Throughout the decades, we have been observing famous people of the world as they adorn the red carpets with their most luxurious garments. It’s a sort of morbid curiosity that I feel when I look at red carpet fashion, knowing the looks cost upwards of £100,000. As well as this, up until recent times there has been a real issue with fashion norms that reinforce gender binaries.
From the emergence of the Hollywood red carpet in 1922, we have seen hyper-feminine fashion for women; fit and flare ballgowns to accentuate the waist and hourglass figure, long flowing hair and diamond encrusted jewellery. For men, fitted suits to create a broad, masculine silhouette, a clean-shaven face and absolutely no jewellery.
What’s the issue?
Whilst this can be okay for some, for others it emphasizes the constraints of gender within fashion. Those on the red carpet have a massive influence on us onlookers, setting the standard for high fashion. It is therefore important to have androgynous and gender fluid representation, expressing an acceptance toward gender fluidity on the red carpet, and extensively the regular fashion world.
One of the biggest celebrities who repeatedly subverts our gendered expectations toward fashion is Billy Porter. In 2017, Porter attended TDF Honors Broadway’s ‘Kinky Boots’ premiere wearing an ensemble of a fitted blazer with a cream polo neck underneath and a striped midi skirt, with black Chelsea boots on the bottom half. This is an outfit that incorporates both masculine and feminine elements, specifically highlighting the freeness of androgynous style and embracing aspects of both genders.
Porter did a similar thing at the 2019 Oscars, sporting a Christian Siriano black velvet dress with a matching bolero jacket. Once again, Porter is deliberately using both masculine and feminine details to express a breaking of boundaries within fashion, emphasising the importance of having fun with personal style and discarding any rules that try to define us.
Another big name that constantly challenges our idea of the masculine and feminine in their work and style is Janelle Monae. Monae has been termed a “Queer fashion icon” , following in the footsteps of icons such as Prince and David Bowie with her definitive androgynous style. Monae’s standout red carpet look was at the 2019 Met Gala, fully living up to the ‘camp’ theme. From the layered top hat tower to the dress, a division down the middle with a tuxedo on one side and a bedazzled eye and hot pink skirt on the other, Monae manages to push the boundaries and challenge our perceptions of fashion and its rules. The tuxedo can be seen as a homage to Marlene Dietrich, one of Monae’s influences who was a bisexual woman that sported a tuxedo and other masculine fashion choices back in the 1960’s. Monae is paying her respects to women in the past who dared to be androgynous, elevating them and demonstrating how their fashion choices are still creating a great influence on our culture.
The 2019 Oscars also saw Ezra Miller in a pinstriped suit with a train and a jewelled corset on top, a red lip and old Hollywood hairstyle. This in itself is glamorous and has androgynous elements, but the true showstopper of Miller’s look was the optical illusion painted on their face. Not only is this look genderless, but it surpasses any imaginable boundaries. Ezra has said before that they “Don’t identify as a man. [They] don’t identify as a woman. [They] barely identify as a human” and this shows in their style.
Why is this important?
The popularity of androgynous style is rapidly growing, more and more we are seeing an acceptance of fashion that questions our perception of gender. It is important to see this representation on the red carpet as it normalises androgyny and acceptance of both masculine and feminine traits and aspects within style.
In this way we can see the red carpet as a platform to create change within fashion and culture, using it as a space to break norms and create serious waves. Let these examples of red carpet style encourage you to be more daring in your personal style and experiment with androgyny, break the binaries that gendered expectations have placed on you and your fashion.