What The Worst Dressed At This Year’s Emmys Should Have Worn Instead

11 examples of much better red carpet attire — for Lena Dunham, Lena Headey, Jessica Lange and more.

It wouldn’t be a major awards ceremony’s red carpet without a worst-dressed list now, would it? And this year’s Emmys rose to the poorly-styled occasion.

You’d think a team of red carpet professionals could do better in just about all these circumstances — and you’d be right. UNLESS they all get together at a special, secret stylists’ club meeting before each big awards ceremony and draw straws to see who’ll dress their clients up all wrong (taking one for the team, basically) to prove the argument that styling is needed after all. It’s a conspiracy theory and a paradox all in one, how exciting!

But however you slice it, many of the red carpet gowns were bad. Bad and/or boring. Below, 11 of the worst-rated looks from this year’s Emmys ceremony, and our helpful suggestions of options that would have proved much more successful instead. Nobody wants to spend the Emmys crying quietly in a toilet stall while reading what all those meanies on Twitter are saying about your hemline, after all.

For accuracy’s sake, we’ve also only considered the recent work of each look in question’s designer. For example, all the options Lena Dunham really should have considered in place of that twee floral tablecloth of a dress are also by Prada.

1. Lena Headey

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Headey wore a strange black lacy number by British designer Alessandra Rich — and while it’s always exciting to see a rising designer’s work showcased, in this instance the dress’s balance of sheer and semi-sheer panels just didn’t work. So here’s a much better selection pulled from Rich’s spring 2013 and fall 2013 collections (she’ll present her spring 2014 designs in Paris next week).

There’s shades of the Seven Kingdom’s Queen Regent to be found here, as well as the patent white heels very similar to those Lena clearly enjoyed wearing on the red carpet herself. Please let’s see someone in the white patchwork number; please also let’s see someone in that fabulous magenta leopard print wrap.

2. Lena Dunham

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Now Prada’s runway collections are generally not the most obvious red carpet fare, but that’s exactly why they’d work for a quirky dresser like Dunham. (Disclaimer: Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, a more restrained mannequin, pulled off a simple color-blocked Prada gown very nicely too.)

From left to right in the runway images above: the slouchy layering from Prada’s fall 2013 collection would suit Lena’s “only here to make self-deprecatory tweets thxvm” attitude very nicely; on the far right it’s fair to say no excuse should ever be needed to wear the sparkly rainbow bright dresses from the label’s spring 2014 collection. Also, the pale pink floral number is here solely because we all need to know how Lena feels about those weird platform thong sock shoes.

3. Zosia Mamet

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Mamet’s gown drew some of the night’s harshest criticism, and perhaps unfairly. Really, it just needed to have been hemmed a little better and then it wouldn’t have flopped and folded all despondent on the red carpet like an embittered millenial who’d rather be at home watching Hoarders.

What should be a whimsical print and fun fan pleating come off as dour and heavy. Honor’s designs are almost always much frothier and playful — still bold, though, thanks to a sharp use of color and/or irreverent draping — and a lighter touch would be most welcome here. Also, A SMILE. (Bonus points: a SMIZE.)

Note: the suggested look second-from-left here is from Honor’s fall 2013 collection, also worn on the carpet by Homeland’s Morgan Saylor. Red carpet stylists have been known to hemorrhage counterfeit Chanel pearl necklaces when their clients’ looks “overlap” in this way,however, so it might be a gown that’s off the table. The others (resort 2014 and spring 2014 looks) are all still lovely, and fair game.

4. Jessica Paré

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When you’re wearing a dress featuring more pleats along the bustline than an accordion and fashion critics still say your look “falls flat,” well then you’re in a serious sartorial situation.

Paré’s stylist has somehow found her an Oscar de la Renta gown that’s simultaneously too fussy and too simple — this despite de la Renta showing a consistent commitment to ornamentation and high-end detail work in his last few collections without stumbling into overwrought territory one bit. Someone give Jessica a muffin, and her dress a sequin (or, you know, seven thousand).

5. Jessica Lange

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After a brief, collective bout of deja vu when Jessica Lange’s dress made it’s red carpet debut, everyone remembered they’d seen it previously worn by Jane Fonda wearing on a recent episode of The Newsroom, and let’s be honest, it didn’t look that great then either. That’s by no means a criticism of either Lange or Fonda — just confirmation that ice-skating leotards should, really, stay on the ice. Unless you’re Johnny Weir.

