The Palm Springs Film Festival Gala Brings Out Color, Print and the Usual Slink

Cate Blanchett Palm Springs - P

Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Saoirse Ronan bring real fashion to the first awards gala of the season.

Every awards show says it’s the pre-cursor of the Oscars nowadays, even fashion-wise. But of course, we know that’s not true; whatever these awards-show fashionistas bring out early on in the season is no doubt the opposite of what they’ll end up wearing in late February. It’s all about a variation of looks that, lined up together when the season wraps, will look different enough from each other, with new hair and makeup, but with a consistency of identity.

Ask any stylist: This is not easy to do.

Unless, of course, like Elizabeth Stewart, you work with the amazingly original but true-to-herself Cate Blanchett, who wore a spring/summer Marc Jacobs long-sleeved, sky-blue ruched silk gown with floral gold, turquoise and red Lesage embroidery from France — the greatest embroidery house in the world, and one of the oldest. It was not a dress that made the runway of Marc’s blockbuster spring/summer show in New York, but Jacobs himself Instagrammed it a few months ago, saying it is one of his favorite dresses. Whether Blanchett and Stewart caught that — or Jacobs’ fashion wunderkind Celine Khavarani brought it to their attention — it was a total winner, particularly paired with Blanchett’s bright red lips, wavy 1940’s movie-star hair, and nude Ferragamo shoes. The ruching was quite figure-flattering, the color combination unique (a Blanchett signature) and it had the surprise of having the same embroidery and red jewels in the back of the gown, right above the butt. Blanchett noted upon arrival how cold of an evening it was in Palm Springs, and she was clearly ready for it — and ready for her close-up. She shone brightly in a low-key dress with big detail — and a hit of a point in the shoulder — and a round, quite-modest neck. As Carly Simon sings, Nobody does it better.

Rooney Mara, however, was freezing, she quipped on the carpet in her tiny but super-chic Lanvin spring/summer black satin mini-cocktail dress from summer 2016. It had lace detail on skinny spaghetti straps, a short bubble skirt and a few inches of black lace below — showing off Rooney’s petite frame and lithe legs. With her black hair slicked back and a serious smoky eye, it was like Lisbeth Salander got dressed up for a black-tie event. We love a goth girl, and Rooney knows how to give serious goth — serious, but ultra chic. What her statement about wearing Lanvin after Alber Elbaz’s departure from the house might mean? We assume it was no statement at all, just that she and stylist Ryan Hastings loved the dress. Anyway, it’s from Elbaz’s final collection, so that says something. Maybe it was Rooney’s way of saying goodbye — even though she most often dons Givenchy by her pal Riccardo Tisci.

Alicia Vikander shocked — at least the fashion world — by not wearing Louis Vuitton, whom she’s contracted to, but we can assume she’s got plenty of LV gowns ready for the Globes and the SAGs, etc. Her two-piece look was by Erdem, whose strong presence during the 2015 awards season was enhanced by Keira Knightley and Felicity Jones. From the Brit designer’s pre-fall 2016 collection, Vikander donned the Simone dotted ruffle asymmetrical skirt with ruffled high-necked Vena top — matching, but evening separates in the palest pink with tiny black dots. It was feminine chic — a 3/4 length, highly appropriate for Palm Springs as the first gala out of the gate — with her dark hair swept back off her face, and some down, simple earrings, a Bulgari Serpenti ring, and a blush lip. Spotted in leggings and a T-shirt during the day with beau Michael Fassbender having brunch at The Parker Palm Springs, she looked ultra feminine, and not all that far from the way she did au naturel.


One of the best dresses of the evening belonged to lovely young star Saoirse Ronan, who dressed ultra age-appropriate in a multi-color, multi-print floral gown by British designer Duro Olowu with a fluffy 3/4 skirt. Very boho chic and on trend, it was a great start to awards season for the young star, who’s got serious fashion promise, as this was a risk-taker that paid off. It was a great follow-up to her colorful blush Gucci look at LACMA’s Art + Film Gala in November.

Brie Larson kept it going with her collab with stylist Cristina Ehrlich, keeping it super simple, chic and young in a dark bottle-green, satin halter slip dress by Jason Wu and gold Brian Atwood pumps. Since the satin slip dress is THE piece for spring 2016 — you heard it here first — it was great to see it being worn with someone with the right figure for it. It is utterly unforgiving, but looked lovely and properly slinky on the young Larson, who matched it with sleek hair and simple makeup.

Dame Helen Mirren wowed in robin’s egg blue — a long-sleeved jersey bodice with a drapey silk skirt. Kate Winslet, who presented to Michael Fassbender, stuck to her column dress severity and wore black with an interesting neck detail. Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard went full-on bombshell in a black illusion lace strapless fishtail Dolce & Gabbana mermaid gown that was full Jessica Rabbit — but she can certainly pull it off.

For the men, Christian Bale, Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Matt Damon all looked quite black-tie dashing, while Johnny Depp, weaving a bit on stage, paired his tux with asymmetrical Vidal-Sassoon-style hair with finger waves. As usual, no one could get away with it but him.

All in all, a good start to a long awards season and a nice way to edge into Globes fashion hysteria, which is only a week away.

Read more Palm Springs Awards Gala Attracts Oscar Hopefuls Like Cate Blanchett and Johnny Depp