Thursday 29 September 2016

Sophie Donaldson: Forget the Best Dressed List, I'll always want to be my very worst in fashion

Sophie Donaldson

Published 07/04/2016 | 14:49

Bjork
Bjork
Bjork lives in red carpet history after wearing a swan to the 2001 Oscars
Sophie Donaldson
Jenny Beavan poses with the Best Costume Design Award for 'Mad Max: Fury Road poses in the winners room at the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House on February 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Sophie Donaldson
Actress Helena Bonham Carter arrives at the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Sophie Donaldson

This weekend, televisions around the country will be graced with our foremost awards ceremony - the IFTAs.

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Come Monday morning, endless column inches will be filled with the inevitable hangover of every red carpet - the Best and Worst Dressed. The time when everyone with internet access becomes a sergeant in the fashion police.

We're yet to see what any of the guests will be wearing, but I can already summon up in my head what dresses will be praised in the Best Dressed category. Picture a litany of Grecian gowns and whimsical chiffon numbers in non-offensive shades of peach and cream, handfuls of trusty LBDs (little or long), coiled up-dos and tiny little clutches. With their innocuous cuts and colours these perfectly pretty dresses make my jaw drop, only to let out a yawn.

Here's why such an accolade means a whole lot of nothing. It doesn't denote any sense of personal style, least of all because a stylist will have put the outfit together. Nor does it celebrate a sense of daring or an ounce of originality.

Sophie Donaldson
Sophie Donaldson

Being considered a 'Best Dresse is to be accepted into the mainstream, to be sucked into the vacuum of approval that dictates how we are supposed to present ourselves. It's the very opposite of the childhood game of dress-ups, where all you wanted was to be yourself - but fancier.

In essence, guests are dressing up in celebration of their professional success, so, in theory should be wearing whatever it is that makes them feel fabulous - whether that's a demure bias cut gown and pearls or a Rick Owens sack and Doc Martens is beside the point.

But as costume designer Jenny Beaven learned at the BAFTAs, red carpets aren't that simple.

If there’s ever a list I want to appear on, let it be the Worst. Add me to the line-up that features some of fashion’s greatest contemporary iconoclasts - Helena Bonham Carter with her poof of charcoal hair and helter-skelter tartan numbers; Cate Blanchett championing crotchet and of course, the inimitable Bjork and that feathered friend.

Jenny Beavan poses with the Best Costume Design Award for 'Mad Max: Fury Road poses in the winners room at the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House on February 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Jenny Beavan poses with the Best Costume Design Award for 'Mad Max: Fury Road poses in the winners room at the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House on February 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

I’d much rather a pregnant Kim Kardashian and her defiantly floral Givenchy gown any day over her bodycon glory days. The women (and it's only ever women, isn't it?) that are on this list aren't pouring themselves into custom made dresses in the hopes of getting a big red tick beside their name, but rather, they're giving two fingers to the expectations placed on them. And looking pretty fabulous as they do it.

The ensembles that appear on the Worst Dressed list are often classed as crass, crude or in bad taste (e.g. Bjork and the aforementioned swan she wore to the 2001 Oscars).

They're never classed as unusual, adventurous or unique. The Worst list does not celebrate the eccentricities of the individual but seeks to dismiss that innate sense of wackiness that makes us all wonderful as something to be ashamed of.

Whether you’ve been on a red carpet or not, most women will be able to relate to that particular type of shame. The immense pressure placed on one half of the population to look a certain way, while the other half is left to don the same black suit with two-day stubble, surely peaks under the glare of the camera.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter arrives at the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Actress Helena Bonham Carter arrives at the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Perhaps there are women who would love to roam that red carpet in a chintzy floral gown but don’t because of their fear they'll be turned into an internet meme and have thousands of people comparing their dress to Mrs Doubtfire.

Presumably those who appear on the Worst list don’t expect to appear on the Best, nor do they really care. They counter catty remarks with their own joie de vivre, and hopefully revel in that incomparable feeling of being entirely, and only, themselves.

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