So take your pick really — just about every other recent Escada design in the evening gown ouevre would be a better and more flattering pick. The floral pink number here might prove to similar to January Jones’ Givenchy look, however Lange on fine form could give her a run for her money. Or just curse her, American Horror Story: Coven-style.

6. Alyson Hannigan

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Spot the odd one out in this lineup: that “odd one out” being a BORING Marchesa gown. Honestly, if you’re requesting a Marchesa look for your red carpet appearance and asking if, you know, it could just be toned down a little, you’re doing it all wrong. Marchesa’s commitment to high-glam refinement and just the right amount of embellished excess should never be questioned.

Note: the far-left gown in our quartet of suggestions — flowery print, exaggerated fishtail — is actually the same template as Hannigan’s Emmy look. But for some reason Alyson decided a mousy shade of purple would be better than a vibrant floral. Understandable to a point, when precedent’s considered, but still disappointing.

7. Amanda Peet

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Peet’s sheepish demeanor throughout last night’s carpet party suggests she knew what was coming via the tabloids’ “Hit or Miss?” pages. She, along with everyone here, should thank their lucky stars the Fashion Police writers are still all on strike.

Anyway, her strange black lacy number — inappropriate for a funeral, but ill-suited for any other occasion too — is by British designer Erdem Moralioglu, whose work is much, much better than this one piece might suggest. Case in point: variations on the sheer, mostly monochromatic and heavily embroidered theme at hand, all of which would be a huge upgrade. (Three looks from Erdem’s spring 2014 collection, one from fall 2013.)

8. Allison Williams

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See: Alyson Hannigan. This is a lovely, bold shade of cobalt blue.. and there’s nothing else that’s remotely interesting about it. (Though in Williams’ defense, Ralph Lauren’s aesthetic is peppier and preppier.) There’s nothing wrong, per se, and an argument to be made that Marnie looks poised and elegant, very much the grown up teapot. But again, there’s little else to say. I’ve picked alternate recent Ralph Lauren designs featuring fur hats and elbow gloves only because that amount of over-the-top-ness is necessary to balance things out.

Seriously though, the best bet here — and the crazy obvious bet too — is the blue number worn by Karlie Kloss during Lauren’s spring 2014 show. It embodies the good aspects — read: the color — of Williams’ dress but in the context of a languid, effortlessly chic silhouette. It’s the difference between the girl trying oh-so-hard to impress and the girl who just knows she’ll look impressive.

9. Cobie Smulders

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Gah this is awful we’re still in the section of gowns that are so dull they make commentary challenging. I’m not stooping to smulders/smoulders puns yet, but that’s only because I’ve been drinking. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, MEDIOCRE EMMYS GOWNS? You’ve driven me to drink.

Anyway, Cobie’s J. Mendel gown is the sort of back-up look you only resort to after spilling nail polish remover on all four/five of your prior (better) options. And who has assistants who are that clumsy these days?! Aside from said butterfingers, it’s also a puzzling scenario to come about because Mendel is a designer renowned for his red carpet expertise (see: Kate Mara, Zooey Deschanel, Leslie Mann — all also at the Emmys, all also looking lovely). His collections are peppered with red carpet fare that checks all the right boxes; every stylist should know this. And thus should know they can offer much more than the above.

10. Aubrey Plaza

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Another strange black lacy mess. Did I mention I’m drinking? Yeah. As with Amanda Peet’s Erdem gown, Aubrey Plaza’s Marios Schwab piece is an odd outlier from an otherwise enticing collection. (And, like Erdem, Schwab is a designer very much on the rise.) There’s an insouciance about Schwab’s tailoring that suits Plaza very nicely.

11. Mindy Kaling

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Now look, Mindy Kaling knows her fashion — and she loves her fashion. Which is why, though this Georges Chakra gown isn’t that bad, it’s just not good enough either. It’s from the designer’s diffusion line, and we all know that, damnit, Mindy Kaling deserves herself some couture. And here are pieces from Chakra’s recent couture collections that Mindy would look just beautiful in. I want to see her draped in gold leaf, and I most DEFINITELY want to see her in silver pants and this lacefest of an asymmetrical blouse.

Who do we need to call to help her get hooked up? Because seriously, we’re on it.

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