*From covering fake retirements.
Hello and welcome back to the 105th most popular culture newsletter on Substack!
Soon to be 104th, fingers crossed.
In all seriousness, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but one month after hitting 6,000 Messketeers, we’re already zooming up on 7K any day now. Please keep spreading the good word of Mess to all your pals and posting about it on social media, you wouldn’t believe what a difference it makes. And as always, thank you so much for reading this nonsensical rant every single week and encouraging my unhealthy obsession with all things ugly. Mess would not be mess without you.
In other happy news, daylight savings has completely bamboozled my pup Fran and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. She has gone from delivering piercing wails while pushing for a 6 am wakeup call to snoozing until a leisurely 7:30. As someone who cannot become a morning person no matter how sleep deprived this little creature makes me, this has been an absolute game-changing week for both my restfulness and general sanity. I’m not hating these 7pm sunsets either.
This week, Fran also finally fully wrapped her head around the concept of the game tug and it has been equal parts adorable and vicious. Vicious because she insists on slowly chomping up the toy towards my hand whenever we play, and adorable because she’s now realized she doesn’t need me to aggressively shake the toy and can do it herself, inevitably bopping herself in the head with it and then looking around in surprise for who would do such a thing to her
The only other thing of note I did this week is that I performed a true Artist’s Date (currently on week 11 of that process btw) and went to a stained glass class, and it was great! I’ve actually been to this glass workshop before for a mosaics class last year. It’s called UrbanGlass and it’s been in Brooklyn since the 70s and I cannot recommend it more highly if you’re interested in any sort of glass blowing, staining, fusing, grinding, or otherwise. I made a medium-sized baby pink banana that is currently hanging in my window and the process was actually way easier than I expected it to be. It’s also now sparked visions of grand cathedral windows dancing through my brain. But that might also be the lead I used to solder the banana talking.
As I said I would last week, I sent out my Ye Olde Mess newsletter to paid subscribers focused on the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. And the reviews are in — it was an utter delight!!! Not only is the casualness of that red carpet completely refreshing in light of today’s current prescriptive dress code, but it also featured some looks that are shockingly au courant. If you want to see what I mean, you’re going to have to sign up for a paid subscription to check it out. And please send any recommendations for future historical fashion event coverage my way!
If you are not a member of our Mess Discord than that means this week you missed out on our little Oscar red carpet live blog, as well as some preliminary discussions of many of the images and topics you’re about to see here today. If you want to get in on the action, please make sure to go join the over 550 Messketeers already playing amateur Fashion Police.
Ok! I guess there’s no escaping it!
To start us off today, I wanted to share this anonymous Oscar ballot submission which is one of the greatest pieces of literature I’ve ever consumed. Why do tabloids even exist when I could just be reading a compilation of these printed out and stapled together? This is like if Deux Moi actually published interesting gossip.
Also we need to give a standing ovation to the Dunkin PR team because no one has turned themselves around faster or worked harder at landing strategic placement throughout award show season. And it’s not like they had to reinvent the wheel to figure all this out. It’s literally as simple as paying attention to which beloved stars are having a viral moment and then popping a beverage in their hand during glam. After waiting FAR too long to finally lock down the Ben Affleck spon con, they’re now on a roll, getting Jennifer Coolidge during the Golden Globes at the height of “These gays are trying to murder me,” and now Angela Basset sipping on her iced Dunkaccino as we all struggle to stop singing the BAFTAs refrain about her doing the thing. Actually, speaking of, the only thing the brand missed here is getting Ariana DeBose to pen them a new jingle about how “Angela Basset drank the Dunk.”
And I just came up with a new idea for a children’s book, it’s a sequel to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie called If You Give a Celeb a Pocket. The moral of course being that they’re going to stick their whole goddamn hand inside it. This Valentino look really didn’t work for me, not only because of Florence Pugh’s insistence on getting her mitt in there and the fact that this dress is the exact shade of “champagne” as the carpet, but as I’ve said many times before, it seems to me like her stylist refuses to recognize the fact that she is a petite woman with curves who can’t necessarily pull off the same looks a runway model can or wear samples built for a 5’11” woman. This is way too much fabric on her, especially when it’s all pooled up on the floor, as it only ends up foreshortening instead of elongating her body. For some reason, this look is also much less fluffed up than it was on the runway, dragging everything down even further. As for these shoes…..that’s a subject for a little later on in this email when I have more of my wits about me.
