Tim here. I watched the Oscars this year completely without the aid of social media of any sort – absolutely worth doing, if you haven't recently. It lets you enjoy the ceremony for the ceremony.
What that means is that I didn't realize for two whole days that there was quite a furor over my very favorite visual from the whole night, Jenny Beavan's outstanding outfit that she wore on the way to collect her Best Costume Design award for Mad Max: Fury Road. It turns out that there were quite a few people who did not share my view that it was the night's clear highlight. Several of them were sitting right inside the Kodak Theater with her, in fact, rather visibly failing to be delighted by her attire. That's especially true of an epically grumpy Alejandro González Iñárritu. He and several other conspicuous non-clappers were the subject of a Vine that went viral on the spot.
The internet has obligingly and appropriately pushed back, including a magnificent Paddy Considine tweet that I dare not show here on account of the very curt language Considine fired off in Beavan's defense, but it's very much worth checking out.
I did not come to rehash all of that, but to take us back to the outfit itself.
What was buried in the clapping controversy was that Beavan was wearing just about the coolest outfit to have graced the Oscars this decade. It's an instantly classic entry in the annals of "Costume designers just do not give a crap" alongside Milena Canonero's form fitting Victorian men's suit in 2007, and Lizzy Gardiner's 1995 American Express dress (another controversial outfit that many people hate but remains one of the greatest things anyone has ever worn). Just look at it!
All other considerations aside, that is badass. And it's also really on-point. The inherent ruggedness of (fake) leather, the heightened cartoon gaudiness of having a sequined image on the back, the fact that the image is a sort of cult identity marker, the way that her accessories suggest scavenging. She is, in effect, wearing the movie on her body, and taking it up to win the Oscar with her. More importantly, it's a way to put her own personality on display during a moment that should be entirely about here. And there is far more of Beavan the human being in that moment than any stock Hollywood figure wearing stock evening wear – this is a woman whose primary medium of expression is clothing, after all. As she put it backstage:
I don't do frocks and absolutely don't do heels, I have a bad back. I look ridiculous in a beautiful gown… I just like feeling comfortable and as far as I'm concerned I'm really dressed up."
And as far as we're concerned, she won the whole Oscar ceremony.