Maybe it was the bow ties, more than a few of which were crooked. Or perhaps it was the gowns with their slit hemlines, revealing an aggressive amount of leg that felt forced. Or the look-at-me revenge frocks with too many cutouts and way too many sequins or ruffles, details that were supposed to be fun but looked kind of miserable.
Whatever the detail was, Sunday night’s Academy Awards wasn’t a home run in the fashion department. After all of the anticipation of a return to glamour and the art of getting dressed up, the evening lived up to its tendency to overpromise and underdeliver. This time, though, with a tension in the air of the awards show’s diminishing relevancy along with the general uncertainty of a world trying to get back on its feet.
Chalk it up to the uneasiness of an awards show that, despite being pushed back due to the pandemic, still brought with it the risk of catching Covid (more than a few BAFTA attendees came down with the virus after attending the show in the U.K. and stars like Lin Manuel Miranda sat out this evening). Add to it a general unease with war in the world, inflation at home and a general end-of-winter malaise, and it’s no wonder that the night had a stilted feeling (which ultimately ended in the Will Smith – Chris Rock fiasco, the ultimate show of awkward exchanges and mixed messages gone terribly wrong).
On the red carpet, there were plenty of attempts to have fun and let loose. Voluminous ruffles in both lighthearted and carefree colors and serious black abounded, but they too often seemed to swallow the wearers whole. Peplums made a questionable return. Aforementioned leg slits felt perverse as the wearers forced their legs out in a desperate attempt to replicate Angelina Jolie’s 2012 memorable but impossible to replicate red carpet moment. All in all, the showing was a reminder that everyone — including Hollywood — is still trying to figure out how to get dressed again. Red carpets offer the opportunity for reinvention, but only if it’s done with just right.
The winners were the ones that stuck with the classics, in easy statement jewel tones like red and green and sleek and simple tuxedos that leaned towards the monochromatic black-on-black. Kirsten Dunst looked both fresh and nostalgic in a red vintage Christian Lacroix gown with layers of delicate chiffon. Tiffany Haddish shone like an emerald come to life in custom Dolce & Gabbana. Even Zendaya, forever fashion’s chameleon, played it relatively safe with a long, slinky silver maxi skirt and a cropped white shirt, both custom pieces by Valentino, with a series of Bulgari diamond cuffs wrapping up her wrists for a hint of playfulness.
In a moment of collective awkwardness, perhaps the real winners of the night were those who didn’t take themselves too seriouslyOn the red carpet, Tracee Ellis Ross preened for the camera, posing ostentatiously (but still classic in a red Carolina Herrera with satin Christian Louboutin heels to match. Rita Morena, also in Carolina Herrera, seems to be having the most fun on the red carpet, and had the feathered wig-meets-headpiece to show it.
Perhaps they had an inkling that the evening would desperately need some comic relief.