In Defense of Lady Gaga’s Red Gloves and Other Bold Oscar Style

Aside from debating which actors and filmmakers are worthy of Oscars each year, the public also appoints itself as fashion police of the red carpet. Best and worst dressed lists have become a fixture of awards show coverage.

But Simon Doonan, creative ambassador at large for Barneys New York and author of The Asylum, thinks they are missing the point: self-expression.

“When I look at the Oscars I’m always looking to see if people are expressing themselves.” He told DnA. “Did Lady Gaga look like Lady Gaga. Did Marion Cotillard look like Marion Cotillard?”

In previous years, Doonan bemoaned the lackluster “prom” dresses stars wore to the Oscars — worn in part to preempt ridicule in the twitterverse (and because actors are often “shilling” for brands who give them the clothes for free.)

He yearned for something as exciting and full of personality as Bjork’s notorious swan dress that the artist wore back in 2001.

But it turns out that this year (when the show itself was flat) the red carpet delivered some pleasant surprises.

“I have sort of worn myself out banging on about how all of the eccentricity and experimentation is sort of missing. But last night, I thought at least there were some moments of self-expression. The unexpected was definitely there,” he said.

The standouts in Doonan’s view included Lady Gaga‘s Alaia dress that she paired with red “washing up” gloves, ’70s-inspired “louche” dresses worn by Dakota Johnson and Margot Robbie and Lupita Nyong’o‘s elaborate Calvin Klein dress of 6,000 pearls.

And despite Doonan’s uneasiness with categorizing fashion into “best” and “worst,” he did pick a star of the show, and it wasn’t one of the leading ladies.

“It’s time we start objectifying men, so I picked David Oyelowo.” He said of the British actor who played Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma. “He looked spectacular in his red Dolce & Gabbana tux, and he looked very comfortable in it.”

Find Simon Doonan’s latest column on Slate on Oscar fashion here.