Can Oscar Fashion Be More Than Marketing?
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” may have been the big winner of the 95th Academy Awards, a vote by the industry for idiosyncrasy in the face of corporate moviemaking, but on the red — whoops, sorry, champagne — carpet, classicism ruled.
Its color may have changed, reportedly in an effort to inject some modernity into the arrivals/runway show portion of the evening (Oh, Jennifer Connelly, a Louis Vuitton ambassador, in Louis Vuitton? What a surprise!), but its ethos hasn’t, that much.
Except … except: Just as the triumph of “Everything” may offer a new way forward for filmmaking, a select few Oscar attendees eschewed predictability for some quirkier, more emotive choices, and in doing so added a touch of zest to the familiar old recipe. Rather than act as an advertising vehicle for a brand, they seemed more like co-conspirators, moving beyond the safety of promotion to expose some personal style. It’s riskier (kind of like a movie about the multiverse featuring an everything bagel) but also more engaging to see.
There was Rihanna, for example, making her entrance fashionably late in a leather Alaia bra and long leather bandage skirt that opened and closed at the hips like some sort of super-glamorous armor, worn over a sheer body suit, the better to bare her pregnant belly. And that was just for openers. She changed into a Maison Margiela Art Deco-like silver beaded top and silver brocade pants to perform her nominated song “Lift Me Up,” and then changed again, into a mint-green Bottega Veneta bias-cut silk skirt and matching stole, for afters: a play in pregnancy style in three acts and three brands where she — and her stomach — retained the starring role.
No one else swapped outfits with quite the same alacrity, but she wasn’t the only one who brought some subversive attitude and private storytelling to the party.
Florence Pugh showed up in a Valentino strapless ocean of taffeta bedsheets with billowing sleeve-clouds attached to each elbow — that parted in the center, like Moses, to reveal very abbreviated black bike shorts beneath, with a little pocket on the side for extra insouciance. (For anyone who remembers the Demi Moore self-designed bike short Oscar gown of 1989, this is the evolved version.)
Harry Shum Jr. got Adeam to custom-make him a white smoking jacket piped in midnight blue, wrapped in an obi-like belt to represent, he said — after doing a little soft shoe shuffle — “East meets West.” Hong Chau, of “The Whale,” asked Prada to add a mandarin collar to her shell pink gown to represent, she said, her roots. And Malala Yousafzai, an executive producer of the short film “Stranger at the Gate,” in silver sequined Ralph Lauren with an integral hood/head scarf, demonstrated that high glamour and cultural values were not oppositional entities.
It was a reminder of the bigger context around these moments of shared pop culture escapism, which may also help explain the preponderance of white, by far the most popular color of the evening, and one that calls to mind fresh starts and peace, among other associations. (That’s one way to read it anyway; “Navalny” did win for best documentary, and assorted attendees were wearing blue ribbons to stand #WithRefugees.) See Michelle Yeoh, whose precedent-setting best actress win will also make her swan-like Dior gown a part of Hollywood history, and, perhaps, usher in a new era. Also Mindy Kaling, in corseted Vera Wang, the boning exposed; Rooney Mara, wrapped in Alexander McQueen mist; Emily Blunt in a strapless Valentino column; and Paul Mescal in a Gucci white dinner jacket with extra-wide lapels.