If you’ve ever entertained the idea that all awards ceremonies have become drearily and ineffably interchangeable, Sunday night’s glorious carpet clash changed all that. Owing to what one can only assume was a scheduling malfunction, the Baftas and Grammys went up against each other. While far from ideal for Bafta’s ratings, this calendar faux-pas at least provided an instructive opportunity to compare and contrast two industries’ interpretations of the same dress code.
The different tenor of each event can probably be best summed up by the touching tribute to Dickie Attenborough that played to the Stephen Fry crowd in London just as Gloria Gaynor was ascending the stage in Los Angeles. Or by the fact that it took Madonna’s bum-revealing, S&M mata-whore outfit to rouse any kind of alarm at the Grammys, while all that was required to provoke consternation at the Baftas was the throbbingly topical debate over whether Romola Garai’s Roksanda Illincic calf-length skirt might have been A Bit Too Daytime.
The locations offered another point of distinction: one was at the classically ornate Royal Opera House, amidst the Regency splendour of Covent Garden; the other at Staples Center, a sporting arena in downtown LA.
To be fair, the Grammys had just as many stultifyingly dull moments as the Baftas, with teary earnest winners speeches that will, if any entrepreneurs managed to stay awake, shortly be repackaged into a Sleep app. Thank God (as the Grammy victors frequently and loquaciously did) for the clothes, which did a heroic job of undermining any attempts on the part of The Artists to inject some dignity into proceedings. For every noble sentiment expressed from the stage about the potential in all of us to become better human beings, there were 40,000 smart phones focusing on Beyoncé’s Tit-Tape and Kim Kardashian’s radical (i.e. three inches shorter) hairdo.
The Baftas had almost the reverse problem. When clothes are this classy and tasteful, there’s no potential for any kind of strum, or for that matter, drang. There is simply no Nicki Minaj, or even Jane Fonda equivalent in the British luvvie firmament and this leaves a lacuna in the hilarity stakes.
The statistics tell the sobering story of what happens when class goes head to head with crass. Viewing figures aren’t yet in for the 2015 Grammys, but they peaked in 2012 at 40 million viewers in the US alone (dropping slightly last year). The Baftas’ high point on Sunday was a UK audience of 4.9 million. Perhaps it’s time to voice the hitherto unsayable: Bafta voters must forthwith offer Madonna a fellowship. Think how joyous it would be seeing her accept the honour channelling one of Dame Judi Dench’s kaftans, while attempting to pull off Vanessa Redgrave’s accent. Failing that, give Stephen Fry’s gig to Helena Bonham Carter.
Cleavage versus Minaj
OK, neither of these frocks is particularly classy. Reese Witherspoon’s lack of a supporting cast is particularly cruel since the dress was specifically designed for her by her friend Stella McCartney, “and Stella”, according to Witherspoon, “never lets her girls down”. Hmm. At least the shouty colour of Witherspoon’s fish-tailed sausage-tubing means there’s something to look at other than her particular girls. By contrast, Nicki Minaj’s Tom Ford probably wouldn’t even qualify as a dress under EU legislation.
Neck and Neck
You might have assumed that anything that pitched in above the navel constituted a high neckline at the Grammys. In fact there is a surprising convergence on this. The prim but perfect ivory New Look-inspired dress by Emilia Wickstead that Laura Bailey wore to the Baftas is only fractionally more demure than Rita Ora’s white Pucci casing at the Grammys. Both women realised they’d need another weapon of mass distraction. Ora chose this moment to unveil a pixie crop (or more likely, a wig). Bailey sported an evening bag calculated to bring a smile to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Laura Bailey and Rita Ora
Hair-dressing: the 2015 Rules
As far as this new trend for matching your hair to your frock is concerned, I’m thinking Julie Walters got there first. She was on the red carpet in London hours before Lady Gaga hit the Staples Centre. Also in Julie’s favour is her dress, which a) looked lovely, and b) even more importantly, made her look lovely. Minus points for the Blue Peter shawl she wore on the red carpet, but she’s a relative carpet novice so must be forgiven this lapse into comfort dressing. Lady G’s Brandon Maxwell saggy fandango on the other hand, resembles something no self-respecting turkey would agree to be wrapped in and gives tin foil, or as they say in LA, aluminum, an undeserved bad name.
