There's something up with Cate Blanchett.

I just saw her at the Baftas, and there's something going on with her, style-wise.

That black McQueen she's wearing is a worry. Not that there's anything inherently frightening about it; it's just a long column of jacquard with a silver tulip print coming in at hip level. No fuss, no nothing, just the exquisite tailoring you'd expect from Sarah Burton, accessorised for the evening with a mildly smoky eye, and a big, vaguely Lord-of-the-Rings looking necklace.

That's potentially the most controversial thing about the outfit, you could argue that the dress has no need of it, but the elvish thing works on Cate, not for nothing did she play Galadriel for Peter Jackson. Nor is the plainness of the frock itself much of a departure; Cate's been turning up on the red carpet in unadorned sheaths for decades.


Simplicity is a value she's never shied away from when it comes to making big-night choices. Not an unwise move when you happen to be an exceptionally beautiful woman.

No, the McQueen fits the brief for her, even though it certainly qualifies as a rather safe choice for a woman who wore a Givenchy dress with a Martian-yellow studded breastplate a few years ago to the Oscars.

So, why am I worried? Like most matters of fashion, it's a question of context.

Cate's McQueen bothers me only in the light of some of the other bits and pieces she's been wearing recently. The Armani Prive she wore to the Globe killed it, from behind at least; the cutaway was exquisite, and nobody, with the possible exception of Hilary Swank, works a bare back like Cate Blanchett.

But from the front, the dress looked fussy. The high neck gave it a schoolmarmish vibe only intensified by her hairdo, a curled-under business that was needlessly ageing. The hair was down, though, a few days later at the Critics' Choice awards, but the vibe remained teacherly.

Her belted Lanvin was no doubt immaculately constructed, but it came off as overly plain, and possibly too big on her. Likewise the simple hair and minimal make-up made her look like she looked in this weeks' McQueen: beautiful but ordinary.

Like a really cool architect, or philosophy lecturer. Professional, with a touch of groovy.

Not that these are bad templates for a woman dressing. But when critics and audiences the world over are massing to honour you, a bit more va-va-voom may be called for.

Cate may have other things on her mind, of course. Like Woody Allen. She's already been bailed up several times about his alleged behaviour. The red carpet is enough of a jungle already, without having to field questions about allegations of historic child abuse on the part of the man who directed you in the film you're getting an award for.

If Cate's been distracted from fashion, it's understandable in the circumstances. And she's still got time to pull out the big guns for the Academy.

Here's hoping she does. Finest actress of her generation she may be, but where's the excitement in watching a groovy architect accepting an Oscar?