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So long sweatpants, hello airbag sleeves: how red carpet fashion ignited in lockdown | Oscars 2021

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WWith its pre-game detoxes, protruding collarbones, and sanitized Cinderella moments sponsored by luxury conglomerates, the awards red carpet has long set the standard for unattainable beauty and globally acceptable fashion. And then Covid-19 happened. Celebrities were sitting at home taping serious John Lennon blankets in their sweatpants, and the red carpet with its duct tape and sequins and the analysis of who wore it best became entrenched.

That was in 2020. This year, however, ushered in a weird, semi-virtual, and socially distant awards season, and with it an equally weird return to red carpet dressing. The Golden Globes were the first major awards show to take place during the pandemic, and featured some distant guests and some in the auditorium. The challenge of hitting the right tone with a great appearance but not as well Well; the browning of the stars without appearing to be dripping with privilege was played out in the outfits. Some dressed as if they were emerging from a second Roaring Twenties (see: Anya Taylor-Joy in an emerald green Dior dress), while others, like Jodie Foster and Jason Sudeikis, rocked, virtually, in sweatshirts. hood and pajamas.

Last week, the Oscars sought to avoid a similar identity crisis by issuing an omerta on casual wear: you wonder about the dress code (you should too), read a letter from the producers. We were aiming for a fusion of inspiration and aspiration, which actually means formal is totally cool if you want to go, but casual really isn’t.

Cannon loose ... Jason Sudeikis at the Globes.
Cannon loose … Jason Sudeikis at the Globes. Photograph: NBC / Rex / Shutterstock

Despite his miserable tone as a director, the Oscars statement made it official what many actors had done anyway. Despite the heartbreaking backdrop of the pandemic, rumors of a decline in glamor seem to have been vastly exaggerated.

Often times, for actors beaming from home, the heels have been higher and the figures more outrageous than anything they could wear to physically walk on a red carpet. The main supporters are Rosamund Pike, wearing combat boots with a Molly Goddard bath bomb in a dress, Zendaya in a gigantic mandarin Valentino skirt, Nicola Coughlan in a pastel yellow puffy dress (also from Goddard), Emma Corrin in a Pierrot clown inspired dress by Miu Miu and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a plunging tomato red mini dress with puffy airbag-sized sleeves.

Very early on, we said to ourselves: no, we are going to the glamor of 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 the escape is a privilege and a treat at a time like this. For me, seeing someone dress up and have this dialogue with friends about who’s wearing what gives you something else to think about.

Anya Taylor-Joy in her alternate Dior dress at the Golden Globe Awards.
Chess to impress Anya Taylor-Joy in her other Dior dress at the Golden Globe Awards. Photograph: NBC / Reuters

Lambert also dressed Corrin for the Critics Choice Awards in a minidress decorated with pearl-encrusted fish and Schiaparelli’s gold molars. Beyoncs Grammys outfit was also Schiaparelli, and featured leather gloves with catwoman-style golden trompe-loeil nails and giant earrings that looked like human fingers. That Schiaparelli should have a moment during this weird, liminal time is telling. The house was founded in 1927 by Elsa Schiaparelli, a collaborator of Salvador Dal. Unlike many big fashion houses, according to Daniel Roseberry, the company’s artistic director, Schiaparelli doesn’t pay actors to wear his dresses. Roseberry is, he says, a kid of the ’90s, and loved the red carpet when it was less risk averse, before the financial stakes got higher (think Bjrk with a frilly swan wrapped around his chest in 2001 and the time, in 1999, that Cline Dion wore a costume backwards). The appetite for the surreal seems to be kicking in, he says, adding that the designs that land are the ones that jump out and grab you by the throat.

So what’s going on behind the scenes? Beyond the usual safety procedures, Covid testing, PPE and insulation to protect work bubbles, the nature of a client’s hair is a logistical nightmare. Elizabeth Saltzman, stylist at Gwyneth Paltrow, says the process is unrecognizable. Usually during awards season, teams of stylists, makeup artists, and assistants gather in hairspray clouds for war game outfits (on pre-fit days I’ll be shining all kinds of lights from all angles, says Saltzman) and offer hugs, modifications, and encouraging talks.

During Covid, the wax and decay travel and lockdown rules meant that hair styling sessions are virtual or involve very small teams: a makeup artist may be the only person able to travel, for example, so may doing the hair, makeup and hairdressing work work with the rest of the team from a distance, or an isolated actor could perform all of these roles himself. Last minute changes to the formats of the new digital awards ceremonies at the time of going to press, Zoom’s acceptance speeches banned at the Oscars mean a stylist may not know if their client will be seen in full or via Zoom until very late. during the day.

Sofa so good ... Jodie Foster at the Globes.
Sofa so good … Jodie Foster at the Globes. Photograph: Nbc Handout / Reuters

There is also a lot less money lying around. Stylists have lost a lot of business over the past 12 months. The Saltzmans team has gone from seven to three and many brands are unable to swallow the costs they might have had in the past. Saltzman recently agreed to share the cost of $ 750 to ship a dress from overseas with a brand, for example. Before Covid, she says, I would have just said: No, you can do that if you want to be on the mat, because the amount of global press they used to get was worth all the expense. This time around, the photographs could end up on the actors’ Instagram feeds, who will rarely have the scope or prestige of syndicated red carpet photos across all online and print media around the world. With the sashes tight, and out of fashion, flying hundreds of dresses around the world to pick the perfect look is neither cost effective nor practical, so in general, an outfit will be chosen early and everyone will do it. function.

It’s also much better for the environment, says Saltzman, adding that sustainability and a series of politicized issues are now essential to consider. We always thought about the clients, their story and what they were trying to say, maybe they were trying to get a role and they needed to portray something specific, but now it’s more from the point of view of: what is the impact on the environment? Are we awake? Do we support black designers?

Of course, a more socially conscious and culturally sensitive approach to the red carpet was starting to emerge before the political upheaval of 2020. Be all the rage against E! S Mani-Cam, 2018 Golden Globes red carpet blackout or general concern about the environmental damage of red carpet fashion, which has led to a growing number of actors choosing to wear recycled or vintage dresses. Add a pandemic to this mix and trigger a complete existential crisis. Anyone who works in our industry with a heartbeat and a brain probably really grapples with how we contribute to the global and cultural conversation, says Roseberry. Meeting the moment has been a challenge for everyone for stars and stylists, who want to do things that seem relevant when so much suddenly seems out of place.

Last year I think there was no appetite to see celebrities in dress up. The performative elements of glamor were not in demand, he adds. I feel like there is a change starting to happen where people are looking for reasons to escape, to dream and that is at the very least what fashion should be contributing to.

Hopefully the tough Oscars rules inspire rebellion: bring the frilly swans.

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