Now this moment I feel pretty torn over. On the one hand, a $1.8 million, 139-carat diamond pregnant belly chain is exactly the type of stupidly opulent stuff I’ve long encouraged the rich and famous to participate in. Like if we must bear witness to grotesque wealth, let be of the maximum frivolity. On the other, it is also just a painful reminder that while she is rightfully everyone’s fav, Rihanna is also still a billionaire who could be spending that money on literally anything more helpful to our rapidly declining society. But given that it seems we’re on the cusp of America’s economic collapse anyway, I suppose it is fun to get this sneak preview at the type of stuff people will be looting mansions for soon.
Also, excuse me, but the last time I touched down on one Fan Bingbing she was completely M.I.A. and the world was in a panic that China had disappeared her. Apparently no more! After disappearing from public life due to a tax scandal, the actress has returned in grand Old Hollywood style and what a treat it was to behold. I wanted to share these two photos because I was struck by both what a good job she did of evoking this very timeless Tinseltown glamour while still finding a way to keep it from feeling too formulaic or costume-y. Instead, it looks like Fan could’ve authentically stepped off a Grace Kelly-era red carpet. It also makes me wonder why American A-list movie stars make these types of moments seem so impossible to achieve.
Another woman who has been M.I.A. reared her head at the VF Oscar party this week — Megan Fox, who thrillingly arrived without her engagement ring, without her fiancée, and still without a cast around her wrist despite having broken it exactly one month ago. But all of the sources are saying that I’m getting my hopes up too quickly here because not only is there a perfectly reasonable explanation for MGK’s absence, but they are also still working through things via daily couple’s counseling. How do we get them to stop?
And as I foretold last week, the exposed brassiere trend is steadily building. This week, we got both Olivia Wilde and Karen Gillan in dresses intentionally slumped off one shoulder to partially expose the lingerie beneath. I was thinking, this newfound interest in this half-undressed look makes a lot of sense when you consider total nudity no longer means anything (as you’ll come to see immediately below). By still staying partially clothed, the exposure of flesh here feels more accidental and thus more illicit than a look that makes it clear the intention was to bare it all. It’s like a Playboy centerfold versus stumbling in on somebody changing. It feels like a slightly pulpier version of Prada’s fall 2013 romanticism, if that makes sense to anyone at all.
And clearly Ciara and Sabrina Carpenter aren’t caught up on their latest editions of Mess, otherwise they’d know that wearing pasties on the red carpet is sooo last year. And in Ciara’s case just doesn’t make any sense at all. If you are going to wear a completely see-through fishnet gown, why go to the trouble of pretending you’re a nipple-less Barbie doll? The body’s already all the way out there, it’s odd to me to arbitrarily inflict modesty upon it. Like, people aren’t going to be less mad about this outfit just because they technically can’t see nip…Although, as always, I’d argue that the weird gloss of these nude pasties actually draws more attention to them rather than making them disappear into the flesh. Also, at this point of nakedness, I feel like we’re starting to leave the realm of fashion entirely so I’m never totally sure if this is even something I should be commenting on. This isn’t an outfit so much as a well-displayed collection of rhinestones.
In Sabrina’s case, I’m actually not so mad at the pasties because at least they’re completely bejeweled, although they do photograph a little somber for some reason. My complaint is actually this goddamn sheer illusion top that is neither sheer nor providing any sort of illusion. You’ve all heard me rage against the use of this material in the past, but here I find it particularly inane. Sabrina is clearly trying to drum up some press between this dress and the sudden Shawn Mendes dating rumors coincidentally coinciding with the lead up to her release of four new songs. And if that’s what she wants, she should’ve ditched this top entirely and gone for this skirt paired with straight up, taped-to-the boob-pasties and a statement necklace and she would’ve had it! I can’t explain it, but much like Ciara’s boob patches, the semi-sheer flesh tone top neuters the sexuality of this dress entirely. You gotta commit all the way to the exhibitionism!
Case in point! Last week, I said I was intrigued by the concept of strapping objects to your chest and calling it a top, and once again, Hollywood hath heard my call. I know Hunter Schafer’s outfit was very divisive, but I fucking love it. It’s elegant, yet scandalous, but also perfectly of the moment. Also, it’s designed by Ann Demeulemeester, which in and of itself is kind of a coup as she’s a designer you almost never see on red carpets. As I said on Twitter to some controversy, this is what Julia Fox thinks she’s doing. That’s not meant to be a commentary on appearance, but rather a continuation of what I’ve mused about here re: costume versus fashion. I think it might also better be summarized as stunt dressing versus avant garde
Looking through this photo set, I also really appreciated the attention to detail of this look because even the shoes underneath are platform knee-high boots made out of the exact same fabric as the skirt. So it not only gives Hunter the height to make this train more wearable and the effect of it more dramatic, but it renders the footwear essentially invisible so as not to distract from the real statement piece. And that is exactly the type of subtle, little shit that can really make or break a look and I feel like celeb stylists so rarely pay attention to. (All jokes of this newsletter’s title aside, Law Roach — the stylist behind this outfit — will be sorely missed.)
