WWith its pre-game detoxes, standout clavicles, and sanitized Cinderella moments sponsored by luxury conglomerates, the awards red carpet has long set the standard for unattainable beauty and palatable fashion globally. And then Covid-19 happened. Celebrities sat at home filming serious John Lennon covers on their sweatpants, and the red carpet, with its tit and sequin ribbon and the analysis of who wore it best, turned to dirt.
That was in 2020. This year, however, it has ushered in a strange, semi-virtual and socially distant awards season, and with it an equally strange return to the red carpet. The Golden Globes were the first major awards show to take place during the pandemic and featured some remote guests and some in the auditorium. The challenge of getting the tone right: looking good but not too nice; polishing one’s star without appearing to be dripping with privileges, was played on the outfits. Some dressed as if they were emerging into their roaring 20s (see: Anya Taylor-Joy in an emerald green Dior dress), while others, like Jodie Foster and Jason Sudeikis, virtually dressed in hoodies and pajamas.
Last week, the Oscars sought to avoid a similar identity crisis by issuing an omerta on leisure wear: “You’re wondering about the dress code (as you should),” read a letter from the producers. “Our goal is a fusion of inspirational and aspirational, which in real words means that formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but informal really isn’t.”
Despite its unfortunate “director insecure” tone, the Oscars declaration formalized what many actors had been doing anyway. Despite the heartbreaking backdrop of the pandemic, rumors of the decline of glamor appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Often for actors coming from home, the heels have been higher and the silhouettes more outrageous than anything they can wear to physically walk a red carpet. Key proponents include Rosamund Pike, in combat boots in a Molly Goddard bath bomb dress, Zendaya in a gigantic Valentino mandarin skirt, Nicola Coughlan in a pastel yellow dress (also from Goddard), Emma Corrin in an inspired dress. in Pierrot’s clown. by Miu Miu and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a plunging tomato red minidress with puffed sleeves the size of an airbag.
“From the beginning we thought: no, we are going to be glamorous on the red carpet. It’s a fantasy and a drama, ”says Harry Lambert, who dressed Harry Styles in a feather boa and leather suit adjacent to Marc Bolan at the Grammys. “I think escapism is a privilege and a pleasure at a time like this. For me, seeing someone dress up and having that dialogue with friends about who wears what gives you something else to think about. “
Lambert also dressed Corrin for the Critics’ Choice Awards in a minidress decorated with pearl-encrusted fish and gold molars from Schiaparelli. Beyoncé’s outfit for the Grammys was also Schiaparelli, featuring leather gloves with gold trompe l’oeil Catwoman-style nails and giant earrings that looked like human fingers. That Schiaparelli must be having a moment during this strange liminal time feels revealing. The house was founded in 1927 by Elsa Schiaparelli, a collaborator of Salvador Dalí. Unlike many of the big fashion houses, according to Daniel Roseberry, the company’s artistic director, Schiaparelli does not pay actors to wear his dresses. Roseberry is, she says, a ’90s girl, and she loved the red carpet when she was least risk averse, before the financial stakes increased (think of Björk with a ruffled swan wrapped around her torso in 2001 and the era, in 1999, that Céline Dion was wearing a suit backwards). “The appetite for the surreal seems to be happening,” he says, adding that the designs that are landing are the ones that “jump up and grab you by the neck.”
So what happens behind the scenes? Beyond the usual security procedures – Covid testing, personal protective equipment, and insulation to protect work bubbles – the nature of a customer’s style is a logistical nightmare. Elizabeth Saltzman, stylist for Gwyneth Paltrow, says the process is unrecognizable. Typically in awards season, teams of hairstylists, makeup artists, and assistants gather in clouds of hairspray to create wargame outfits (“In the days leading up to fitting, I’ll be lighting up all kinds of lights from all angles, “says Saltzman) and I deliver hugs, alterations, and pep talks.
During Covid, hair removal and abatement travel and confinement rules have meant that styling sessions are virtual or involve very small teams – an actor’s makeup artist may be the only person capable of travel, for example, for what they could perform. hair styling, makeup and dressing work. working with the rest of the team remotely, or an isolated actor could perform all those roles himself. Last minute changes to the formats of the new digital awards ceremonies (at press time, Zoom acceptance speeches were banned at the Oscars) mean a stylist may not know if their client will be seen in full. or via Zoom until very late in the day.
There is also a lot less money hanging around. Stylists have lost a lot of business in the last 12 months – Saltzman’s own team has been cut from seven to three – and many brands can’t afford the costs they might have incurred in the past. Saltzman recently agreed to split the $ 750 fee to ship a dress from overseas with a brand name, for example. Before Covid, she says, “I would have said, ‘No, you can do it if you want to be on the carpet,’ because the amount of global press they used to get would be worth all the expenses.” This time around, the photographs could end up on the actor’s Instagram account, which will rarely have the scope or prestige of the red carpet photographs distributed throughout the world’s print and online media. With the belts tight, and not in style, flying hundreds of dresses around the world to choose the perfect look is not profitable or practical, so generally, one outfit will be chosen from the beginning and everyone will make it work.
“That is also much better for the environment,” says Saltzman, adding that it is now essential to consider sustainability and a host of politicized issues. “We’ve always thought about the clients, their story and what they were trying to say, maybe they were trying to get a role and needed to portray something in particular, but now it’s more from a perspective of: what is the impact on the medium? ambient? We are awake? Are we supporting black designers? “
Of course, a more socially conscious and culturally sensitive approach to the red carpet was beginning to emerge ahead of the political turmoil of 2020. Get on the craze for E! ‘S Mani-Cam! The Golden Globes red carpet blackout in 2018 or the general concern about the environmental damage of red carpet fashion, which has led to an increasing number of actors choosing to wear recycled or vintage dresses. Add a pandemic to that mix and cause a complete existential crisis. “Anyone who works in our industry with a heartbeat and a brain probably really struggled with how we are contributing to the global and cultural conversation,” says Roseberry. “Coping with the moment has been a challenge for everyone, for stars and stylists, who want to make things that feel relevant when so many things suddenly feel irrelevant.
“Last year, I think there was no appetite to see celebrities dress up. The performative elements of glamor were not in demand ”, he adds. “I feel like a change is starting to happen where people are looking for reasons to escape and dream, and that, at the very least, is what fashion should be contributing to.”
Let’s hope the Oscars heavy-handed rules inspire the rebellion – bring the ruffled swans.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism