The 93rd annual Academy Awards have been an evening of historic firsts: first girl of coloration to win the directing Oscar; first Black ladies to win the make-up and hairstyling Oscar; oldest girl ever to win an Oscar; first Korean actor to win an Oscar. But in a minimum of one space it was extra like same-old, same-old: the purple carpet.
The lengthy stroll to Union Station (and the Dolby Theater) could have been the primary full-fledged in-person, maskless entrance-making parade because the pandemic started, however as a substitute of a rebirth, it was a return to acquainted advertising second kind, replete with large manufacturers and the celebrities that love them. Or large stars and the manufacturers that pay them? Sometimes it’s onerous to inform the distinction.
Indeed, except for a subversive transfer towards consolation footwear on the a part of Chloé Zhao, who wore white sneakers together with her glinting knit Hermès gown, and Questlove, who paired his black ensemble with gold Crocs, it was nearly just like the final yr of lockdowns, trauma and social justice had by no means occurred. Or as if we hadn’t really realized all of the issues that everyone mentioned they have been studying — a minimum of when it got here to image-making in all of its layers and dimensions.
During the night itself, there was palpably emotional private and political speechmaking. But within the spotlit moments previous the occasion, the that means of the final many months was missing.
Instead there was … glamour! The gown code was “Inspirational and Aspirational,” and the theme of the night was “Bring your movie love.” Combine these two concepts and what do you get? Fashion derived from the occasion itself.
Both Carey Mulligan and Andra Day, finest actress nominees, channeled the person of the evening and dressed à la statuette, in gold: Ms. Mulligan in a gleaming Valentino bandeau and titanic skirt, and Ms. Day in uneven thigh-baring Vera Wang, like a cross between an Amazon and an Oscar with a bit of Raquel Welch thrown in. Leslie Odom Jr. joined them, carrying a 24-karat Brioni swimsuit and matching shirt.
Angela Bassett (in Alberta Ferretti with exorbitant aerodynamic sleeves, making her look kind of just like the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”), Amanda Seyfried (in Armani Privé, channeling outdated MGM), and Reese Witherspoon (in Dior Grecian drapes) did a kind of meta-homage to the entire idea of the carpet, in purple.
There was role-playing, of the fantasy variety. Emerald Fennell began it off in diaphanous floral Gucci, which she named “Susan” and described (in the very best line of the evening) as “pottery teacher with a business proposition for you that is absolutely not a pyramid scheme.” Maybe all attendees ought to identify their clothes after characters?
Then there was Maria Bakalova, in white Louis Vuitton, having a Cinderella-at-the-ball second; Viola Davis, in white vine-twining Alexander McQueen, trying like an earth goddess; Regina King, additionally in Vuitton, doing her personal model of “Madama Butterfly” (effectively, she is among the monarchs of the second); and Laura Dern enjoying each side of “Black Swan” in a black turtleneck Oscar de la Renta that descended into frothing white ostrich feathers on the skirt.
And talking of avian life: Colman Domingo was the best-dressed man of the evening by being most brightly dressed. He was head-to-toe in vibrant pink Versace, like a wonderful flamingo.
Generally, when it got here to males’s put on, nevertheless, penguin fits have been out and all-black non-tie was in: see LaKeith Stanfield in a Saint Laurent jumpsuit, Daniel Kaluuya in Bottega Veneta tux and T-shirt (the higher to border a diamond Cartier chain that viewers saved mistaking for pearls because of its measurement) and Riz Ahmed in Prada tux and mock turtleneck. The exceptions being the older attendees — Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt — and the youngest: Alan Kim, the pint-size star of “Minari,” whose Thom Browne shorts swimsuit and knee socks have been age-appropriate dressing at its finest.
Also current: homages to nice Oscar style moments previous, because of Zendaya, in midriff-baring yellow Valentino (midriff baring being a pattern, additionally seen on Vanessa Kirby in shell-pink Gucci) that cross-referenced two Cher specials — a 1970 Sonny & Cher look and a 1973 Academy Awards outfit by Bob Mackie. Ditto H.E.R., whose sheer glowing Dundas jumpsuit and hooded cape referred to as to thoughts Barbra Streisand’s sheer polka dot pajama swimsuit of 1969.
There have been no nice gaffes; no moments of gleeful dressing catastrophe. No one fell off her heels or tripped over her big skirt. Most individuals, actually, seemed fairly good. The normal takeaway gave the impression to be: Hooray! The purple carpet’s again!
But dangle on. Not so quick.
Because right here’s the factor: Looking good ought to not be sufficient. After a yr of celebrities talking out on social media about social justice and local weather change, after a yr of black squares and pledges to assist Black-owned companies, this was a second to place their picture the place their Insta was.
Yet except for Marlee Matlin, in a Vivienne Westwood robe with dramatically draped “Game of Thrones” sleeves made out of a vegan textile through a zero-waste slicing approach, all of the discuss sustainability and upcycling appeared to have gone out the window. None of the attendees shopped their closets or opted for precise classic appears to be like, versus vintage-inspired appears to be like.
And except for Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, the administrators of the brief movie “Two Distant Strangers,” who wore matching black tuxes with vibrant yellow lapels (garish sure, but in addition eye catching) and linings that contained the names of the victims of police brutality, in addition to Nike Airs emblazoned with extra names, together with George Floyd’s, not one of the finery nodded to present occasions. Or a minimum of didn’t in any identifiable method.
Or even, for that matter, introduced the highlight to the underrepresented within the purple carpet universe: impartial designers and designers of coloration.
Yes, Hollywood is about escapism — or principally about escapism — and sure, it’s thrilling to see individuals dressing up once more, however it might probably nonetheless be escapism and dressing up with substance. Especially in terms of style. Ultimately, it might be a greater look.