Does anyone really set out to make something a tradition? I don't think the Fashion Critic Mr. Blackwell realized that he would begin a Fashion Tradition when he issued his first tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hollywood fashion disasters for the reigning stars and other celebrities in 1960. From Zsa Zsa Gabor to Britney Spears, no-one has escaped Blackwell’s notice. For almost 50 years as sure as the countdown on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Blackwell’s Worst Dressed list was announced each January. Mr. Blackwell passed away yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 86.
I remember the year when Cher was number one on his worst dressed list “A million beads and one overexposed derriere”, and his remarks about Princess Diana before she learned how to dress for success “she has gone from very young, independent, fresh look to a tacky, dowdy style.” Although, his list was created to spotlight the awful choice of clothes the celebrities had chosen, it seemed that many celebrities didn’t enjoy a laugh at their expense. He told the Los Angeles Times in 1968 that designers were forgetting that their dress was to enhance women. . . “Maybe I should have named the 10 worst designers instead of blaming to women who wear their clothes.” Oh, but what fun would that have been.
His first list in 1960 included Lucille Ball, Brigitte Bardot, Yvonne De Carlo, Shelly Winters and others. Britney Spears seems to have topped the list for most of the decade of the 2000’s and in 2004 he had this to say about the Pop Star Diva, "What’s left to say about the new Mrs. Federline? A clothes encounter of the catastrophic kind.” Was Blackwell softening when he left Spears off the list in 2007? He gave this as his reason "For those of you who were expecting to see Britney's name adorn the 2007 list, I felt that it was in appropriate at this time to make comment, when her personal life is in such upheaval. I hope 2008 is a better year for her."
Richard Blackwell's career was as varied as the women he named to his worst dressed list. He was a fashion critic, journalist, television and radio personality, former child actor and appeared on all sorts of television talk shows and numerous guest appearances in television series. He wrote two books to describe his life in the fashion industry Mr. Blackwell: 30 years of Fashion Fiascos and an autobiography, From Rags to Bitches.