Julie Walters and Rihanna
The Oh My God Moment
Within nano-seconds of the lovely Romola Garai setting dainty foot on the red carpet outside the ROH, the fashion pundits were in a tizzy. Nice Roksanda outfit, was the consensus, but there was also widespread consternation about whether or not it was “too daytime”. Over in LA, the fashion police are a little harder to shock. Madonna’s backside dangling, free-fall style, out of a Givenchy S&M, Spanish mata-whore corset that may or may not have been inspired by a trip to a Madrid brothel? Meh, same old, same old.
The Bi-cultural Designer
Just when you thought – then stopped yourself; she’s pregnant for God’s sake – Keira Knightley had gone just a tad over the top with this Giambattista Valli monochrome, multi-petalled, multi-layered macaroon of a dress, Rihanna clarified everything. The singer’s even-more-multi-layered, deep salmon pink explosion – also by Giambattista Valli – made her look like a giant hallucinogenic cloud on its way to a debutante ball. The shock of not seeing Rihanna’s tush (she deputised that job to Madonna), shouldn’t obfuscate the fact that in its own delightfully excessive way, this dress is gorgeous. OTT Keira? You’re not even a beginner.
Keira Knightley and Rihanna
You’d think after Amal Alamuddin Clooney’s creepy glove display at the Golden Globes, stylists would be coiled like springs, poised to whip off their client’s last minute “idiosyncratic” personal touches before they got anywhere near a lens. But perhaps Natalie Dormer snuck these on in the car after she’d waved off her stylist (look, no gloves, promise). Then again, perhaps, as seems likely from this Sophia Kah dress, there was no stylist. Still, it all pales into vanilla compared with Jane Fonda’s Kermit moment over at the Grammy’s. Green with envy we are not.
Natalie Dormer and Jane Fonda
The Eddie Redmayne and Hannah Bagshawe Award
They only married a couple of months ago, but already the Redmaynes have become the red carpet couple to beat. The combination of his charming Posh Boy routine (courtesy of Armani), and her London street style (courtesy of the Roman label Valentino, but never mind) transported to international awards ceremonies, is unseating the fans, especially in the US, where a phenomenon tiresomely known as Reddymania is taking hold. Unless you count Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman – and we don’t – LA has no equivalent to this spontaneously stylish-looking duo. They do however, have Pharrell Williams and his wife Helen Lasichanh, who between them almost managed an entire gym outfit.
Felicity Jones’s unflattering column at the Globes last month was not felicitous. This pretty, floral-embellished Dior is much more like it, even if it did force her to come over all Miss Tippy Toes on stage. By the time she returns to LA for the Oscars in a fortnight, she should have the loveliest, princess-iest frock in the room. Jane Hawking deserves nothing less. Seven thousand miles away, Katy Perry stunned and shocked with a really rather stylish get-up and a lesson in how to make a classic, beaded Zuhair Murad midi-cocktail dress look youthful: simply take tresses and dunk in the Pope’s fave colour.
The many interpretations of Black
When an actress wears black for a big old back-slappy fest, it is nearly always code for something. For Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, in a black, 1948 Le Smoking gown by Balmain (from William Vintage), it means: I am 20 years older than you lot, but an adopted citizen of France wearing the national costume of that country, so age is just a number, ok? For Rosamund Pike, in subdued Roland Mouret, it is a plea to audiences everywhere to forget that disastrous, droopy white Kleenex she wore to the Golden Globes. For a Grammys pro, however, black affords maximum flesh flashing. No other colour works quite so well with black as nude.
Kristin Scott Thomas