Melinda Tarbell, Fashion Stylist On The Red Carpet

As morning broke on Sunday, Jan. 31, I could hardly wait to hop out of bed and let the day begin, as I knew it would be unforgettable.

As all fashionistas must do, I began my red carpet beauty regimen early, getting my makeup and hair done by the very talented makeup artist Daniele Piersons. I tossed on my red mini dress by Jill Stuart and jewelry by designer/ friend Sonya Ooten and was out the door to arrive downtown by 11 a.m.

I was dropped off at the top of the red carpet by noon and then was escorted to my front-row seat at the end of the carpet, a prime location to catch all the presenters, performers and nominees as they hit their final pose in front of a sea of media photographers. With 50 photographers shouting,"Look here, drop your shoulder, tilt your chin, give us a smile," it was a spectacle.

So let's get to the nitty gritty — how were the gowns? There were clear trends emerging right from the start: black, asymmetric and geometric necklines, gold and nude tones, white and, finally, the blues. Let's break them down.


I would have to say it took the ladies some time to get warmed up. From about 12-3:30 p.m., we were in a sea of black. Long black gowns, short black gowns, asymmetrical black gowns, black sequins. You name it , but it was all black. From Giuliana Rensik in a short, asymmetrical black mini dress to Nicole Kidman in a long, high-collared Prada and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum in a one-shoulder, long gown, playing it safe. Taking a risk in black was Ciara in Givenchy Haute Couture. For me, the best of black dresses went to Jennifer Hudson wearing Victoria Beckham, not a traditional carpet gown, but the fit was impeccable and the cool zipper all the way up the back seemed flawless.

Nude Tones:

The heavy hitters arrived in the last hour of the carpet and we saw a lot of pale, flesh-tone gowns, a color palette I am partial to and love to style with. It is feminine, sexy and with the right skin tones, can be perfectly glamorous. Beyoncé wearing Stéphane Rolland made a powerful statement with a structured, blush-tone gown with a zipper down the front and geometric stitching details. Keri Hilson chose the same hue and looked elegant wearing a strapless mermaid silhouette by Dolce & Gabbana, cinched with a jewel-encrusted silver belt. Katy Perry and Heidi Klum also played up the nude tones, but with a bit more sparkle. In Zac Posen and Emilio Pucci respectively, their dresses were a play on the eye, appearing to have strategically placed gold jewels. Colbie Calliat took the gold gown all the way in a beautiful strapless gown; she is such a natural beauty and carried it well. My favorite fade away gown of the night goes to Beyoncé; the dress really did embrace the subtle, yet powerful strength she exudes.

Snow White:

White has been a standout this awards season at the Globes and SAG awards, so it was no surprise to see divas bringing it back on the GRAMMY red carpet. Jennifer Lopez wore an asymmetrical Versace gown. It definitely had that edge we can always expect on a GRAMMY carpet; the mini, long dress combo had a lot going on. We turned a corner with white, however, when Carrie Underwood stepped onto the carpet in Edition by Georges Chakra, again playing up the asymmetrical and geometric themes of the evening. The neckline was unexpected and chic, with silver straps uniquely framing her shoulders. The hard lines at the neck then broke into a relaxed and flowing white waterfall of fabric in the gown. Very chic! My favorite snow queen of the evening was Rihanna wearing a made-to-measure Elie Saab Haute Couture. The dress had a strong structured bodice and shoulders, much like Beyoncé’s gown. And yet, opposed to the geometric feel, there were soft and whimsical details in the fabric that made it appear to float up around her neckline. It was like looking at a piece of art. 

The Blues:

These playful ladies did not have a case of the blues as they rocked shades of the hue in short and sassy dresses. First up was Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, who played with a one-shoulder, bright blue mini by Emilio Pucci. Fergie again was playing with the asymmetric craze with a silver strap that crossed her right shoulder and snaked across her perfectly fit frame. Taking the shade a bit darker to navy, and on the softer side, was Lea Michele of "Glee" in Romona Keveza. Like a broken record with the one-shoulder neckline, this dress was very sweet. I loved how it really contoured at the waist and the mini skirt looked almost like feathers, light and airy, giving it a nice contrast to the navy tone. Miley Cyrus was a bit more rock and roll, taking after Heidi Klum, in a long-sleeve, fitted mini dress. Miley wore Hervé Léger by Max Azria. Finally, Taylor Swift wore a gown fit for a fairytale night. Taylor looked stunning and her glittering blue, off-the-shoulder gown by Kaufman Franco was one of my favorite gowns of the night. It framed her figure impeccably from the knotch detail at the bustline, to the theme of perfectly placed straps as we saw on Carrie Underwood, only these straps draped across Swift's back. This gown was fit for a country princess!

A few other standouts who broke the mold with some color were Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland in a perfectly sculpted gown by Victoria Beckham. Usually, I am not a fan of black and red, but this unique cut was exquisite and the back of the gown was to die for. Mary J. Blige in Gucci also stood out in fuchsia pink with sexy cut-outs at the neckline.

Finally, what fashion write-up would be complete without a mention of Lady Gaga? At first we were taunted with an imposter Gaga. This imposter was good enough to fool the screaming bleacher fans for a moment, but she did not hold a candle to the real Lady Gaga's debut in Armani Privé. Gaga truly looked like a cross between a futuristic fairy and a constellation. Playing it up with a bright yellow wig and silver star in hand, the glittering gown was like a walking sculpture with silver rings dancing off the bodice of the structured strapless gown. The incredible jewel-encrusted heels were the perfect platform for this out-of-this-world look.

And finally, my vote for best dressed: Taylor Swift and Rihanna!

Email Newsletter