LOS ANGELES—This year's Academy Awards pre-ceremony red carpet display has analysts worried that the divide between the nation's best and worst dressed is only growing, forcing thousands to live well below the taste line while a lucky few see their glamour levels skyrocket.
"Every year it's the same story, with the flashy getting flashier and the trashy getting trashier," said red carpet fashion expert Melissa Rivers, who brought attention to the issue Sunday night in a special post-Oscars report broadcast on the TV Guide channel. "If nothing is done to level the playing field, we may never see members of the fashion underprivileged, like Lindsay Lohan and Pamela Anderson, make the transition from sham to glam."
Oscar night fashion, which many experts use as a bellwether for the state of celebrity gorgeousness nationwide, has shown in recent years a high concentration of couture in the hands of a few, with Halle Berry alone commanding over 57 percent of the nation's supply of sexy yet exquisitely tasteful gowns.
"We can't just assume that because Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, and Kate Winslet look amazing, everything is okay," said Rivers, as celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch and In Touch magazine fashion commentator Goumba Johnny nodded in solemn agreement. "For every Sarah Jessica Parker, there's an overdressed underclass of Mary-Kate Olsens and Paula Abduls."
While fashion moguls have long predicted that investing in designer dresses would have an impact throughout Hollywood, little style has actually trickled down to those most in need. Fixtures of the fashion elite like Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lopez, and George Clooney, and younger taste mavens Reese Witherspoon and Anne Hathaway continue to occupy the highest strata, while Helena Bonham Carter, Mariah Carey, and Diane Keaton perennially personify the depressing lack of upward mobility, Rivers said.
"The best-dressed, worst-dressed divide is also a generational problem, as the children of worst-dressed celebrities are less likely to encounter the same glamour opportunities as children of best-dressed celebs," Rivers continued. "Just look at the Osbourne children. It's tragic. It's tragic."
Some celebrities, such as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Heather Graham, are accused of pursuing fashion beyond their fame. Moreover, a growing number of style analysts, including Rivers' counterpart and TV personality Jay Manuel, place blame for the current state of elegance squarely on the shoulders of the devastated celebrities themselves.
"It's all about personal responsibility: pull yourself up by your own Choo straps," Manuel said. "Courtney Love has her choice of any Versace gown she wants, but she chooses to look like she just stumbled out the back door of a methadone clinic. You just have to want to work hard and apply yourself."
Others insist that celebrities do not choose their worst-dressed fate, but are victims of recent fashion disasters from which they have not yet recovered.
"I don't believe for a minute that any of this is [the celebrities'] fault," said longtime red-carpet presence Joan Rivers, Melissa's mother. "Who in the world chooses to present themselves like Sharon Stone? Who goes out and dresses like Tori Spelling on purpose? No one, that's who! Gawd! It makes me sick!"
Rivers then simulated the act of forcing herself to vomit to emphasize her disgust over the accelerating fashion disparity.