And I need to learn my lesson about giving compliments because it always comes back to haunt me. We got another look at the Loewe anthurium boob flaps, this time doubled-up on model Adwoa Aboah, and while I know it makes absolutely no sense given everything I said last week, I really don’t like the floral sculptures side by side like this. It’s a little too literal this way. This is a reference for like three people out there, but it also just gave me a flashback of Really Really Big Man’s Nipples of the Future from Rocko’s Modern Life. I do think the fact that this dress is two subtly different shades of white is interesting, but it also makes me feel like I’m failing some sort of color blindness test.
Kendall also tried her hand at the trend, literally. And once again, call me an extremist, but I think covering up the nipple here ruined everything. I think the outfit concept is great, very much in line with what Hunter presented us with above, I just think the attitude is all wrong. I want intensity, not demureness. Kendall is a model after all, it’s not like this is anything we haven’t seen a million times before.
Anyway, this image also sparked a very interesting conversation in the Discord about the nature of celebrity body makeup and artificial ab contour. Which is something I’ve never really thought about before, but is obviously happening all the time. In fact, our conclusion was that the vast majority of celebs are drawing them on, and have been drawing them on for ages. And yes, we do have the receipts to prove it.
And then of course there were the many, many ladies who chose to attend the VF Oscar party totally in the buff. Emily Ratajkowski and Alessandra Ambrosio simply being the two most notable proponents of the trend. Emily looks like a baseball made in collaboration with Opening Ceremony. There’s also just something about thumbholes in an evening gown that really raises my hackles. And the nude thong — why bother! It reminds me of the logic everyone was using back during the early aughts days of clear bra straps, like neither of those things is invisible and if anything they’ve become even more obvious in their attempt to disappear.
Alessandra, on the other hand, is clearly a professional. Not only is the G-string correctly sized to produce maximum outrage, but it’s also perfectly in conversation with the rest of this dress instead of trying to pretend it’s not there at all. I think we have to credit Peter Dundas’s for both of those inspired design elements as, judging from the back of this gown, the thong actually seems to be built in to the dress and made out of the same material. As it always should be! Finally, a designer who actually gets what we’re trying to do here.
But I think the most exciting moment of the whole evening for me had to be when Lady Gaga arrived on the red carpet with her entire butt hanging out. Peak Mess at the Oscars, who would’ve thought it. This moment was brought to us courtesy of the latest Versace collection which I hate everything about except for the fact that it might encourage celebrities to usher in a bumster revival. As I’ve told you before, now that we’ve finally freed the nipple, stars are starting to move to the next stage of taboo and focus on everything below the belt. In other words, get ready for butt cleavage to totally usurp décolletage.
And isn’t it remarkable how after all the riffs on total nudity I showed you above, Ariana DeBose wearing a full set of underwear under a lace dress feels totally blasé now? That’s how quick the Overton window is shifting out there!
And since we’re now officially on the topic of the Versace show, the time has finally come for us to talk about these hoofs. I feel like both Versace and Valentino are evolving their jumbo platforms in lockstep to transform women’s feet into these pig trotters and I don’t understand why. I think the illusion is being created because they keep lowering the part of the shoe that covers the tootsies for maximum toe cleavage, but in turn it makes it look from the front as though Delilah Belle Hamlin is about to break into a gallop. It’s almost a weird lotus foot situation.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t touch down briefly on Allison Williams because what the hell is going on here. It’s not just the ball gown layered atop a wide-legged cargo pant, although it certainly is that as well. But more upsetting to me, is the matchy-matchy neckerchief she’s layered atop a long pendant necklace and finished off with a curtain of lank locks. Has M3GAN launched a styling business?
But after months of false starts, Lil Nas X finally showed us not only what a great man skirt looks like, but a great outfit based around said skirt. I think this strikes a perfectly androgynous note that still feels modern, and, for maybe the first time ever, all of the proportions are in correct relationship to one another. Astounding. Let’s just hope all the other It-boys are out there watching and taking note.
Speaking of crystals, Offset wore one of the Margiela couture 2012 masks to the VF Oscar party and while it’s still just as stunning as ever, it also made me so sad to remember how inextricably linked this design is to Kanye. Because it’s such a beautiful, powerful object and deserves to live a long red carpet and editorial life, and now it just conjures up images of a neo-nazi. I hope fashion can find a way to reclaim it.
Justin Bieber was also at that party and he is still really pushing this whole grandma’s afghan as outerwear concept. I’ll admit, I do think there’s a certain something to it. I just also think that he is not the guy to make this happen, nor anywhere near the influential trendsetter he thinks he is. Now get me an ASAP, a Frank Ocean, even a Jonah Hill, and we might have something.
