Has Hollywood forgotten how to do party dressing? It was a question worth pondering at this year’s stripped back Oscars ceremony. Attendees couldn’t seem to settle on a dress code, wearing everything from feathered black T-shirt dresses (Frances McDormand) to 24-karat gold thread suits (Leslie Odom Junior) to appear on screen from gatherings held in Los Angeles and London.
That said, there were some stand-out looks on the night, as well as a few trends to take away. These are all the talking points you need to know about…
The bold shoulder
Regina King graced the red carpet in her capacity as director of One Night in Miami, making her one of a new contingent of directors who can give the Best Actress nominees a run for their money on the step-and-repeat – see also, Emerald Fennell (these women are actors, too, after all, so they get the game). King’s magnificent ice-blue Louis Vuitton gown had a shoulder span which looked as wide as your average private jet’s wings. The creation reportedly took to make 140 hours in the Vuitton atelier and is comprised of 62,000 sequins, 3,900 pale sparkling Swarovski crystals and 4,500 in darker tones, plus 80 metres of chain stitching. Subtle.
62-year-old Angela Bassett continued the social-distancing-via-couture theme in a vermillion Alberta Ferretti number with sleeves which looked like they’d have made incredibly comfy pillows if a catnap were needed mid-ceremony – an ingenious invention the rest of might do well to adopt as we make a return to partying.
Nonchalance doesn’t usually factor in anyone’s Oscar dressing considerations – unless you’re Frances McDormand. She became only the fourth actress to receive three Academy Awards and remained dedicated to the low-key look she’s fostered over the years (you may remember she picked up her last Academy Award, in 2019, wearing Birkenstocks).
This time, she went for a plain black dress with some subtle feathered detailling, barely-there make-up, mussed-up hair and only a tiny pair of earrings – it was understated by anyone’s standards, but especially so considering she could have been adorned in priceless jewels had she wanted. She was joined in this casual approach by Nomadland director Chloe Zhao, who wore trainers with her dress – a woman after our own hearts.
A little more upscale was Olivia Colman who gave a London twist to proceedings, arriving on the red carpet at the BFI in a tea-length Christian Dior dress. This might have been one of the evening’s most useful looks to consider emulating yourself – bright, one colour dress (with sleeves if it still feels too soon for arm exposure), sleek hair, glowy make-up and some sparkly earrings – et voila! It was a million miles from the prom-y look of most of the LA contingent.
The midriff flashers
The most popular trend on the red carpet this year was the ab flash – from Vanessa Kirby, to Zendaya, each offered the same hint of a toned stomach through strategic slicing. Andra Day, in Vera Wang, worked with a welder to seal her chainmail gown, while Viola Davis’s laser cut Alexander McQueen bodice was also a feat of engineering, with a corset dyed to match her skin tone layered underneath. The rule to wearing this look? No belly buttons allowed. Carey Mulligan, in Valentino Couture, got the proportions right with a high waist skirt and a bandeau bodice, revealing just the right amount of skin.
The Gwyneth impersonator
When in doubt, look to Gwyneth Paltrow, arguably the greatest red carpet dresser of the modern age, for inspiration. Gwynnie might be too busy telling us about the latest developments in the world of jade vagina eggs to go to the Oscars now but her presence was felt in British actress Vanessa Kirby who opted for a pale rose pink Gucci gown which felt like a modern riff on Paltrow’s 1999 Ralph Lauren concoction.
She’s not the first to have emulated this iconic look but she took it a step further, with the same severe platinum bun and diamond necklace, adding a slick of very dark red lipstick to make it her own. The only element missing at the end of the night was an Oscar after Kirby missed out to Frances McDormand.
The new queens of frou-frou
Feathers! Florals! Sequins! Many attendees at this year’s event looked as though they had forgotten how to have fun with fashion, but not team frou-frou. British winner Emerald Fennell announced her pregnancy on the red carpet wearing chintzy Gucci. Laura Dern won the award for most feathers worn on the night, in Oscar de la Renta. The message? Hollywood can still do camp when it wants to.
The simple and chics
As one of the world’s most talked-about style platforms, plenty of stars approach the Oscars wanting their outfits to go viral and some might even be prepared for negativity (Regina King was, according to Vogue, ready for her gown to ‘evoke a reaction in the audience watching’) but for others the old adage of looking, well, nice is still enough.
The nicest looking woman of the night had to be Best Supporting Actress winner Youn Yuh Jung who was a greynaissance Grace Kelly in her navy Marmar Halim gown which exuded quiet elegance, especially accessorised with the 73-year-old’s silvery updo. The only thing letting the look down was a velvet belt which didn’t match the dress’s waistline. Brilliantly, she later added a khaki bomber jacket for backstage photos.
Margot Robbie in a shimmery silver Chanel dress and Resse Witherspoon in Grecian red Dior also looked simply lovely.
Is going for gold, sartorially speaking, a way to preempt some luck on the night? Plenty have tried over the years (ever since Julie Christie won in a liquid metal-look dress in 1966) and gilded dresses and suits were a popular choice for this year’s nominees, worn by Andra Day, Carey Mulligan, and Leslie Odom Junior. The other route to go down is to be statuesque in your proportions. Dresses that sculpt the body in gravity defying feats served to show off lockdown toned figures – see Halle Berry’s draped Dolce and Gabbana and Amanda Seyfried’s plisse pleated Giorgio Armani by way of example.
Wearing the trousers
74-year-old Glenn Close beat young Hollywood at its own game, twerking for the cameras in her Armani Privé outfit and becoming the night’s most fun talking point. Styled by her collaborator since 2018, Chloe Hartstein, her look was in fact a beaded tunic, worn over sharp navy satin trousers, and she accessorised with inky leather gloves. The silhouette wasn’t traditional in the slightest and showed that even after a record eight Oscar losses in her career, she hasn’t lost the energy and joie de vivre to enjoy getting dressed for these dos.