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Octavia Spencer and Tadashi Shoji, Red Carpet BFFs | Manolo for the Big Girl

Octavia Spencer and Tadashi Shoji, Red Carpet BFFs

First the bad news: most of these lovely gowns from Tadashi Shoji were customized for Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer and aren’t available off the rack. Those that are, the lace wrap dress for example, aren’t available in plus sizes. Drag, I know.


That being said, Tadashi consistently offers evening wear with the same distinctive house DNA in plus sizes and later in the week I’ll feature a handful of dresses that, like Mo’nique’s Oscar dress from last year, are available off-the-rack and in big girl sizes, so never fear.

I haven’t seen The Help because I find the whole Benevolent White Person genre tiresome and at least borderline offensive. Also I hate the smell of popcorn, so I almost never go to the movies.

Still, I am thrilled any time a comic actress actually wins an Oscar and I’m doubly thrilled that this plus-sized Southern jewel has taken a play from the Audrey Hepburn playbook and aligned herself with one designer for almost all her red carpet events.

For Hepburn it was Givenchy and for Spencer it’s Tadashi Shoji.

I’ve always thought Tadashi Shoji is doing now what Valentino did back when Mr Garavani was still the big boss; making beautiful clothes that looked beautiful on the female form. Neither Tadashi nor Valentino reinvented the wheel, but why bother? Let Gareth Pugh make a cocktail gown out of machine gun parts and walrus hair. Not all designers have to be directional, there’s nothing wrong with pretty and elegant.


There’s also nothing wrong with wearing a dress that isn’t strapless, especially because I can barely utter the phrase “strapless skin-tight mermaid gown” without putting myself in a fashion coma.

Ms Spencer is 5’2″ (which means she’s probably really about five foot nothin’) and yet keeping the color simple and the hair and makeup clean, her stylist does an admirable job making sure she doesn’t drown in a sea of evening gown. Usually.


(a rare misstep, but barely. It’s just a bit too much dress and hair for the petite Alabaman, though I love the color)

I also love that she’s wearing sleeves so stylishly.

Too often you see a shrug or a wrap plopped on top of an outfit and it just screams “Hi, I don’t want to show my arm fat” but with Tadashi, the sleeve is proportioned so precisely to the waist (because the right sleeve length can emphasize or minimize your waist/bust/hips in very exciting ways if you bother to pay attention to it) that you don’t even think of the Fat Arm Shame.

What do you think of Octavia Spencer’s outfits? If just one could hang in your closet, what would it be?

19 Responses to “Octavia Spencer and Tadashi Shoji, Red Carpet BFFs”

  1. Andrea February 28, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Except for the blue dress, I think they are all lovely. As for which I’d hang in my closet, that it tough! I love her Oscar gown to pieces but I don’t have any place to wear something like that. The bottom dress, with the sheer overlay, I would wear to pieces. It’s gorgeous and very wearable for date night or cocktail party. PS, thanks for telling her height. I had no idea she was so close to my height. I just assume short fat girls don’t look good in floor length gowns.

  2. Christy February 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    I’d probably pick the black/nude lace dress because it’s v-neck and knee-length. I love the comparison pictures showing the dress on the runway and the dress on her. It’s hard to picture high fashion dresses on people larger than models, sometimes.

  3. Denise February 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I don’t know that I’d pick any of them, because they’re so beautifully suited to her, and not so much to me! I do especially love the long platinum number with the embellishment on top and satin on the bottom. That color is really hard to pull off, and she’s knocking it out of the park.

  4. Liz February 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I want the last one. The others are great, for her.

    The last one is the only one I could see myself wearing, in any situation I could realistically be in. (I’m not going to the Oscars.)

    Maybe in the different colour, but it’s gorgeous.

  5. Rebekka February 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Really beautiful dresses! I like the last one but I would never ever be able to wear any shade of nude/beige/tan/camel EVER, so I will go with the grey one instead. I love a boat neckline.

    Please, please inform more on sleeve length. I actually sew some of my own clothes, so I am not at the mercy of the cap sleeve all the time.

  6. Leah February 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    I want Christina Hendricks to have a cocktail with Olivia. See? You can be beautiful, elegant, stylish, and sexy without the plate-o-boob.
    I’m in love with the black lace piece and her Oscar dress. Can we also talk about how fantastic her earring choices are??