He and Hailey also used the opportunity to take this very……interesting…..photo at a very interesting time in the gossip cycle surrounding them, and I can’t help but feel like the placement of this beringed hand is a little pointed.
Regardless, Justin also gave us the gift of this photo set this week in which he wages a valiant war against way too large jeans of his own design. As a prolific chronicler of this man’s ever-expanding trouser collection from its inception, I never could’ve imagined such a satisfying pay off to my record keeping. The top aesthetic code of Drew House has always been wildly ill-fitting garments. Perhaps you’ll recall the teeny-tiny jacket he almost Hulk-ed out of at the Met Gala in 2021 when his brand made its first tragic foray into luxury evening wear. In this case, it’s not even so much that the pants are too big as it is that they’re just incredibly long? It looks like Shaq could shimmy into these denims without a single alteration. God, I hope everyone starts wearing these soon.
This week, I was also struck by all the lovely neckline and blouse innovation going on out there for the gentlemen/non-binary folk. While I hate the full length of JVN’s dress, I do love this one-shoulder neckline on them and I think it would be an easy way for famous people to add some fun dimension underneath the sea of boring suits we’re seeing out there. Troye Sivan’s lace-up crop top similarly feels like a much-needed fresh take on layering that also allows him to show off the top of his boxers, tying him into the exposed underwear trend in a more laidback way. And model Alton Mason may have found the very last way there is to make opera gloves interesting. While this is still the last time I ever want to see this accessory, it does perfectly balance out the bare-ness of the top. The deep square neckline also feels sexy, yet still masculine. And you already know how we feel about a Tabi here at Mess HQ.
These looks, however, while creative, were not quite as successful. With Donald Glover’s, the problem for me really comes down to the fit, but I’m also not sure that there is a way to keep this top fitted to the chest when it’s also tethered to the front of these pants. I actually think this would’ve been way more successful as two separate pieces rather than a jumpsuit because you could tailor the jacket properly, but you’d still get that swipe of oblique as well as some midriff which I think would help balance it out a bit more.
As for Lucien Laviscount, first of all, this is Dolce & Gabbana so there’s really no saving it. But secondly, I feel like he’s been taking the styling of Emily in Paris too much to heart. Instead of blurring the binary with these opera gloves, they’re just chopping his arm off at the elbow. I feel like the crystal necklace is supposed to be reminiscent of royalty when in fact it reads Ruth Bader Ginsberg judicial collar. And the corset looks cheaper than those waist trainers the Kardashians used to sell before they started manufacturing their own.
And it seems Rita Ora’s black lace pant agenda is starting to take root in earnest. Ariana DeBose changed into a brief-exposing pair for the VF Oscars party, as did Harvey Guillén who went even further with it in a fully sheer lace jumpsuit, proving guys can get in on the black-tie nudie trend too. That said, I don’t love the rhinestone-ing on the lapel as I feel like it cheapens the rest of the look. But it also reminds me a lot of Marc Jacobs’s iconic 2012 Met Gala look, which is really a reference a whole lot more men should be drawing from.
Of course, I couldn’t leave you today without subjecting you to some fresh Chanel affront as modeled by the brand’s perennial punching bag, Kristen Stewart. They got her again, this time at a pre-Oscar dinner. While this look obviously isn’t good, I will say, at least they respected Kristen’s general fashion aesthetic this time instead of forcing her into another Sound of Music special. I even kind of like the stupid little silver bow they added to the neckline. You can’t really see it clearly in this picture, but this matching set is a large crochet knit through which you can see Kristen’s underwear and it also features a loosely-woven camellia cutout across her chest. It’s like Chanel almost understood what’s trendy right now, but ultimately couldn’t quite synthesize it into an outfit. And then they got to the shoe and lost the plot entirely, panicking and putting her in a leg-truncating lace-up boot. I assume because she keeps taking her heels off the second she exits the red carpet, but there’s something about this pairing that just ends up making the whole thing look like a toddler’s beach day playsuit.
And before I get out of here, I just wanted to add that it’s funny to me that I pointed out last week that this Frankie’s Bikinis campaign is potentially sending Sydney Sweeney off on an over-sexualized trajectory that’s the antithesis of everything she seems to want professionally because, since then, the images they’ve released have only gotten exponentially more XXX. And again I ask: where is Syd’s Miu Miu campaign?! I’d like to speak to management.
Ok, well, I’m as petrified as Ashley Graham coming to in an empty bathtub that I have to tell you this, but it’s time for us to go our separate ways. Until we meet again!
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See ya later, cuties!