In a charged year of firsts and surprises, stars came out in support for the ACLU, sealing-wax red gowns and plenty of statuette gold
Is the Oscars about style or substance? That was the question about this year’s ceremony. Would frothy La La Land prove that escapism triumphs over all, or would the Oscars play it serious by paying homage to Moonlight?
Well, by now we all know what happened next. On the Oscar podium as in the ballot box, the upset is the new normal. Meanwhile on the red carpet, the battle between style and substance also ended on a cliffhanger.
There were no placards and no trip-ups. But while the political ribbons and pins on the red carpet might look like a minor detail, in images which will be beamed around the globe these small statements punch above their weight. The highly charged mood of American public life raised the stakes on the red carpet, as well as the podium. The celebrities stepping into the spotlight at this moment had to make a statement: is this all about me, or do I acknowledge issues outside this bubble?
So for Ruth Negga to wear a blue ribbon in support of the American Civil Liberties Union, who have spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, was a bolder move than it looked. It was small, but – against her Valentino dress, in the new-season colour we will soon all be calling sealing-wax red – it was unmissable. Emma Stone and Dakota Johnson wore gold badges in support of Planned Parenthood. Ava DuVernay wore a dress by Ashi Studio, and tweeted that “I chose to wear a gown by a designer from a majority Muslim country.”
Emma Stone will be the least disappointed of the La La Land crew, having scored a triple win: an Oscar, a Planned Parenthood pin, and one of the best dresses of the night. The gold, fluid-fringed Givenchy gown looked like a more evolved, more expensive version of the yellow dress which Stone wears in La La Land, and it is fitting to stay in character – this is an acting prize, after all.
There were no pussy hats, and the heralded tuxedo-wearing women’s movement failed to materialise. Meryl Streep, however, did pick up Emma Stone’s ‘drouser’ baton, with an Elie Saab dress over trousers. The major fashion story of the night was the rise of the evening sleeve. Until recently, sleeves were a red carpet no-no, a kind of purdah which women were put into when their sexual attractiveness was deemed to have reached its sell by date, which signalled their shift into mature character roles. So to see 27-year-old Dakota Johnson, star of the Fifty Shades movies, in high-necked, full-coverage golden Gucci two years after she first made an Oscar red carpet splash in a slinky Saint Laurent red number suspended teasingly from a single sparkling strap, represented a significant style shift. Negga’s Valentino gown backed the trend, as did Chrissy Teigen’s Zuhair Murad dress, along with Isabelle Huppert in Armani, and Streep’s Elie Saab.
Naomie Harris made the boldest fashion choice of the night, in the first Oscar dress to be made by Raf Simons for Calvin Klein. It was kneelength, with a floor length train at the back, and a keyhole cut out at the ribs; Harris wore the asymmetric shoes seen at Calvin Klein’s New York fashion week show two weeks ago (crystal ankle strap on the left, crystal toe strap on the right). It was sleek and modern, a dress which spotlit her beautiful – black – skin, rather than paying homage to traditional Oscar glamour.
It was a night for dramatic last-minute losses, and Karl Lagerfeld did not have a great night. Roundly shaded by Streep after accusing her of being paid for what she wears on the red carpet, he did not score any major names in Chanel.