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Vanity Fair's 2015 International Best-Dressed list is a hot mess

Vanity Fair's 2015 International Best-Dressed list is a hot mess
From left, Rihanna, Eddie Redmayne and Taylor Swift were all named to the 2015 International Best-Dressed list by Vanity Fair. (From left Jun Sato / Getty Images, Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times, Michael Loccisano / Getty Images)

When Vanity Fair announced its 2015 International Best-Dressed List earlier this week, the biggest surprise wasn't who did or didn't make the list but how many different lists there actually were.

In addition to the list proper, which highlights the sartorial splendor of 10 men (including first-timer Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson) and 10 women (with Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Amal Clooney all making their debut), there is an additional "Couples" category (adding another 10 people to the mix), a category called "Originals" (three people), one for "Professionals" (11 more fashionable folks) and one addition to the list's Hall of Fame (H.H. Sheikha Mozah of Qatar).

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While the style glossy has included many of these categories in years past, the addition of a new "Hollywood" category — and 10 more well-dressed folks — makes the whole thing start to wobble like a poorly engineered style soufflé.

The whole idea of a best-dressed list, after all, is that someone's either on it or not, end of story. This year's list not only name-checks 45 people across seven sub-categories, but does so in a way that's downright head-scratching.

British actor Bill Nighy, for example, is one of the 10 men on the original list (but not the "Originals" list, mind you), while fellow Brit Eddie Redmayne (who appears in the annual ranking for the third time) and German-born actor Michael Fassbender are both relegated to the new "Hollywood" list. And what are we to make of Charlize Theron and the Emmas (Watson and Stone) being lumped into the "Hollywood" category instead of standing tall on the list proper alongside Swift and Rihanna?

The wicket gets even stickier when it comes to "Couples" (though doesn't it always?) where actors actually make up one and a half of the five couples on the list: Benedict Cumberbatch; his wife, Sophie Hunter; and Matt Bomer (who appears alongside partner Simon Halls, who hails from the PR world). Are they making the cut only because they dress well and have a well-dressed better half? And how would any of them fare solo against anyone else on this year's list — Hollywood or otherwise? (Cumberbatch, for one, was on last year's men's list — with no qualifiers at all). And couldn't Amal Clooney just as easily make the "Couples" category alongside perennially well-dressed husband George Clooney?

It feels like the list-makers and style arbiters over at VF are trying to be a bit politic — or at least more inclusive — in their annual compilation. But the end result is that a list that really used to mean something (at least in certain circles) is nothing more than a confusing, tangled hot mess.

Interestingly, this all comes as the annual ranking of the world's well-dressed, started by Eleanor Lambert in 1940 (and under the stewardship of Vanity Fair since 2004), turns 75 years old. It's also interesting to note that the original list of 15 women (and no men), which was published in the Dec. 27, 1940, New York Times, didn't include anyone from the ranks of Hollywood.

The complete 2015 International Best-Dressed List, which appears in the September issue of Vanity Fair, can be found at vanityfair.com.

For the latest in fashion and style news, follow me @ARTschorn

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