Deceptive Dressing: Padma Lakshmi, Lea Michele, and Other Celebs Fool the Eye with Optical Illusions

There are the age-old styling tricks that we all learned from our moms: vertical stripes slenderize, nude pumps elongate the leg, a dark belt against a light fabric draws in the waist—and then there are the kind of smoke and mirrors optical illusions that stars have been employing on the red carpet lately. Celebs are wearing dresses with tricky details like mesh panels, contrasting colors, and crafty cut-outs to create silhouettes that are designed to fool the eye.


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Optical illusions were all over the red carpet at the ALMA Awards in Pasadena. Host Eva Longoria not only pulled a lot of quick changes (she wore a total of nine outfits), but pulled a fast one on audiences in her Alberta Ferretti arrival gown with high cut mesh legs that created an illusion of height on the tiny actress. Down the red carpet, Christina Aguilera was working a magic of her own in a Michael Kors dress with lacy side cut-outs that exaggerated her hourglass figure. Nicole Richie pulled the same trick in a Mathieu Mirano gown with a sequin design that emphasized her hips and shoulders to balance out the waist which it whittled away with mesh. Lea Michele’s lacy side panels at the Glee premiere went even further, effectively turning her into one of those universally recognizable stick drawings representing a woman with an upside-down triangle skirt.


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Padma Lakshmi got creative at the Creative Arts Emmys in a Zuhair Murad Spring 2012 gown which used angled stripes like ruching to create lines with almost the same effect as a corset. Lisa Kudrow subtly attempted the same idea in a dress with constrasting stripes which pulled in the waist, pushed the bust up and out, and created a long, sleek line from the waist down. At the Emmys, Edie Falco was the latest star to wear one of Stella McCartney’s optical illusion gowns which started the trend—Kate Winslet, Liv Tyler, Nicola Peltz, and Kris Jenne rare just some of the stars who’ve worn the deceptive dress. This one goes as far as employing nude fabric (ice skaters everywhere cringe as their secret is divulged), and when Falco stands against the white background her hips practically disappear. Zoe Saldana’s dress at the Book of Mormon premiere (also by Stella McCartney) isn’t quite as physically misleading as the others but does cleverly use mesh slits at the collarbones to create a mock halter neckline whch emphasizes the shoulders more than a traditional black sheath would.