Emmys 2014 Style Grades: He Said/She Said
Julia Roberts in Elie Saab
He said: You know those fish who hang out on the ocean floor and sort of just crawl, and their skin gradually accrues this exoskeletal layer of sand and shiny undersea baubles? You know the fish I'm talking about, they're called [Googles frantically]...Demersal Fish! Anyhow, this dress looks like Julia Roberts put on scuba gear and went to the bottom of the ocean to hunt the biggest Demersal Fish on the planet, and then Elie Saab turned the carcass into a really swell-looking dress. But demerits for the blah shoes. B+
She said: I cannot and will not attempt to compete with that description, so I'll just say I'm glad Julia finally kicked her black-and-white habit—that is, her custom of wearing black and white. Not the nun outfit I assume she puts on whenever the cameras are off. B+
Claire Danes in Givenchy
He said: I just don't think anyone ever wore a red dress better than Claire Danes wore a red dress at last year's Golden Globes. The year was 2013 and Homeland had just had a rough season, but we all knew it would pull a Friday Night Lights and stage a serious comeback. Now it's 2014, and Homeland seems more likely to pull a Revenge and never really come back. And so this new red dress is a disappointing pale imitation of past glories. Also too much fringe. Also the crown of thorns around her neck. Switch colors, switch shows. C
She said: I don't know how you can call Claire Danes' gown the best red dress in a universe where Jennifer Lawrence exists, but I agree that Danes' attempt this year is lackluster, mostly because of the beaded bugs haphazardly hot-glued to her neckline. Maybe she bought them at Claire's. C?
He said: Sarah Paulson's lot in life is to never win the Emmy she deserves for her relentlessly astonishing work on various iterations of American Horror Story. She's like Jon Hamm, if all of Jon Hamm's fellow nominees were also his costars. But, like, consolation prize: She wins all the awards for this dress, which sort of looks like a recap of the first three seasons of American Horror Story translated into a Jackson Pollock painting. Are people hating on this dress? Do they not appreciate the fact that it looks like blood snow falling on a dark night of the soul? I bet Ryan Murphy casts this dress in season 4. A
She said: No. It looks like what's inside a container you're afraid to open because it's been in the fridge waaay too long. D
He said: You know why I respect Matthew McConaughey? It's not because he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the incredible power of Only Making Good Career Choices. No, it's because of his fervent devotion to denormalizing Dude Fashion. The man won an Oscar in a freaking white jacket! And for his next trick: He tried very, very hard to win an Emmy in a head-to-toe blue-black ensemble. Does it totally work? No. But props for trying to turn our boring modern world into Mad Men season 5. B+
She said: It reminds me of what Artie Ziff wore to the prom, and because I've been watching The Simpsons nonstop for the past four days, I'm gonna say that's a good thing. A
Kerry Washington in Prada
He said: Orange! And not just any orange, but a pale shade of pulp-free orange! Bold move, KWash. Also bold: The spackled dress outline, which sort of makes it look like she has a giant ''H'' on the front of her dress. Maybe she's auditioning to play Hawkgirl? Hawkgirl is kind of like Olivia Pope, in that Hawkgirl carries a mace and Olivia Pope carries a metaphorical mace. Anyhow, the orange is great, but clearly the bolder move would've been to ditch the sparkly shorts and try to out-leg Angelina Jolie. It's a solid triple that could've been a touchdown...or however sports work. A?
She said: If Kerry can't wear sequined bike shorts to a major awards show, who can? (Nobody. Nobody should do that.) But, Darren, you see where that slit ends, right? Trying to ''out-leg Angelina'' in this case would mean showing her entire Olivia Pope. B
Heidi Klum in Zac Posen
He said: I feel like this dress looked great in sketch form, and then Zac Posen actually created it, and said: ''Oh dear. I've created a lovely dress with weird cape-sleeve shoulders! Posen, you fool, no one could wear this dress and make it look good!'' And then Heidi Klum apparated from the sideways dimension where she spends her summers. ''I apologize for scaring you,'' she told the cowering designer, ''But that sounded like a challenge.'' A
She said: The cape is the dress, and the dress is the cape, and time is a flat circle, and, yes, Heidi does look pretty great. A?
