Emmys fashion missteps good news for style fans

Ashley Judd, Elisabeth Moss, Lena Dunham, Carrie Anne Inaba.
From left: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images , Katy Winn/AP, Katy Winn/AP, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Ashley Judd, Elisabeth Moss, Lena Dunham, Carrie Anne Inaba.

This year’s primetime Emmy Awards were notable not for the winners or the speeches or what passed for comedy on TV’s big night.

They were notable for the sheer number of fashion missteps out on the red carpet. Gowns in retina-searing colors. Prints last seen on tablecloths circa 1971. Weird and unnecessary touches that made the wearers — gorgeous actresses, all — look ridiculous.

This is very good news.


You know why? Because it shows that finally, after years of perfectly pretty but dull dresses parading before the cameras, designers and stars are trying to be more inventive, more creative, more interesting. They’re taking risks for a change. And while that can (and did) lead to all sorts of fashion disasters, better to take a chance than to put viewers to sleep, right?

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Julianna Margulies, star of “The Good Wife,” typified the stylistic risk taking so prevelant at the Emmys this season. The lines of her strapless floral gown by Giambattista Valli were elegant and modern, but the fabric was an impressionistic mess of green, purple, and gold.

So too with “Mad Men”’s Elisabeth Moss. Her Dolce & Gabbana dress was sassy and youthful in its cut but overwhelmed by a floral print better suited to PJs from Victoria’s Secret. Still, both actresses deserve kudos for trying something edgy and different. The gowns were memorable, if not widely admired. And really, what actress doesn’t want to be memorable?

More important, the designers behind the fashions have an opportunity to sharpen and adapt their work for future red carpet events (and they do keep on coming). Perhaps the fabric used for Julianne Moore’s Christian Dior gown looked golden and glowy in person, but on flat screens across America it was a painful school-bus yellow. The unnervingly colossal bow peeking out from behind Ashley Judd’s bouffant? Surely, if we’d sat next to her at the Nokia Theatre, we’d think it looked whimsical.

The lesson for designers and celebs alike should not be, “Stay away from bright colors at all costs!” or “Get rid of any witty sartorial details!” The truth is that what works on a runway doesn’t necessarily work on the E! channel. Brocade can be magnificent, just make sure the fabric doesn’t give viewers vertigo in high-def.


And designers, take the singular beauty of your muse into account, please. Lena Dunham is a fast-talking, 26-year-old charmer who’s just cut her hair into a chic pixie. Why weigh her down in a dark lace Prada gown perfect for someone who’s nearing 60? Hem it below her knees, put her in some sexy stilettos and she’s ready to hit the red carpet.

Because there’s always another red carpet to hit.

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at