On most awards nights in Hollywood I get caught up in the glitz and glam of the online culture and spew of television coverage of what is happening on the red carpet. The next morning I waken with a glam hangover. All the stardust has settled in my mouth, chalky and pasty. There is a staleness that has settled over the subject of ball gowns and fancy suits. I feel as though I want to flee from pop culture, retreat into the depths of voluminous books of poetry and galleries of century old art work.
During the event I feel frantic trying to keep up with my Twitter stream, the live telecasts of the event and the hashtags. My brain moves much slower than social media and so I end up flustered that I cannot possibly understand why in one sixteenths of a second we have all decided the destiny of a gown. It's brutal, a guillotine of judgment for designers and wearers. This year after the American Music Awards I was really riled about the popularity of Selena Gomez's gown. This is the subject that caused me award ceremony heartburn. Selena Gomez looked lovely, but did she deserve all the attention she got for her Givenchy gown?
"What makes the perfect gown?" I thought. Why was this gown the "it" gown when there were other very lovely dresses that went unnoted into the history books with the same quickness as the flash of the camera? My late night musings ended in the development of a new fashion principle. Take out pen and paper, you may want to write this down.
The Cinderella Principle, as I have called it, describes in a few short sentences how to create the perfect evening gown that will be well received by all. (I sound like a salesman.) It follows as such. The first element is a special concoction of plainness and uniqueness. I see it as two parts plainness and two parts uniqueness. In the case of Selena Gomez's dress the plainness was in the simplicity of the front of the dress. The bodice was shiny and red. Very straightforward. The uniqueness was in the slit and the fact it was backless. The second element of the Cinderella Principle is that the viewer must believe that this dress could be his/her dream dress. This is when the designer plays fairy godmother makes all our fashion fantasies come true. The viewer must be able to imagine themselves wearing the dress.
What about all those gowns that don't fulfill the Cinderella Principle? These dresses are the ones that make the worst dressed lists or are simply forgotten. With the really horrible dresses, the ones that make us look away from the screen for a moment, the ones we believe must be a joke and we feel embarrassed for the wearer, these dresses are trying too hard to garner attention. Instead of Cinderella poised in majesty at the top of the stairs, it is like she enters the room and screams, "Look at me!" Heads turn, but for the wrong reason. The dress drips in desperation and that, frankly, is just unpleasant to look at.
I spent my day after the American Music Awards bathing in Sylvia Plath. I'm feeling much better and perhaps now, knowing this is how gown design works, I can ward off some of my fashion indigestion throughout the holiday season and during the Grammys, which are 80 days away (I'm counting). I know there will be plenty of gowns to gorge on for the next few months, but knowing there is a simple formula to account for the success or the desperation of a gown makes it less overwhelming.
Oh, and Selena Gomez's gown does fulfill the Cinderella Principle. I didn't particularly love it, but many viewers did. They could picture themselves being swept away on a star dust evening wearing that Givenchy gown. Therefore it was a huge success. Personally, I loved Celine Dion's Elie Saab gown. It was timeless and beautiful. I think we all have our own Cinderella fantasy as we watch the stars walk the red carpet and in that fantasy we are all dressed a little differently, but not that differently.