Fug or Fab: Cate Blanchett


Let’s try something here. Check out the gown in black and white:

If you imagine this colorized, how would you do it? What color and then contrasting panels would ensure that you loved it? Paint it with your imagination for a second, and then see how it stacks up for you in full bloom:

What do you think? How did it compare? I know those inserts are designed to shock the eye, but even so I’m not actually sure that brassy shade is quite right — somehow even on a dress that’s trying to be dramatic, it feels at odds. But in the pro camp, she’s totally selling it, and she’s such a delightful example of how minimalist makeup can still let your face be a star (ahem, Kim Kardashian, she of the Ten-Trowel Regimen). Regardless, I am so happy Cate Blanchett is starring in something that will require her to leave the house. She seems to have receded somewhat from red-carpet dominance, which if you think about it is a great tactic — make us miss you, then show up in a pimpled lilac confection that is oddly hypnotic and super, and we will be like YES SHE’S BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER — but it also means we’re being denied her tomfoolery. Or her triumphs. Which would you say this is?  Is it fug, or is it fab? Or is it a classic case of carte Blanchett?

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[Photo: Getty]


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Comments (59):

  1. emk

    it’s more the fabric of the brown section that I don’t like than the color itself.

    • pantsonfire

      Yeah, I’m in this camp. First and foremost, I love the idea and even the execution of this dress; sure, the colors *could* have been something else, but that’s the beauty of a dress like this–I can imagine it in all sorts of colors that would be gorgeous. Incidentally, the colors they chose are interesting. The only quibble is with the fabric choice for those panels….is it satin? Whatever it is, it is bunching and reflecting light in some angles in a way that cheapens the look.

    • Jamie

      I think the all the fabrics on the entire dress look kind of cheap, actually. I was hoping for a grey-green with deep teal insets, but I already knew from the black and white that no combination of colors could save the sub-par construction. The seams around the insets are all puffy, the insets themselves are bunching and even the hem looks like something from Forever 21.

      We can do better for Cate Blanchett than Forever 21 seams.

      • msd

        Urgh Rodarte. Their high fashion always looks like it was sewn by a five year old. She’s beautiful though.

  2. Maggie

    I imagined it in a dove gray with eggplant side panels, and mine was much better. I think the problem is less in the color (although that is troublesom), and more in the construction: why are the panels outlined in satin? Why do all the edges look ratty? It looks like a very nice costume from a high school production of Cinderella.

  3. Fina

    I’m a longtime lurker and first-time commenter because I *loved* this fun exercise and hopefully you’ll do it again!

    That being said, before I saw you linked to it in the jump, I thought lilac for the bodice, royal blue for the inserts, and then a pale/baby blue for the skirt. More spring than fall colors, but that lilac is so fantastic on her!

    • jean

      Agreed! I loved seeing it both ways. It also emphasized that Cate truly is a classic beauty. She could have been photo-shopped next to Grace Kelly and looked just as elegant. Then again I think black and white is extremely forgiving for a lot of women–evens out the skin tone, makes heavy make up look less horrible, and really shows off the lines of a dress.

  4. Art Eclectic

    I could not imagine any combination of anything that would make me like that dress…until I saw what the designed did. The side panels actually save it for me.

  5. Stefanie

    I didnt like it when I pictured in color (blue and purple both pale shades) and I dont like it in the actual colors. The construction is ify for me as well. Basically it’s screaming Project Runway to me.

  6. rax

    I thought of purple, too! I thought it would be lovely in a bone color with lavender inserts. I actually kind of like the color of the panel, but I hate that bright grayish white with it.

  7. AndersonicTK421

    I would like it much better if it didn’t look like duct tape was employed at the panel-meet seams.

  8. Katherine

    Loved the black and white, think the color is hideous.

  9. Sophia Loren

    I like it better when I imagine it’s pants. Really.

    Like if I were in an movie in which Bette Davis had me over for drinks and then told me of her plan to push her husband in the pool. She’d be wearing this, and it would be pants. I’d be wearing something less dramatic.

    And this scenario didn’t just occur to me when I saw it in BW. I saw it first at Tom & Lorenzo and thought it up, which also meant that I couldn’t imagine it in any other colors than what it is. But I love the lilac, etc suggestions here.

  10. Katharine

    It’s a blue grey paired with a golden/yellow brown-bronze. They are just — a little — off to me. I think a very slight adjustment to the hue of either the grey bits or the bronze bits might have made this work.

    I don’t like the whatever-the-hell fake lizard-skin ribbon around the bronze panels. And I don’t like how none of the geometric angles and bands seem to meet in any sensible way in the closeup round the waist area, but I wonder if that’s not from an alteration job to fit the dress to Ms Blanchett’s figure, in which case it’s almost certainly the better choice.

  11. Kara K

    I imagined a light green and a dark, lush green for the panels. I liked mine better though I do think this is pretty great anyway.

