Fashion + The Red Carpet

The Red Carpet is the New Art Gallery

Who are you wearing?

In 2010, Lady Gaga chose to take fashion to the next level, and the infamous meat dress is probably the earliest encounter I had with the carpets. The political statement turned own Wikipedia page, was named the ‘Top Fashion Statement of 2010’ by Time magazine, and remains one of the most memorable ‘fashion’ choices of the twenty-first century. Gaga’s reason for wearing the charcuterie, is far less known than the dress itself, and her message was lost in outraged animal rights activists and press gossip.

It’s a social thing…

The speculation and attention the carpet garners each year stems from one woman, Joan Rivers, who started star spotting in 1995. Watching her observations now is surprising – and definitely non-pc. However, it’s led to more people copying her ideas, and now social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok are full of small creators reviewing red carpet looks, and websites like Buzzfeed often highlight the hits and misses of fashion at red carpet events.

Social media is absolutely making carpet gala’s more accessible. We have such a huge window into these events as the public than we ever have before. Celebrities often post pre-show snippets of their routine, and exclusive looks of dresses and outfits before they even reach the carpet.

A message for good

Another political statement made by a star on the red carpet, is Natalie Portman’s Dior cape which had the names of snubbed female directors embroidered on the inside. Her 2020 Oscars outfit came after another year of all male nominees in the Best Director category. Although not as overt as Lady Gaga’s statement, the message was still clear, and more discernible than the message of the meat dress, which was Lady Gaga’s way of publicly shaming the US military’s “Don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.”

Although it’s clear using the fashion on the red carpets is a way to gather attention quickly, there’s also the reluctance to be so public. Many stars attend such events to promote themselves, through music, movies, or just socially. I think it’s key for the carpets to keep such a neutral political stance, as it allows fashion to be judged instead of political beliefs. In a world where there can be so much hate and opposition, we need outlets that allow us to switch off and view fashion as an art form.

The Met Gala is brilliant for this, and every year the fashion never ceases to amaze me. Each annual theme is carefully and tastefully selected to reflect the showcasing of costumes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, and my personal favourite and introduction to the Gala being the 2018 theme of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. This theme prompted beautiful gowns, with particular emphasis on Zendaya’s Versace Joan of Arc tribute, Blake Lively’s stunning Versace gown, and Rhianna as the pope, wearing Margiela beautifully.

Although some may argue each theme restricts fashion and art by building it around one theme, the fashion in that topic can flourish and become walking works of art, as celebrities descend the steps into the gala. In more recent years, the film Ocean’s 8¸ drew huge attention to the event, basing the whole film around the gala.

You’ve got male

Also, in more recent years, male fashion has evolved from suits, with personalities such as Billy Porter and Harry Styles challenging these norms by the former wearing a ballgown to the 2019 Oscars and the latter wearing a sheer blouse and having painted nails. Each look, although incurring a backlash, was stunning and I look forward to their future carpet looks.

Boyband BTS brought further flare and diversity to their tuxedos at the 2019 Grammys, making a small statement by wearing all South Korean designed suits. As they were the first South Korean band to ever attend the award shows, let alone perform, or be nominated. This subtle nod to their culture and country is a signal that the awards shows fashion is slowly becoming more diversified and reaching wider audiences.

Red carpet looks have grown in diversity, and should be something inherently celebrated. Although there have been previously questionable looks, returning once again to the meat dress, the award shows allow us to see beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes, and that diversity and art should be celebrated.

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