Why it’s time to stop fashion policing the red carpet

Attention all fans of film and fashion: it’s Oscar time! The tuxedos are perfectly pressed and the ball gowns are brilliantly beautiful. But with all that glitter and glamour comes something a little less dazzling: the scathingly ruthless “Worst Dressed” lists. Many a fashion choice has fallen victim to harsh criticism from these notorious lists that fill blogs, magazines, and websites before, during, and after an event. Will a daring color choice pay off? Did the accessories overpower the outfit? Was the tailoring impeccable? Hold on to your hats, folks, because the fashion jury is in, and they do NOT hold back.

In case you aren’t familiar, a “Worst Dressed” list works something like this. A critic, qualified or maybe not so much, compiles photos of famous folks who were in attendance of a fancy, Hollywood event like the Oscars. From there, the “critic” decides, based on no defined qualifications, who looked the worst. Yep, you read that correctly. They decide who looked the crappiest and then proceed to tell the reader or viewer exactly just how bad the ensemble really was. Nice concept, huh?

A “Worst Dressed” list is like a car crash—you can’t help but look. I confess, I’ve spent a few minutes (or maybe more) flipping through the offenders. Inevitably, I always end up feeling completely fashion ignorant, because, in at least a third of the cases, I end up thinking, “Hey, that doesn’t look that bad.” Or even worse, sometimes I even like the ensemble on the chopping block. I also struggle to understand how anyone could have anything bad to say about women who are beyond gorgeous, particularly when they happen to be ridiculously talented and literally at an award show recognizing that talent.

All of this leaves me with just one question. When did it become acceptable to publicly shame and criticize someone for what they chose to wear? Are we all still stuck in high school, where a reigning few pass judgment on the fashion choices of others? Last time I checked, that was called bullying, so it is interesting to me how openly accepted this practice has become. Commentary often runs the gamut from subtly snarky to downright mean, and while mocking someone for what they are wearing doesn’t quite compare to the more severe cases of bullying (cyber and otherwise), I can’t help but feel that it’s a slippery slope. Some may argue that it’s all in good fun, and that worst and best dressed commentators have never done any real damage. I disagree. Pointing out superficial physical flaws and hurting someone’s feelings is absolutely harmful, not only to the individual, but to society as a whole.

Fashion is and will always be interpretive. Has anyone else noticed that what makes “Worst Dressed” on one list makes “best dressed” on another? What may scream “iconic” to some may simultaneously inspire disgust in others, and that’s okay. The idea that one person’s (or four—I’m looking at you, Fashion Police) opinion on an outfit gives them the right to broadcast it out to anyone who will listen is a travesty. These lists do nothing more than take down beautiful women (and let’s be honest—these lists are almost always predominantly women) and further highlight the unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards facing all women today.

See, here’s the thing. No matter what you put on, whether it’s a ratty pair of jeans or a glittering ball gown, all that matters is how YOU feel in it. It doesn’t matter than People Magazine thinks you look “frumpy and old” and it doesn’t matter if Vogue doesn’t think you have the right body type to pull off a look. Fashion should inspire happiness, love, excitement, passion, and confidence, but it should never cause regret or embarrassment. No one has the right to take those emotions away from you. If you feel like a million bucks in something, then you’ve knocked your look out of the park, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

So tonight, I won’t be checking any lists after the event. I won’t vote on who wore it better and I will not read through any commentary. I’m going to embrace and admire all fashion choices, unique features, and different body types. And as far as my own personal style goes, I’m going to start focusing a little less on what others think about clothing, and instead dress in the pieces that I fall in love with and the outfits that make me happy. Because after all, as Audrey Hepburn once said, “Happy girls are the prettiest.” And I could not agree more.

Carly Sletten is a twenty-something living in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 with a degree in professional journalism and a lot of student debt. To keep her creative juices flowing, she is a freelance writer and editor, and in order to pay the bills, she brings a right-brained perspective to her job at a local technology consulting company, where she helps out all the techies. She loves the freezing cold Minnesota winters and spends her spare time trying to write her first novel, debating whether or not to go to the gym, and exploring the city with her best friend and canine companion, a Shiba Inu named Asami.

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