Photo Credits: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com
Red carpet attire has the legendary ability to rocket an emerging starlet to mega-stardom or land her on worst dressed lists and endure public ridicule (though less bitingly than ever before, RIP Joan).
There’s something exciting at any event when stars really dress for the sake of fashion. The red carpet and all its hoopla are easy targets–but for all of the flops and hot messes we see on the red carpet every year, there are countless more bland, boring looks from those who just want to avoid any embarrassment. So I’ve tried to give my attention to the ladies who walked the carpet with gusto and *Fashion*.
Taylor Swift in Gucci Premiere at the Grammys
Ms. Swift had a big year filled with her “good girl gone a little less good”/”country gone pop” rebranding plan. This gown spoke to those goals. There’s a chicness to this Gucci despite the inherent flashiness of the diamonds and sequins and beading that’s a far cry from the princess-y gowns of her past. Instead of looking like a floor-length version of an ice skating costume (which it absolutely could have–especially with the short sleeves and collar) it’s a smart, sexy look that doesn’t go for cheap provocation sometimes found on the Grammys red carpet. Tay is nothing if not savvy, and this look puts her into seriously sophisticated territory and, also notable is the fact that it isn’t a crop top, that barely-there garment she’s since taken a strong liking to, to say the least.
Lupita Nyong’o in Ralph Lauren at the Golden Globes
If the Golden Globe red carpet was the only red carpet Lupita walked this year, she probably still would have emerged the breakout of the awards season. The shoulder-baring cape elevated this very pretty, classic, Ralph Lauren column gown into the higher pantheon of red carpet style. Nyong’o seemingly emerged out of nowhere with the kind of prepossession and poise of an actress with far more industry experience, and sent both the entertainment and fashion sphere into a frenzy. Forgive the clichéd nature of this next statement, but it’s kind of inarguable: a star was born.
Olivia Wilde in Gucci at the Golden Globes
Being pregnant on the red carpet has to be tough. You’re expected to wear high heels and an outfit that features your growing belly. You and your growing belly need to look as healthy and happy as possible, lest you want to have a paparazzi picture of you eating ice cream with the words “DESPERATE AND ALONE” written under your face. In any case, Wilde doesn’t seem too bothered in her long-sleeve Gucci gown. The rich hunter green fabric is almost skintight, but she doesn’t look like a pregnant lady in a gimpsuit or as though she’s stretching the seams within an inch of their life. The beading reflects the flash without looking cheap and embraces the curves that come with, you know, growing a human inside your body.
Tilda Swinton in Haider Ackermann at the Gotham Awards
Did you hear that Tilda Swinton was named GQ’s Woman of the Year? Did you ever read the incredible Twitter account, @NotTildaSwinton? Sample tweet: “The most delicious meal I’ve ever had? My first gasp of air upon emerging from the geode my father impregnated.” Swinton has also had a good year. She’s a renowned clotheshorse, a genuine red carpet vanguard who wears haute couture and maintains a strictly individual and often androgynous style. No mere mortal can carry such a complicated garment (note the contrasting textures of the champagne fabrics, or the way the blazer-inspired top melts into the skirt) with such ease. Gaze on.
Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace at the Oscars
If I were a red carpet stylist I would wield whatever influence I had to force as many of my clients to wear capes as possible. (There’s a theme here). Then, if capes had some sort of resurgence I would hire a publicist to link the trend back to me. Versace has created a strong shouldered capelet? sleeveless bolero? variation on a shrug? that complements Hudson’s creamy romantic gown. The cape and shiny beadwork injects some much-needed drama that most actresses disappointingly often avoid in favor of something boring or miserably overdone. The last time Kate wore a cape to the Oscars it was a sort of unmitigated disaster, making this victory that much sweeter.
Nicki Minaj in Alexander McQueen at the MTV Movie Awards
Remember all of that stuff I’ve said about going for the gusto and aiming for *fashion* instead of clothing? Sometimes that means something totally insane and maximalist, and sometimes you’re Nicki Minaj and you pretty much cornered the market on looking nuts with the wigs, pom poms, popes, what have you, that characterized many of her prior appearances. Over the course of the last year or so, she made a very conscious public effort to rebrand herself, not unlike Miss Tay from earlier. Choosing this skintight black Alexander McQueen sheath, accessorized with a staggering amount of both ass and gold jewelry, and mean mugging every photographer on the carpet, were excellent choices to earn a great deal of attention for very different reasons than on her forays down awards seasons past.