He said: JuMar, I love you, but you're bringing me down. What could've been a totally solid black dress descends into a haze of volcanic ash around the midsection. It's like a rainbow rendered in monochrome. C+
She said: Blah. The Fine Wife. C
Hayden Panettiere in Lorena Sarbu
He said: This dress seems specifically designed to evoke the 2001 wormhole sequence, with rays of space-light emanating outwards from Hayden Panettiere's pregnant belly. The implication here is that her son/daughter will become the Starchild Messiah for the future. Very cool. B+
She said: This is what I imagine Nomi Malone wearing when she returns to the stage in Goddess: Now She's Pregnant, heavy with Kyle MacLachlan's baby — which is to say I love it. A
He said: Scarf. A+
She said: Welcome to The Continental. C
He said: Yo, El Preperino with the green! Confession: I watched a lot of That '70s Show, so I don't necessarily think it's possible for Laura Prepon to do wrong, per se. And I can almost groove onto the ''I Am the Demon Goddess of Darkness'' Tim Burton look she's rocking. But the sheer excess of flappery makes this dress look like over-chlorinated waves crashing in a pool at a water park. Too much, too much! C?
She said: It's certainly a lot of look, but I think Prepon might have been able to pull it off were it not for that neck fold, which looks like the kind of thing a Project Runway designer improvises after he realizes there's too much fabric on his dress. B?
He said: ''Lotta red this year,'' said Captain Obvious. But I like the classical classiness of this red number. The bracelet helps a bit. I dunno, maybe the craziest thing you can expect from She Who Is Crazy Eyes is something relatively straightforward and normal? Is this what normcore is? B
She said: Definitely a safe choice, minus those little fabric poops on the back of her skirt—but can you blame a newly minted Emmy winner for wanting to don something classic for her very first trip to the primetime awards? B
Lena Dunham in Giambattista Valli Couture
She said: Oh geez. Ooohhhhhh geez. I hardly know where to begin with this ombre monstrosity, a prim, ill-fitting schoolmarm top tucked into a cascading series of cupcake liners. Power to the Girls auteur for always marching to the beat of her own sartorial drummer...but that drummer is crazy, and this dress is a disaster. D?
He said: No no no no no no no no no. I am a staunch Girls partisan. I am a staunch believer in the idea that things that are crazy are often much more interesting than things that are good. Pink is my third-favorite color. But this is a travesty atop a catastrophe sprinkled throughout the wreckage of a nightmare dreamed up by a colorblind psychopath. Z
She said: From the neck up, it's classy business as usual for America's most beloved actress. From the neck down?well, a charitable person would call the dress Meryl-esque. The trouble is that Heigl's 30 years younger than Streep, so the look is way too matronly. Oh, and only Dracula could pull off that collar. C
He said: Hear ye, hear ye! I declare this dress ''grossly underrated.'' Although it definitely exudes a Grandma Glamour vibe, there's just a little bit of ambient space-empress kink on the margins. Like, the bottom of this dress might say ''Olivia De Havilland going to her great-grandchild's birthday party,'' but the top part of this dress says ''Barbarella reboot directed by that guy who illustrated the Spider-Woman butt cover. It's not perfect, but it's the most interesting thing that Katherine Heigl has done since playing a red squirrel in The Nut Job. B
January Jones in Prabal Gurung
She said: Yeah, the fabric kind of looks like upholstery...but in a sea of red dresses, that extra texture (not to mention the cool mullet shape and handy pockets) helps set Betty Draper apart. Too bad I have to dock points for her messy ''I didn't shower today'' updo, a textbook example of what women's magazines call ''third-day hair.'' B
He said: I didn't know what ''third-day hair'' was until five seconds ago, and now I'm all about it. I think it's the one thing that works in this look, actually. The central problem with January Jones is that she looks like a perfected clone of an already-basically-perfect Hitchcock heroine, so it actually works in her favor to dress like an (artful) mess. Otherwise, she risks hitting the uncanny valley between glam and bland. Call it ''glambland.'' Or call it ''this dress.'' C
She said: I'll say it so you don't have to: Holy boobage, Batman! I like seeing Silverman celebrate her interests by dressing in a shade of green, but, other than the daring V-neck, there's nothing particularly exciting here. B?
He said: But that's like saying, ''Besides the last two years, Matthew McConaughey hasn't done anything interesting this century.'' Or, ''When you factor out the female characters, there's really not much nudity on Game of Thrones.'' When you got it, flaunt it. Flaunting accomplished. B+
Allison Williams in Giambattista Valli Couture
She said: Wait, this is the same designer that dressed Williams' Girls costar Lena Dunham? It's clear someone was picking favorites. B+
He said: My issue with this dress is that it was specifically designed to make Allison Williams look like a 10-foot-tall robot. We all know she's actually, like, a 5'6'' robot. I dig what's happening up top—punk-rock black-slash-pink between an off-center bow and a dash of yellow—but everything from the waist down is boring, boring, boring. I expect more from Peter Pan. B?
