IT’S HARD to imagine an actor who has been busier in the past year: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on the big screen and “Big Little Lies”and “Twin Peaks” on TV—and we’re leaving out half a dozen 2017 projects. Clearly, as Laura Dern approaches age 51 next month, she has hit her stride.
Most of us aren’t as much in the public eye, so maybe we can learn something from a woman who is constantly having to dress for her public, on the red carpet and even on the street.
NANCY: The fashion industry is more to blame for this unfortunate outfit than Dern is. Bottega Veneta showed it for Spring 2017, but at least Dern had the good sense to wear a bra underneath the semi-sheer top! (The runway model didn’t.) I guess small-busted women can get away with this visible-underwear look, but really, must they? Teens and tweens, maybe; grownup girls, not so much.
JANET: Dern looks great in this color. And that’s about the extent of my compliments. I agree with Nancy about the wisdom of wearing a black bra under a sheer knit top. But also, what’s up with this ill-fitting shiny leather skirt? It makes me think Bottega Veneta should stick to its knitting—fabulous handbags.
KATHY: Bleh. The skirt looks like plastic to me, and to my eye the reds simply don’t work together. And, like my co-LittleBirds, I just don’t get the impulse to bare the bra. However, I’ve always been charmed by Dern’s quirkiness. She makes me think of the girlfriend who’s always falling to pieces, but in a good off-the-wall way. Perhaps her innate quirkiness got the best of her with this ensemble.
NANCY: I think this Jonathan Simkhai dress is an example of a grownup girl adapting the skin-is-in trend without sacrificing her dignity. All those little slits in the knit ruffles suggest skin rather than really exposing it. (Maybe it’s even a bit too demure, but it’s certainly elegant.) Of course, Dern doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her, but it’s the kind of illusion many of us could seek out. (In which case, the dressing room mirror will be your best friend—and your cellphone for that all-important rear view!)
JANET: A very flattering silhouette. No obvious bumps or lumps. Good shapewear probably helps, but then again, so does a well-toned body. I like the ruffles; they’re fanciful and feminine. But those little cutouts are overkill in my book. And those shoes, Laura, they are just wrong with this dress.
NANCY: Yikes, now that you point out the shoes, Janet, I gotta agree. In fact, I doubt those shoes look good with much of anything. They look like elves’ slippers.
KATHY: The cell phone thing never occurred to me!!!!! Genius. I think this dress is rather sweet and matches Dern’s expression. But like Janet, not wild about the cutouts. Although these are the least offensive cutouts I’ve seen, and I give Dern props for that choice. Although it does look a bit like the dress is melting. I blame Donna Karan for this cutout mania. And I’ll never forgive her. The cold-shoulder gown Karan did for Hillary Clinton in 1993 is the first time I remember the cutout cutting in. It’s such a gimmick, in my opinion, and I’ve yet to see an attractive example. Harumph!
NANCY: Elegant without a loss of comfort, now there’s a worthy goal. I think it’s the pale monochrome tone here that elevates this trouser suit to the level of “dressy.” My only quibble is my usual anti-pussy-cat-bow stance. Those “self” ties probably look fine when you first tie them looking in the mirror; after that, it’s all bets off. They droop, they untie, they head south when you’re heading west—you get my point. Why not a simple necklace, elegant or sporty?
JANET: Not a bold look, but one that I think a lot of us could see ourselves wearing. I’m with Nancy about the lovely pale pink color of the pantsuit. And the cut is perfect. The wisp of a bow around her neck doesn’t detract and doesn’t make her look dowdy like one of those big pussy bows can. It’s just a flowy strip of fabric that softens the lines of the suit.
KATHY: I love this suit. Dern looks so pretty in pink. Her shoe choice is perfect. The neutral pumps and stockings finish the look perfectly.
JANET: What puzzles me most about this look—floppy-sleeved black dress with a sheer panel at the bodice and sheer overlay of the skirt—is her choice of black lace-up boots with metallic tips. None of it is working for me. Major disconnect: With those beautifully coiffed curls, she looks so sweet, not at all like a poster girl for goth.
NANCY: I swear every time I glance at this picture I think Dern is on ice skates. The dress was originally shown, by Greek designer Vassilis Zoulias, with nothing but that feathery net-lace on the bodice, all the way down to the waistline. Dern made the dress more modest by wearing a bra—or maybe she had the bodice modified. Either way, it added another element to an already busy frock—velvet, lace, placket buttons, a velvet ribbon at the neck, a belt at the waist, net-lace panels in the skirt, and then those Morticia-like draped sleeves. It’s just too much of a muchness for this LittleBird.
KATHY: Oh, dear. I think she may have had another quirky fit. I confess, I am sort of fixated on the boots. Surely they must zip up the side or something. I can’t imagine dealing with those laces. So much going on here, but, you know, she’s an actor accustomed to putting on different personalities. Perhaps that goes for her clothes too. She must have a really wild closet.
NANCY: This frothy confection is from Alexander McQueen, but this kind of Cinderella-at-the-ball dress drives me crazy. Maybe the wearer feels as though she’s in a fantasy, but I find the look infantilizing. (And I seem to have been the only woman on the planet who didn’t love the Jason Wu gown Michelle Obama wore at the first Obama inauguration either—all those little tufts of things stuck everywhere.) All that said, the line is lovely, and Dern looks gorgeous in it. But whatever that black is down under the gown—black boots? black shoes and hose?—I don’t think it bodes well.
JANET: You’re not the only one. I didn’t like Michelle Obama’s Jason Wu gown either. I like this McQueen worn here by Dern just about as much. And, those boots. Ugh.
KATHY: Oh, come on, you guys. I think it’s pretty. Infantilizing, really? It just strikes me as very feminine. And I don’t mind a little froth from time to time. Don’t really get the boots, though. I’d like to ask her about those.
NANCY: I’m not sure what I think about this outfit. Turns out Dern was on her way to a TV appearance, so she isn’t necessarily a member of the Daytime Sequins movement. But the subdued black top seems somehow too . . . subdued. Tamping down the glam effect of all that glitz is probably the right move for most of us, but maybe a jewel-tone top could have pulled this off better (to my eye, anyway). Something to ponder.
JANET: That black hue and fabric of this top don’t measure up to her splashy sequin skirt. It is sleeveless, however, and when she takes it off for the show, she reveals arms that are svelte and buff. Still, the skirt requires something more dressy. Fashion magazines and blogs all advocate pairing plain with glitzy, but not when you’re appearing on an evening show with the entire “Star Wars” cast.
KATHY: I don’t get the choice of top either. Maybe it would have worked better had she worn the black boots shown in the frothy pink gown photo. Perhaps it’s a Jedi thing.