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What to wear on the red carpet

Lulu Rose - February 28, 2017
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  • Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore. Photos by Getty Images‘It may be the red carpet but that’s no reason to forget the mantra of boob or leg, not both’

With the awards season in full swing, it is high time I offered my advice to those treading the red carpet, advice which might also be useful to any mere mortals with a long dress on the to-buy list. Until now, after all, celebrities have had only time, money and stylists to help them look good. Judging from the state of half of them, they need me.

Where do we start? Too much flesh, too much fabric, badly fitting bodices, fishtails, peplums, meringues, Salma Hayek’s boobage, Heidi Klum’s taste, the list of shockers goes on. True, we are a long way from the gory glory days of Cher on the red carpet, or a young Gwyneth Paltrow attempting goth (if you don’t remember, look it up). But there is much still to be done.

The rules. One: just because it’s the red carpet is no reason to abandon the usual mantra of boob or leg, never both. Two: whisper, don’t shout. A slit to mid-thigh is sexy; a slit to the crotch, Mollie King from the Saturdays (again, look it up), is not. A deep V-neck is sexy if it’s narrow, vulgar if it’s wide, and best avoided altogether if you’ve got unruly knockers. Three: silhouette matters. Four: you can subvert the whole red-carpet thing if you’re Lena Dunham, and you can wear out-there stuff if you’re Cate Blanchett. Everyone else, play by the rules. Five: just because you think this may be your only chance to wear a long dress, don’t be tempted by some princessy meringue number. Be tempted by something you look good in.

If I were a stylist, this is what I’d be telling my clients to wear. Victoria Beckham’s cut-out sleeve scarlet silk crepe gown is gorgeous (£2,650; net-a-porter.com). Fortunately, you don’t need to be as thin as she is to wear it, because it flares out gently from the waist, and a bit of boob to fill it out would be positively welcome. Granted, red isn’t a great choice for a red carpet, but if you just want a stunning evening gown, allow me to introduce you.

Jason Wu does a backless orange gown, high neck, slit up the thigh, nice (£1,945; net-a-porter.com). Maria Lucia Hohan’s Rita canary-yellow silk-tulle gown is sleeveless, with a deep but narrow (and therefore classy) V (£1,155; matchesfashion.com). If you want something a bit more fairytale princess, Alexander McQueen’s palest blue gathered silk-chiffon gown could be it (£4,395; net-a-porter.com). Me, I’d like Roksanda’s black column with a bright pink flash down the front and a slit up the back, because it’s about as modern a take on an evening gown as you can imagine, as well as being incredibly slimming (Zeal contrast-panel cady gown, £1,190;matchesfashion.com).

If you’re not Julia Roberts and you want something for the rugby club social rather than the red carpet, I can do no better than point you to the TK Maxx website: all of the bargains, but none of the hideous TK Maxx shopping experience and piles of crumpled clothes.