  7. Toby Wollin February 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    This set of dresses (especially the turquoise one)shows that the rule of dressing the big girls in lots of yardage of dark colors is made to be broken. and the turquoise one (paired with Melissa McCarthy’s beige Marina Rinadli couch cover from the Oscars) shows that all that yardage in the wrong spots is just horrific.

  8. txbunny February 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Love the Oscar gown and the last one. Want both in the closet. would buy the last dress is available now. As for the others, they are all lovely but:
    – the lavender seems a bit dated in terms of cut and the line of the neckline slightly off;
    – the grey is very nice just not my color;
    – the black lace and nude is a great concept which love but I feel the neckline is not wide enough to balance and the skirt overlap in front is not substantial enough;
    – the blue is fabulous on top and the skirt is too busy – just make the skirt simple and flowing and it would have been fabulous.

    As Leah noted, great choice of jewlery.

  9. Klee February 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    The two lace dresses are beautiful, and I don’t even wear lace. She looks great in all of them.

  10. harri p. February 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    The last one. But I like them all, really. I love Tadashi and own one of his dresses already. I think she looks wonderful.

  11. Margo A February 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    I want the Oscar gown, except that I think it should have a lower neckline. Not a full platter, just a modest V to show some skin and a fabulous borrowed diamond necklace. That demi-crewneck says “I don’t think fat girls should try to look sexy”. That, or “I’m hiding Mormon underwear”.

  12. Angela February 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    I love them all, but I only like the blue one. I think it just goes to show that if you can’t cut fabric so that it suits any body then you have no business calling yourself a designer.

    I would hang the Oscars gown in the closet, it’s beautiful. That’s as far as it would go, because I don’t have anywhere to wear it to, but I still wants it.

  13. Leigh Ann February 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Oh, wow. She’s the same height as me. I assumed she was taller. The dresses do a good job of making her look taller, or at least, not short. I love the Oscar dress; it’s beautiful. But if I had to choose just one, it would be the last one. It’s so pretty.

  14. barbara February 28, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Except for the blue dress they’re all gorgeous, but the only one I can actually picture wearing is the last one. The lace/ nude dress is gorgeous on her, but that front split would make me nervous.

    Sleeves for the win!

  15. Josiebella February 29, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    The last one for me. It is so elegant and versatile.

  16. Jen February 29, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    “I haven’t seen The Help because I find the whole Benevolent White Person genre tiresome and at least borderline offensive. Also I hate the smell of popcorn, so I almost never go to the movies.”

    You pretty much described me! Only thing is, I go to the movies as often as possible – I love the escape but I could REALLY do without the popcorn smell. It’s gross. And I didn’t see The Help for the same reason.

    Also, I love Spencer’s outfits but that beige & black lace number is probably my favorite. It’s gorgeous, flattering, and on trend.

  17. Melody February 29, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    I would get married in that last one.

  18. ChaChaHeels February 29, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    The dresses work on Octavia for the same reasons they work on the reed thin models: in both cases, the designer is adding a means to create a shapely waist and an hourglass shape on female bodies that would otherwise appear to be less than shapely. They’re all essentially the same dress, too: either the fabric is gathered and left to drape down the middle of the dress so that the eye focuses on the narrow vertical line this creates; or the dress is cut to fasten and create that narrow vertical line (the black sheer lace dress, as an example–it makes both the skinny model and Octavia look like they have a lovely waist, when they don’t really). That long vertical also makes Octavia look much taller than 5’2″. The “sarong” style works this way on almost everyone, and Shoji knows it. He simply applies the style universally because it’s one that can and does flatter the feminine body.

    Yes, proof that good design means knowing a cut that works for more than one body type.

    What I want to know is, when I see a store that sells Plus sized clothing right alongside the mainstream sized clothes, and they often echo one another in fabrics, why is it that designers change the line of the “mainstream” designs into “blocky tent” for the plus sizes–or more accurately, “blocky tent” minus sleeves? Tadashi Shoji is proof that this doesn’t have to happen–the dresses are really just cut using a proportionally enlarged pattern size, and that’s why they work so well. Even the bright blue one, which really only falters because the fabric used can’t be made to be more “close fitting” or subtly shiny, so it makes Octavia’s top look bulkier.

  19. shiny February 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    good points, ChaChaHeels!

    Oh, and I would love the lace cocktail dress :).