Lizzy Caplan in Donna Karan Atelier at the Emmys
Producing some long analysis of the minimalism perfected in this Donna Karan gown seems counterintuitive. The dress is deceptively simple looking; there are a lot of ideas here: the cut-outs, the racerback’s nod to activewear, and, of course, the gorgeous surprise of the full, white skirt. Managing all of those design elements is no small feat, and Caplan pulls it off beautifully–helped by the fact that it fits her like a dream.
Angelina Jolie in Saint Laurent at the BAFTAs
There’s something heartening about the fact that, despite the deconstructed aesthetic Hedi Slimane’s brought to Saint Laurent (In our hearts, Yves), the revered French fashion house can still turn out an impeccable take on Le Smoking. Angie isn’t known as much of a red-carpet risk taker as of late but the lady-pants and totally intimidating level of sex appeal on display here gave me a whispered “yass” moment at my desk, and made me wonder again why she so often opts for drearier, more buttoned-up looks. But this look gives me some hope; that she still carries a tiny vial of someone’s blood on her person at all times and fantasizes about dressing like Morticia Addams and kissing her brother again. We’ve all got needs!
Rihanna in Adam Selman at the CFDA Fashion Awards
Photo Credits: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com
Look–there’s nothing remotely tasteful about this dress (is it even a dress?), and for many, an outfit this outrageous didn’t help build the case for CDFA awarding their “Fashion ICON” award to a 26-year-old. As with many of RiRi’s style choices, this does nothing if not attract attention. Rihanna’s self-awareness and, frankly, the fact that she can pull it off, help to distinguish her from the many other starlets who have worn next to nothing on the red carpet with little success–and earn her a spot on our list. Inevitably, the dress became a meme, the most memorable iteration a drawing of Family Guy’s obese patriarch Peter Griffin. Rih then adopted the picture as her Twitter avatar for a while. It got people talking, and it’s nothing if not memorable. And maybe even iconic.
Sarah Jessica Parker in custom Oscar de la Renta
Photo Credits: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com
This fits my definition of a “moment,” as fashion types (or people who enjoy Project Runway and the internet) like to say. It’s pure camp and glamour. In the photos of SJP on the Met steps, glancing over her shoulder, there’s a sense of the enormity of the dress. It’s the kind of memorable absurdity that distinguishes *fashion* from clothes–and the kind of memorable absurdity that the Met Gala should inspire in its attendees. And Parker’s insistence on including Oscar de la Renta’s signature on the train embarrassed the designer at the time, but in light of his passing this fall, it rightfully puts his stamp on a moment he created.
Liu Wen in Zac Posen at the Met Gala
Photo Credits: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com
Karolina Kurkova in Marchesa at the Met Gala
Photo Credits: Joe Schildhorn /BFAnyc.com
I’m slotting Liu Wen and Karolina Kurkova together because they’ve accomplished similar feats in entirely unique looks. Posen and Marchesa both tend to over-embellish and over-complicate dresses. So, lesser humans (they’re both supermodels) would likely have been swallowed whole by either dress, but these two can carry the massive pleating, tricky bodices, and general grandiosity (all impeccably rendered) of the gowns with grace.
Ashley Madekwe in Banana Republic at the British Fashion Awards
Retail on the red carpet: totally a thing now! Actress and style blogger Madekwe has not only made Banana Republic, of all stores, look absolutely luxurious, but she’s rocking a super stylized take on the tux completely distinct from the iteration Angelina wore to the BAFTAs. The diva-like appropriation of the jacket as shrug, suggestive cleavage, and statement lapels give an excellent Studio 54 vibe. As for the pant length, it makes me think of “Distinction” by Pierre Bourdieu (cue my anthropology professor dabbing a tear from her eye): she’s not covering the shoes because they aren’t fabulous, it’s because she knows that, considering the rest of her outfit, we’ll all just assume that they’re enormous Louboutins.