In Hollywood of late, the term “It” girl increasingly refers to the hotness of one’s ass, rather than actual talent — ergo, it’s not uncommon for a B- or C-level actress to shoot straight to the A-list simply on the strength of gushy headlines about how many squats she did last week. But while having a firm bum is enviable, being known solely for your assets makes it a struggle when you want the world to pay attention to your actual résumé. Just ask Jessica Biel, who, like former fellow It Girl and name-twin Jessica Alba, is probably most famous for having a rocking body, and not much else, despite having worked steadily on middling-to-decent projects for years. But now, with the new flick Easy Virtue to promote, Biel is being asked to present herself as a serious, bankable actress, rather than just That Hot Girl Dating Justin Timberlake. And, judging by her recent fashion choices on the festival circuit, she’s flailing to find that identity.
We all know that clothes don’t make the woman. But when you don’t have much else to say, what you wear often does the talking for you. So it’s unfortunate that Biel’s first foray back into the limelight in ages — an event at the Rome Film Festival — involved decking herself out in a YSL pantsuit that said, “Welcome to KFC. Try my grandfather’s Original Recipe.” The suit itself isn’t terrible; we love a smart jacket and pants on a woman, and we get why Biel’s handlers wanted to avoid something too va-va-voom, especially since we’re supposed to be concentrating on her wicked acting skills. But surely it wasn’t supposed to look as though she’d dug it out of the closet of someone much taller than she is. Wouldn’t a serious actress have a better tailor? When Tilda Swinton shows up places with her extremities swathed in yards of extra fabric, she at least always looks like it’s on purpose.
Biel’s next outfit — a metallic, shimmery Oscar de la Renta strapless number — nailed the fit, but was undercut by limp bangs and lackluster styling that made it look like she was actually still AT the fitting, and about to change back into her jeans and sweatshirt so she could pop over to Trevi Fountain for some sightseeing before the party. Casual can be cool, but not when you’re repeating the hairdo we’ve already seen in countless paparazzi shots also featuring sweatpants, giant Ray Bans, and a cup from Starbucks.
Unfortunately for Biel, instead of going out on a positive note, she saved the worst for last — in the form of a drop-waisted, puff-sleeved Louis Vuitton crappy black sack…thing…that she wore in London. Forget saying “I’m a serious actress.” This dress screamed “I am in mourning at an eighth-grade formal.” It monkeyed with Biel’s proportions so that her torso appeared longer than her legs, and it had the air of someone who is trying desperately to look avant-garde, but isn’t sure how to do it because the on-set tutors at 7th Heaven didn’t teach French.
Look, we get not wanting to be known only for your booty (although if we had Jessica Biel’s butt, it would be hard to get us to put away the assless chaps). But what feels like very strenuous efforts by Biel to re-brand herself as serious, succeeded only in making her look unfocused — and, in the case of the Vuitton Hefty bag, a bit depressing. So what’s an It Girl to do? This one could start by hiring a new stylist.