As soon as the statues have all been handed out, fashion critics start making their binary lists of who did and did not "get it right" on the red carpet. We at Daisy Fairbanks headquarters don't usually like to participate in the snark parade. But I'd like to send kudos to Marisa Tomei for the stunning vintage 1950s couture dress she wore, by designer Charles James.
Let's zoom in on the bodice so we can see the impeccable construction there.
So lovely, amazing structure.
Unfortunately for Ms. Tomei, she ended up on many "worst" lists, though some critics said it was due to stylistic choices of hair (up-do?) & makeup (red lips?) or that it needed different jewelry (the diamond and sapphire sunflower earrings from Van Cleef & Arpels, while lovely, are an odd pairing.) I wonder if those who were quick to criticize knew the importance of the dress, or if they were simply looking at it as another satin & chiffon gown by another unknown designer. Would they be the same people who would see a painting by Jackson Pollock and quip that their toddler could do better?
No matter what critics think, we're happy to know that there are a least a handful of stars who understand and respect fashion history. Charles James may be little known in contemporary fashion circles, but in his day the gowns he created were known to be of the highest quality. Today his dresses are rare, and highly prized by fashion collectors and historians.
There was another look on the runway that we must point out. Livia Firth, wife of Best Actor award winner Colin Firth, is receiving kudos for her dress. Creative Director for Eco Age, U.K. based company specializing in environmentally friendly lifestyle products, Ms Firth also blogs at Vogue.com where she created her own Green Carpet Challenge, and vowed to chronicle her experiences wearing ethical, sustainable and green fashion during awards season. She's a fan of Mad Men, and professes an appreciation for vintage fashion and design, even showing off borrowed vintage jewelry, and accessories by Roger Viver.
For the Oscars, Firth entered into a collaboration with Gary Harvey, a designer known for making dresses out of other items, from jeans to newspapers. She writes that "Gary’s design is made from 11 different dresses. He has scoured Southeast London for the right pieces, from Cancer Research shops to vintage boutiques, such as 360 DEGREES-VINTAGE in Greenwich." The owner of the shop, on her facebook page, writes that "he bought the very best gowns but the end result was fantastic."
Hmmm. Livia Firth is a beautiful woman. The dress looks, how shall I say this, patched together at best. But regardless of the result, is it really "green" to take apart 11 of the very best gowns at a high end vintage shop and cut them to pieces to make one dress? Said Firth, “It’s really beautiful—it’s pretty but also has a message.” We're not really sure what that message is. If it's that wearing vintage is a good idea, we agree, but we'd rather use the example of Marisa Tomei.
I'm sure Ms. Firth's heart was in the right place, and I applaud her mission to promote sustainable fashion. Of course the idea of recycling is a good one - if the thing you're recycling is otherwise unuseable. Perhaps the dresses had no major label to which they could be attributed, but that does not make them obsolete.
And for the sake of irony, we noticed that Ms. Firth's dress is poorly derivative of another famous dress - The Butterfly Gown by none other than America's first couturier, the aforementioned Charles James.
--- UPDATE ---
Our friend Jody at Couture Allure has been in contact with the designer, who now says that "not one of these garments was suitable to wear in its current state, due to distress, damage or decay."
This elicits another "hmmm..." from us. Either the dresses were the best stock from an upscale vintage boutique, or they were damaged & decayed, but it's doubtful they could be both. Mr. Harvey also asserts that the dresses "were sourced from the millions of dresses available in the second hand market-place, there is literally tons and tons of vintage clothing out there," a claim that we also refute. There are not millions of original 1930s dresses of the "very best" quality, good enough to be resold at a quality vintage boutique. In fact, they have become much more rare as the years go by, and as some of the very best get cut to shreds for "repurposing."
--- UPDATE AGAIN ---
Livia Firth blogs about her dress on the Huffington Post.