Taylor Schilling in Zuhair Murad
She said: I'm a sucker for heavily beaded Art Deco-style gowns, mostly because they're kind of costume-y, and I love costumes. The muted nude keeps this from feeling too Gatsby Theme Party; too bad the color washes her out and the top doesn't fit better. B+
He said: I feel like this dress would've been awesome if it were any color besides the complete absence of color. Not that I'm advocating for more red dresses, but this would've made an awesome red dress. As it is this would've been a solid costume choice for, like, the ninth lead in Gatsby. Like, Jordan Baker would've been too cool for this dress. B?
Minnie Driver in Marchesa
She said: I look at this, and I feel ''meh'' surging through every fiber of my being. To paraphrase the witch in Into the Woods, it's not good, it's not bad, it's just nice. Guessing Minnie realized with a start this morning that the Emmys are on a Monday this year and had to race out to find a dress at Nordstrom Rack. B?
He said: I won't stand for your Nordstrom Shaming, Hillary! But I also won't stand for the inanity of a boring red dress, even a boring red dress speckled with a metallic V-neck. Driver's a tall drink of water, but this dress calls to mind a tall Michelada with too much salt on the rim. C+
Michelle Dockery in Rosie Assoulin
She said: Aren't you still always a little shocked to see Lady Mary without her hats and fussy gowns and pre-feminism malaise? This dress reminds me of a sailboat, in a way that's not entirely unpleasant, and I'm into the peekaboo bodice (the Dowager Countess is clutching her pearls right about now). But the halter top feels very seventh grade dance—and not, like, the fancy kind they hold at Downton Abbey. B?
He said: You're right that this dress is reminiscent of a sailboat. But to be specific, this dress looks like Lady Mary was caught in the altogether due to some farcical romantic shenanigans—in the version of Downton Abbey where fun things happen, as opposed to relentlessly unhappy things—and then, realizing that she was late for a dinner party, Lady Mary quickly fashioned an evening gown out of a green sail, a blue sail, and a pink sail. And it almost works? B?
Bryan Cranston in Ralph Lauren
She said: We're mainly grading the 'stache, right? Because the four-time Outstanding Lead Actor is wearing a tux that fits him like a glove...but the caterpillar on his face ain't doing it for me. Unless he's preparing to play Rhett Butler in the Gone With the Wind musical of my fever dreams, in which case: Proceed. Tuxedo: A; mustache: C
He said: I refute all of your assertions on a foundational level! There's so much deference paid to the idea of old-fashioned facial hair, but this is a genuine pre-modern mustache: The kind of 'stache that no one has even tried to grow post-HD, because it's so eerily organic. And I think that deserves props—mad props. This is not the mustache that a boy grows, when he fundamentally wants to look ''cool.'' This is the mustache a man grows when he has accomplished everything a man can accomplish, and he realizes that men's fashion may have actually peaked in the era when you don't just own your receding hairline, you positively accentuate by swooping what's left in a waxed-up swoop, and you grow a mustache in a couple days just because you can. B+ for quality; A+ for historio-aesthetic accuracy
Kate Mara in J. Mendel
She said: Poor girl; that subway train ripped her bodice to shreds! That said, I do like the design's asymmetrical edginess, especially compared to its ethereal skirt. The whole thing's sort of Miss Havisham chic, except I have a hard time believing Zoe Barnes would ever let a man get away with jilting her. B
He said: This dress is so close to being a mess, and it would take a couple quantum physicists to explain why it's not a mess. Maybe it's the symmetry of that dark-star chest pattern with her dark-hued eye makeup? Maybe it's the way that the mummy-costume wrap segues into a sliced-up wedding gown? This is one of those Kate Mara outfits where she seems caught between two worlds, like she was on her way to the debutante ball when suddenly the post-apocalypse happened and everyone turned into Goths. I'm into it. A?
Natalie Dormer in J. Mendel
She said: Wait a minute—did Margaery use sheer power of will to grow her hair back already?! That alone is enough to earn this look high marks; I'll also reward her sleek, clean silhouette and bold use of color. Mostly because I'm afraid of what the Tyrells will do to me if I don't. A?
He said: I'm with you on the color, Hillary. This is the very definition of ''simple and effective.'' Sharp orange atop sharpish black-gray. In Westerosi terms: Waist down is Stark, waist up is Targaryen. Talk about a song of ice and fire! (That's a Hunger Games reference.) A