The Oscar Red Carpet is Boring

Celebrities are boring. All hail the (mostly) non-celebrities!

The Oscars took place this past Sunday, and with it came the annual critique of what gowns were worn. But guys, this year was SO BORING. Perhaps even the most boring Oscars red carpet ever. Everyone played it pretty safe, and the biggest fashion controversy was whether Anne Hathaway’s last minute gown was showing her nipples or not (My consensus: Just darts guys. Though don’t even get me started on her styling choices, which were obviously meant for a different dress). Everyone wore white or nude or pastel colours, and there was not a swan dress to be seen. Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, and Catherine Zeta-Jones all seemed to be protesting The Great Gatsby being pushed back to May (and therefore not eligible for this year’s Oscars) with their gowns, and that’s really the most interesting thing I can say about them. The night’s most notable gowns were by and large not the ones worn by the major celebs, or if they were, they were notable for reasons that were not sartorial at all. Here’s our best dressed list for the 2013 Oscars Red Carpet.


Jennifer Lawrence, Dior
This is definitely a gown that’s notable not for being particularly interesting or daring, but because of the moments it created. Because let’s face it, this looks like one of those dresses that is made out of toilet paper for charity, though I honestly would not put it past Jennifer Lawrence to actually do this. It was lampooned a bit for being too bridal, but this dress created some of the best moments in this year’s awards show—Father of the Bride jokes, the adorable pratfall when Jen won best actress and both Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman tried to save her, the hilarious press conference moments afterwards when she was asked about the fall. This dress was a real troublemaker, but Miss Lawrence took it all in stride and has cemented herself as my imaginary Hollywood best friend forever.


Salma Hayek, Alexander McQueen
Salma Hayek looks like the tiniest, chicest Bride of Frankenstein, and I mean that in the best possible way.


Melissa McCarthy, David Meister
I don’t really get why so many people were up in arms about this dress. I think it fits her perfectly, and I think it’s a much more modern looking than the standard princess-y gowns everyone else was wearing. People really seem to love getting a bug up their butt when the big girl wears anything remotely different or interesting (See: Adele at the Grammys. You’ll note Adele went back to her trademark black after that, le sigh). Also, Melissa McCarthy is awesome and can wear what she wants, as far as I’m concerned.


Samuel L. Jackson, Designer Unknown
Samuel L. Jackson wins best dressed man of the night in his burgundy velvet jacket, shiny grey silk(?) shirt, and brown pants and bowtie. Men of Hollywood please note: only Sam Jackson can pull this look off. You will look ridiculous. Trust.


Emmanuelle Riva, Lanvin
Oldest Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva did not win Best Actress this year, but she looks fabulous while doing so in her voluminous blue Lanvin. She wasn’t dressed like a single other person on the RC, and she clearly had fun with her gown, twirling and dancing like she didn’t have a care in the world. To me, that’s way more important than making some best dressed list any day. Plus you know she was the most comfortable woman in that entire ballroom.


Sunrise Coigney, Zero + Maria Cornejo
Sunrise Coigney is a former actress who is now best known as being Mark Ruffalo’s wife. This gown isn’t my style, but you can definitely tell it’s hers, and she owned it. The choice of an electric blue bag to accessorize with it was positively inspired for the Oscars. Again this isn’t a look that most people could pull off, but Sunrise is doing it effortlessly.


Mark Andrews, Designer Unknown
Second best dressed man on the RC was hands down Brave director Mark Andrews, who accessorized his traditional blue Scottish kilt with a teal sporran (that would be the bag one wears with the kilt).


Rachael Mwanza, Vlisco
Rachael Mwanza, a 16-year-old actress from the Republic of Congo who managed to get a last minute visa to attend the ceremonies because of her role in best Foreign Picture nominee Rebelle (War Witch), showed her African pride in a traditional Ankara print gown. The gown was designed by renowned dutch textile company Vlisco, who have been around since 1846 and are known for their bright and colourful printed fabrics and supporting young African fashion designers. Ankara prints are typically associated with West and Central Africa, and were traditionally worn for ceremonial purposes. The prints and designs vary from region to region, but all are made with a similar wax print fabric technique, which involves printing the fabric with a pattern made of melted wax. In recent years designers like Diane von Furstenberg have been using these prints, and it’s become something of a trend, with celebs like Solange, Beyonce, and even Anna Wintour seen sporting it.


Helena Bonham Carter, Vivienne Westwood
It’s something of a testament to how boring the Oscars have gotten that this is what Helena Bonham Carter wore. I mean, this is practically tame for her, and it’s definitely something she’s worn before. That said, it was still one of the stand outs on the red carpet, which I think says a lot. DON’T GIVE UP, HBC!! WE LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU TO BE YOUR CRAZY DIAMOND SELF AT ALL RED CARPET FUNCTIONS!!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO WITH MYSELF IF THIS IS ALL YOU’RE SERVING UP NOW!!! I BEG YOU, FOR RED CARPET LOVERS EVERYWHERE, DON’T FALL INTO THE BORING TRAP!!

