that podium with all that white trailing behind her and pick up a freaking Emmy if she got even a sliver of a chance to do it. I’m not sure if she ever really thought she had a chance, but I like to think this operated as a pysch-out on her way across the red carpet. There will be another season of Masters of Sex, and oh, Lizzy Caplan will be ready.
Melissa McCarthy, who I always love when she goes slightly starker on the red carpet, and whose dress manages to carry several textures in harmony.
Kate McKinnon, whose dress I am way into even if I am not 100% certain of the logistics of the lining in the vest.
Allison Tolman, in a lovely ball gown in a delightful color for her, whose stylists have made me realize the evergreen problems of a one-shoulder dress with long hair if you want to leave some of it down. Does it meet the shoulder of your dress, creating an unbroken line that, if someone played around with the settings on her graphics program late at night when she should have been asleep, looks like her hair has melted onto her dress into one Godiva mass? One would think not, but to move it to the opposite shoulder ruins the empty-shoulder effect you want from a one-shoulder gown in the first place! And yet why half-down hair instead of a soft updo that would give you the best of both shoulders? I need a decision tree on this, there is a lot going on.
Mayim Bialik, going Liz the First But With Attached Pockets in my favorite shade of purple (that shade of purple is Essentially Blue), and a ferns-and-daises lace that’s kind of better the more of it there is, which is not something you can say about all laces.
Amy Poehler, to whom the phrase “What if it was Deco but super casual, with like, sexy beach hair?” was palpably uttered.
Julianna Marguiles, who clearly knew on her way in that she was walking away with the statue.
Michelle Dockery. I love the shape and drape of this dress so much, and the pink and the blue are both stunning. (The green’s a harder sell, but the look still works.)
Christine Baranski, in my favorite cape.
Kim Dickens, who approaches everything with the all-business mein you secretly hope for from Kim Dickens, is wearing this dress like it’s the most utilitarian possible dress for reasons that aren’t your business, and there’s a bangle belt around her waist and a clutch in her hand and she’s supposed to be showing them both off so here they are, shiny, doing just what they’re shined here to do.
A lot of the women on the carpet belonged to a single show that the Emmys quietly ignored!
LITERALLY JUST PEOPLE FROM ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK DIVISION
Laverne Cox, in an honest-to-god Wonder Woman formal dress. (I did not think I would have to qualify this, but I have to: of all the drape-capes that appeared on the red carpet last night, it’s my second favorite.)
Uzo Aduba, looking fantastic, though if we are being honest I could do without the chiffon ruffly bit on the mermaid tail. Still, it’s an amazing look. Also a good reference for when someone says “The bangle bracelet makes the outfit really sing” and you think “How can a bracelet possibly do that much work?” And yet, here we are.
Kate Mulgrew, whose subdued dress and amazingly careless sheer sleeves look straight-up like she’s here for a Tony, somehow. (Not a bad thing.)
Samira Wiley, in the Lemon Curd version of the Original Barbie Dress we will be seeing a lot this evening, and which will never be my favorite silhouette, but it’s a stunning color on her even if the seams look like points of articulation on a formal-event action figure.
Danielle Brooks, lover of geometric lace, wearer of a skirt whose slit was one design element too many.
Taylor Schilling, whose dress was a nicely Deco beige business until she started talking about how her clutch only had a phone in it because there was a team of people assigned to carry the stuff she actually had to use later, with the unspoken subtext that it both amused and quietly frightened her, so she’s still wearing a nicely Deco beige business, but she’s well, well aware.
Laura Prepon, in a gorgeous color, and a silhouette that thanks to Project Runway the nation already knows as “overworked.”
Natasha Lyonne, in a dress that felt less like its own dress than a Kate Mulgrew Practice Dress, somehow, and that’s just fine.
Not to be outdone, Game of Thrones sent every woman it could find who had the time, either from hiatus or from being killed already.
GAME OF THRONES DIVISION
Lena Headey always dresses like the head of a vaguely post-apocalyptic punk enclave who has to dress well because the punk enclave demands it but who has clearly barely ground out her cigarette butt on the hand of a willing underling before the picture was taken. I adore it.
Sibel Kekilli, looking elegant and lovely, and reminding us that the bangle belt is happening all around us.
Rose Leslie, who is being amazing in Utopia and I hope we can all start officially talking about it soon, in a way I don’t really feel like saying much about this dress, except that the very-close colorblocking combined with her hair looks slightly like a really fancy drowned ghost, and I’m into it.
Natalie Dormer, in a very interesting dress whose lines and colorblocking are interesting even if things seme to get a little murky past the knees, literally cannot stop making this face. I have four pictures of her from different points on the carpet both posed and candid, and she is either making this face or caught in the desperate effort to make this face as quickly as possible before the shutter goes off. From an objective standpoint I suppose we can all admire that level of commitment to a shtick, and you might as well, since she’s never stopping.
In terms of trends in color, the red carpet saw more white than the Emmy winners themselves (TIMELY)!
