Are Celebrities Actually Looking Fashionable on the Red Carpet Again?

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Kate Bosworth in Jil Sander. Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Critics have been whining for seasons that celebrities don't wear anything stylish, interesting, or truly flattering on red carpets. A sparkly shift here, a misguided A-line there, with at times little to no indication that the fashion industry even cared to dress them. Cathy Horyn even wondered if they looked so mediocre because the top designers had stopped loaning them things to wear. But Eric Wilson, in a fabulous little story in today's Times, writes that celebrities are getting fashionable again — and doing it well.

Professional style pundits have had slim pickings to truly criticize over the last several years, ever since celebrities became so willfully tasteful in their choices of gowns. That was the Joan Rivers effect. No one was taking risks, except Tilda Swinton, for fear of winding up on a worst-dressed list.

“Women were so safe on the red carpet that it looked more like a Miss America contest,” said Robert Verdi, the stylist and devilish commentator. “They were always one wave away from having a sash on.”

But times have changed, and she who looks like a beauty pageant contestant nowadays will also look one breath away from a slot on The Real Housewives or Dancing With the Stars. And if the fear of winding up on the latter isn't enough impetus for an actress to keep herself looking cool, there's 12-year-old Elle Fanning, who strutted into a screening this week in hot-off-the-runway Rodarte, "schooling her elders," Wilson writes.

And who wants to be out-dressed by a 12-year-old? Not Christina Ricci, who recently looked terrific in a spring 2011 Zac Posen frock. Nor Kate Bosworth, who looked terribly chic in spring 2011 Jil Sander. Cher, who recently went out looking crazy with orange hair in Julien MacDonald, won't be outdone. Then again, she's Cher and we already knew this about her.

Of course, there's also Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, who wear five insane outfits a day, so being remembered as a serious, clothes-wearing actress and not a crazy musician is that much more difficult. But we still wonder if what's been missing from the red-carpet equation for so long are what've helped make Gaga and Minaj so successful: stylists who actually have interesting, memorable taste.

See Elle Fanning, Kate Bosworth, Christina Ricci, and more fashion-forward celebrity looks in the slideshow.

Red Carpet Dress-Up Is Stylish Again [NYT]