  12. JC

    I’m just so glad they aren’t sheer panels that I will accept any color combination. But I do like the combination on the dress.

  13. Josephine

    I like the extant color combo quite a bit, but I still think the overall effect is Star Wars Couture.

    (And, I mean, if anyone can get away with that, it’s her, but still–worth mentioning.)

  14. Molly

    I imagined cream with emerald/jade panels….
    That bronze fabric is for Liberace’s drapery. Not a dress.

  15. Liz985

    Look, I love Cate Blanchett as an actress, but she’s down to her last “get out of jail free” card with the wardrobe. This is a resounding fug for me not only for the color scheme, but for the whole design. It’s hideous.

  16. Annie S.

    I LOVE La Blanchett, and her pimpled (ha!) haute couture gown from the Oscars is one of my favorite things she’s ever worn, but this…this is terrible. It’s so…limp. Like a sad, poorly finished Holmes & Yang satin dishrag.

  17. robabeau

    @Sophia Loren : I would TOTALLY watch that movie!! And as for the dress here, it does nothing for her at all, really. As someone else said, sheer panels would have been ‘fug’, but this is just ‘feh’.

  18. Amanda

    I saw it in a very pale pink with a darker rose pink on the panels and quite liked it. It was a bit of a shock when I saw the real colors but I think it’s working for me.

  19. Sandra

    I envisioned smoke-blue for the dress and navy for the panels. I also like @Kara K.’s idea of greens. But La Blanchett is selling the hell out of this and it works as elvish formal-wear.

  20. Evalyn

    I don’t mind the colors, but the design is . . . bad. What isn’t limp is wrinkled. Bronze meatalic shine, gray satin shine, silver whatever shine. Chiffon droop, shoulder droop, neckline droop. 1960′s Negligee meets the Edwardian Morning Coat. Not even The Blanchett can save it.

  21. Joan

    I quite like this – it’s different from what we’ve been seeing on Red Carpets lately and THANK GOD there’s no sheer in sight. And my god, she is sooo beautiful that I think she could see me just about anything she’d put on.

  22. LS

    Agree with Fina – this is a fab exercise! You must do the black&white version on others. I think some celebs would benefit from doing the same themselves before they step out of their house.

    As for carte Blanchett, she’s like The Swinton: almost everything works on her, but mere mortals shouldn’t try this at home.

  23. Bella

    I really like this. I see the color as icy gray/copper and the whole thing is floaty and different.

  24. Kit

    I imagined lavendar with lilac side panels. This is not meeting my vision. And I don’t think even *she* can pull it off. :(

  25. Helen

    Love it, start to finish. I was imagining red and yellow (I don’t know), so to find it so subdued by comparison was a lovely surprise!

    With Blanchett’s naturally regal-yet-unassuming posture and carriage (how does she DO that?), IMO she can pull off the drama here. The fit is superb, as well, a thing I always appreciate. Proportions are perfection and so’s the hair and makeup.

    Now I just want to see the back!

  26. Kris

    I imagined the dress in a pale pink and the side panels in a royal purple. (Not saying it would have looked good that way, but that’s what I imagined!!!)
    The real dress is…ok. There’s something not quite cohesive with the color choices though. Gray and bronze don’t really go well together, in my humble opinion. Of course, CB is gorgeous…so ultimately, it’s fine.

  27. pidget

    I, too love the imagination exercise! I thought of palest crocus yellow for the main, with medium royal purple inserts.

    In real life, the shoddy-looking workmanship (wobbly seams! Odd baggy bits! Dishwatery skirt! Iffy shoulder-line!) Lets me down. We went from elvish princess to home-ec project.

  28. Cat

    This almost works, but not quite. The way the panels are placed, it should theoretically make her tiny waist look tinier, but from some angles I thought that it actually made her look boxier than she is. I’m also not sure if bronze panels work all that well with the pale lilac– it might have been better if they were shaded closer to the lilac, like a dark purple or even grey. Still, I do find this quite pretty and striking and way more interesting that lace/sheer/whatever.

  29. AM

    I really like this dress and Cate’s hair and make up. I sort of do like it a touch better in black and white though because I would make the panels somewhere in the same shade family as the dress, like a darker gray perhaps.

  30. Megan

    I am not a fan of the dress, but I LOVE this exercise!

  31. smj

    Yellow, with turquoise panels.

  32. AmyS

    The black and white picture is striking.

    When picking the colours I went with white and gold, Which is weird, not a fan of gold. I think I was just guessing what I thought the coloured pic would look like,

  33. mary lou bethune

    Cate Blanchette is apparantly very nice; a horse instructor I met who taught her for a movie called her wonderful. She is beautiful, the best actress of her generation, in my humble opinion, and she keeps herself to herself and her family. As if all this were not enough, she wears dresses so well that even when they are suspect, on her they look chic and gorgeous. This one is no exception. She glows, Gladreil that she is, and that color (dirty rainwater gray?) is wonderful on her and her alone. carte blanche

  34. Verlaine

    I wish the panels were green instead, but she’s still wearing the hell out of it.