OPTIC WHITE DIVISION
Sofia Vergara, Eyebrow-Raising Platform Spinnee, is almost always in a bombshell dress. Less often is she wearing the gown of Arachne Venomina, Queen of the Space Spiders, and suddenly that seems a shame, because why wouldn’t you?
Angela Bassett, who looks stunning even (especially?) if that’s gold braid on her cuffs.
Anna Chlumsky, in another great ’30s throwback, and the facial expression of someone who’s just realized she dressed to match the Emmys photo wall and there’s nothing she can do about it now.
Michelle Monaghan, who went Full Bacall for this red carpet and then added the world’s shiniest spike heels, which are both so fabulous and so uncomfortable I’m afraid to look right at them.
Lucy Liu, whose dress is almost amazing except right in the bodice region, where things begin to look like she decided to do a quick plaster cast of herself so it could dry in the sun.
Retta, wearing a perfect accent sash and an overskirt that looks like sheer curtains from the honeymoon suite, which, if you must, is the very nicest place from which to snag your sheer curtains.
But it wasn’t the only standout color on the carpet!
LADY IN RED SMOOTH JAZZ DIVISION
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose kiss bit with Bryan Cranston was funnier than the entire season of Modern Family that won the award last night, has made a red-carpet habit of wearing perfectly nice dresses that pretend to nothing else – usually not overly fussy, overly shiny, overly anything. It’s a good game plan when you’re in it for the long haul. I love the little details on this that make it interesting; the necklace and pleated top look perfect together, and do what my grandmother told me and must have also told Julia every dress should do, and draw attention to your lovely face.
Octavia Spencer, who is wearing a perfectly lovely dress with most of another perfectly lovely dress draped on top of it for no particular reason, but who cuts so fine a figure that I’ll just assume the beads fell off the bottom dress in the cab and woodland creatures descended with the chiffon business to help out.
Christin Hendricks, whose dress has some outstanding embroidery, whose ears have some outstanding earrings, and whose silhouette suffers from Red Carpet Action Figture Articulation right above the knee.
January Jones, who is so done she’s delivering this dress-wearing performance from space, in a dress that benefits enormously from a high-low hemline lined in black to frame a pair of questionable witch shoes, and which, in a year of Deco influence, does not benefit at all from looking like it’s made out of Deco couch fabric.
Claire Danes; once I would have tried to like this dress and its busy necklace and its oddly loose studded evening belt, but it’s just never going to work, just like Claire Danes for me.
Mindy Kaling, another victim of Red Carpet Action Figure Articulation Effect.
I AM REALLY NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR NEW SHOWS DIVISION
Small, but necessary.
Debra Messing, who will not be wearing this dress for long once she starts playing a woman whose life involves being a cop who is also attempting to raise children, SIMULTANEOUSLY.
And Kate Walsh, sunniest mermaid of them all, who will be playing a woman who is also attempting to be a judge, SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Truly, it’s a golden age.
And speaking of golden, every year a few people decide they’re going to dress in something that’s a pile of nonsense just to give people like me something to talk about, and I appreciate it so, so much.
THANK YOU FOR BEIN’ A FRIEND DIVISON
Kiernan Shipka. The the thing is, this dress looks amazing…from one angle. At this angle it looks like she’s cosplaying the Fortress of Solitude with a single belt that’s already fallen off in back so she’s pinned her arms to her sides to try to keep it on until judging..
Sarah Paulson, bravely soldiering on through a seasonal attack by a swarm of laser pointers.
Viola Davis. I love the color, but that bodice is literally Golden Girls material, so this dress could not go anywhere else.
Color amazing. Neckline, perfect. The rest? Remember the Borrowers, where they would make dresses out of hair bows and everything and the scale was always way off because they were tiny people and the velvet hair bows of the world were so super big? Yeah. Anyway, here’s Allison Janney.
Kate Mara. I’ve begun to find it comforting that wherever there’s a red carpet, Kate Mara will show up there in a dress that inevitably looks like it perished of acidic sadness on its way onto her body.
Kaley Kuoco, who honestly just has to be kidding me.
Look at Lena Dunham’s face, though. She knows. She knows. This Fauntleroy haircut and melting-pipe-cleaner ombre? It’s on purpose. She will MAKE you look.
Julia Roberts, whose dress has contracted the kind of maritime buildup that usually only boats get.
Anna Gunn in what is, for reasons only she can know, an exact replica of one someone wore to Homecoming my freshmen year of high school, when everyone involved was fourteen years old, and even then it seemed a little twee.
Katherine Heigl, the fanciest ambassador the 1701-D has ever hosted.
Kerry Washington, wearing a Magic Eye dress that’s trimmed so she looks like the glitter outline of a 2D paper doll.
Julie Bowen, wearing a Magic Eye dress that’s the embodiment of how everyone feels about the show she’s on.
And Betsy Brandt. Sure, the show might have been almost impossibly bleak in its final season, but Brandt wanted to make sure we could all end on a laugh, and I respect that. She didn’t wear this dress for herself, okay? She wore this dress for all of us.