A Checkered Past

Why tartan was banned in 1746, and nine other things you never knew about plaid

Tartan (or plaid in North American speak) is instantly recognizable by its mesmerizing, layered lines. We know it as the swatch of choice for schoolgirls and suburban dads, but long before that it was (and still is) a symbol of all things Scottish. Tartan has transcended tradition, going from a humble cloth of the Scottish Highlands to a timeless print with far-reaching appeal and a place in nearly every Canadian’s closet.

Back to school bonus point: there were fifty-three different kinds of plaid used in Clueless. See how many you can count on Cher in one of our favorite WORN supercuts here.

1 // Crisscrossing Languages
Tartan’s linguistic roots come from more than one language. Tiretaine (French) and tiritana (Spanish) both mean a blend of linen and wool. It’s also rooted in the Gaelic word breacan, which means plaid, speckled, or checkered.

2 // Strength in Number (of Fabrics)
Tartan is traditionally made out of two fibers – linen and wool. When woven with warp and weft, this binary composition gives tartan its supreme resistance. This material also goes by (fun word alert) “linsey-woolsey.”

3 // We are Family
Among Scottish clans, the lines of tartan run deeper than wool. Members of a family would wear a specific pattern to show others who their allegiance was to. The pattern could appear on a traditional Highland dress, a kilt, or a scarf. Consider it the classier answer to wearing an “I’m with them” shirt.

4 // Rebel Rebel
Thanks to Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Scottish clansmen, tartan was banned in 1746 after they unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the British throne. Under the Act of Proscription, authorities believed tartan was an uncontrollable force of rebellion. Luckily for Scots and the fashion world alike, tartan returned from exile in 1782.

5 // Highland High
Ever wonder why tartan is ubiquitous on school uniforms? It goes back to 1851, when Queen Victoria brought her fashionable sons to the opening of the Great Exhibition. Her boys were clad in full Highland dress and it caused a sensation of Bieber proportions. Ever since, tartan has become a staple for private school dress.

6 // Slash and Burn
The British had it right. Tartan is a rebel. In the late ’70s, it became a staple among punks, thanks (in large part) to Vivienne Westwood. She and Malcolm McLaren of the Sex Pistols launched a London boutique called Seditionaries, specializing in punk clothes that defied the status quo. And it sure did. Westwood took scissors, chains, safety pins, and bin liners to the Scot’s swatch, turning tradition on its head.

7 // Springsteen Approves
Tartan is the unofficial fabric of American blue-collar worker. Paired with jeans, it has become synonymous with the hard working American. It became popular in the ’50s and ’60s after the manufacturing company Pendleton introduced the world to the plaid shirt, now a staple at stores like Mark’s Work Warehouse.

8 // Beauty is Only Skin Deep…
Designers the world over are intrigued by the criss-crossing lines – Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and Jean-Paul Gaultier have all tackled tartan, as have Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Jun Takahashi. The latter once had his models painted plaid from head to toe for a runway show.

9 // Cunningham Reports:
Following September 11, fashion photographer Bill Cunningham saw a surge in tartan among New Yorkers. He wrote in The New York Times: “Scottish tartans, plaid, checks, and tattersalls are a sign of fashion’s change of mood since September 11, a time when exaggerated silhouettes and theatrical flourishes have seemed out of touch. Many women reached into their closets for the toned-down style of plaids, which suggest the security of tradition.”

10 // Check Your Checks
It’s getting hard to keep up with the endless variations of tartan, so in 2008 the Scottish Parliament established the Register of Tartans, an online database that tracks every tartan ever registered. Just about everything has a tartan, from provinces (all but Nunavut have one) to organizations (Canadian Dental Association), from royalty (Princess Diana) to cute felines (Hello Kitty).

further reading // Tartan by Jonathan Faiers

illustration // Andrea Manica

“I Should Say, Latex is a Lady.”

Dressing for Pleasure is a 1977 film by the late Scottish documentary filmmaker John Samson. It is beautifully shot, with rich colours and textures, slow pans, and a soft look created by analog technology. It’s an objective take on the leather and latex culture which greatly influenced Britain’s punk scene. Footage from the film was used in numerous documentaries about the Sex Pistols, such as The Filth and the Fury, and a 1995 production by the BBC. While Samson’s work has often gone unappreciated, from both a film and fashion perspective, we can understand why he is finally starting to be recognized for his hard work and talent. Dressing for Pleasure captures through honest eyes a sensitive and important part of both fashion culture and sexual identity.




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Book Review: 50 Fashion Designers You Should Know

50 Fashion Designers You Should Know is just what the title tells you: this is not a collection of obscure or niche designers, but rather a book profiling the biggest movers and shakers in the fashion industry. More specifically, it is a guide to those who have had the biggest influences, primarily on contemporary western women’s fashion. Spanning from Jeanne Lanvin opening her first hat shop in 1899 to Stella McCartney’s most recent collection, the book features short profiles of the biggest designers who show at the four main fashion weeks (London, Paris, Milan and New York City). While it’s far from being a comprehensive encyclopedia of names, 50 Fashion Designers is excellent as an unintimidating crash course for fashion newbies.

The names included are the more obvious ones: Coco Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs are all present. While the focus is on the famous, there is some variety. Both the more commercial designers (Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein) as well as the avant garde (Yohji Yamamoto, Hussein Chalayan) are included. There are also a few designers who had an impact in their time but have since gone a bit under the radar, like Madeleine Vionnet and Main Boucher.

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