    • Vandalfan

      Yes, i pictured a mustard / goldish yellow with dark green inserts.

  35. uba

    Lisa Eldrige posted a video on her page, it’s a tutorial by Cate’s make-up artist, Mary Greenwell. She shows you how she does Cate’s make-up. (Followed by a tutorial of Jessica Chastain’s make-up, that she does as well).


  36. Minda

    I’m quite disappointed, actually. I had a peacock like dress in mind. Gold/vivid yellow at the waist and a deep turquoise blue in the dress. While I had shades of the reality, the I,age in my head was much prettier. The colors here just don’t match up.

  37. Miss Louise

    This woman is all class. My bias in her favour almost veers into carte-Blanchett territory. She’s like Glenda Jackson and Katherine Hepburn in one person, but taller. And Australian. Love it. This colour scheme, though, is bad. She’s working more than any other human could, but it’s a case of two different, and jarring, palettes together.

  38. Libby

    I would change the brass/copper to a neon lemon/lime or another electric color

  39. holly

    When I saw the black and white picture the first thing I thought of was, “Cate is so beautiful, I don’t care what she is wearing!” But then when I focused on the dress, it began to look to me like a costume from an original Star Trek episode–or even Mork and Mindy. And then no color palette could save it. So I went back to looking at her lovely face.

    I agree with the other commentators that the quality of the fabric and the sewing are the problem; the concept could possibly work.

  40. Jo

    I was half right- imagined silver but navy blue panels- that would’ve been better.

  41. Bottle Ginger

    I’d like it better with a deep V-neck. I mean, if the front of your dress is made mostly of triangles that form a big X right over your stomach, you might as well go all the way.

    Of course, it’d make her look a bit like she’s dressed as Emma Frost, but La Blanchette can definitely carry off dressing like Emma Frost.

  42. SKGD

    I was envisioning dusty grey blues, sort of Wedgewood blue tones, darkening with each layer. I don’t entirely mind the actual colours but the bodice looks odd. Too much fabric at the center of her waist and the shoulders and sleeves look awkward. The shoulder/sleeve seam would be much better if fitted to her actual shoulders. (IMHO)

  43. Sajorina

    I think it’s COOL! I love the grey and mix of metallics… Pewter & Bronze co-exist beautifully in this dress! She’s selling the hell out of it, but she looks good in everything! INFINITE FAB! By the way, I imagined it was a soft pink dress with pink gold metallic inserts!

  44. The Fugger

    I would have loved the bronze if the body of the dress was green. As it stands, it looks way too much like she walked off the set of Star Wars, which…I have Thoughts about. (Suffice to say, it’s a spectacular movie that might not be the best thing for sartorial inspiration.

    I would have loved this with a cream body and green or blue or purple panel. (I don’t know what it is with me and green today.) Actually, that’s how I envisioned it – so I guess the sin in my head isn’t so much the bronze as it is the white.

  45. house mouse

    I actually said “ooof” out loud when I saw the inserts. All of the textures are wrong, and nothing is laying right. It feels like a failed Project Runway entry. Her face is as gorgeous as ever, though. Only Cate could even almost pull this off.

  46. RebekahRose

    Hmmm, it could be so much better in different colours. Awwa I want Cate to be as awesome as she usually is, I’ve loved practically all of her outfits until recently…But at the end of the day she is classy and elegant, so beautiful and a nice person to boot to so we forgive her a few dodgy outfits.

  47. fritanga

    I knew it would be foil-y. I just thought it would be in some horrible shade of teal over a pale peach fabric (thus flashing back to late ’80s/early ’90s wallpaper). As such, the real colors were a nice, if odd, surprise.

    Make no mistake, though: only Blanchett could carry it off. It’s her demeanor and her fabulous body which obviate all objections, and actually enhance the dress. Anyone else (Anne Hathaway, Lea Michelle, Rooney Mara, or other women who try to be “edgy”) would look like a dog’s dinner in this.

    • Lilbet

      Anyone else would steer clear of it. A handmade costume for the school play. Same designer as the white maternity belt one? Empress’s new clothes.

  48. Kate

    I work at a newspaper and played the same game with myself – loved it on the black and white page proof, then saw it in colour and thought “wow Cate, you look like a fancy chocolate wrapper”. Oh wait – I think I’ve found the beauty in the dress!

  49. Robyn V

    I think it’s stunningly beautiful and unusual. She’s like a butterfly.

    Not what I was expecting at all – I also envisioned pinks.

  50. Matilda

    she could either keep the gown and make the panels silver, or keep the panels and… no, you just can’t take that colour of panels and fix it. I give up. And please, get some nicer fabric to compete with the inserts, or at least clean it!

  51. Lily1214

    Forget black/white/colorized. This gown is a really poor design. I certainly wouldn’t wear it.