This Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented its 95th Academy Awards. At first glance, the Oscars are a platform to award the bests of the film industry. But the Oscars’ guise is weak. Despite many changes made by The Academy this year, including the addition of a “crisis team,” changes to the dress code and the first non-red carpet since 1961, one thing has stayed the same: the Academy Awards are a showcase for high fashion, with any acknowledgment of cinema as an afterthought. And as stars walked the red, (for this year’s purposes, champagne) carpet this past Sunday, the focus was not on who won what, but rather who wore what. The answer to both questions is everything, everywhere, all at once.
The unveiling of the carpet set the tone for the night. According to Lisa Love, leader of the creative team, the “beautiful sienna, saffron color” of the carpet was chosen to evoke the sunset before a golden hour. Dreams of a warm orange glow quickly disappeared when the carpet unfurled to reveal a depressing shade of tan or champagne (at best). By the time the first handful of celebrity shoes had muddied the carpet, those dreams were long gone.
The color of the carpet this year may have been new, but clothing adhered to traditional palettes. Dominating the champagne carpet were suits and gowns of black and white, typical of the Oscars, sparkled with shimmery silvers and grays. Beige doesn’t compliment black and white nearly as well as red does, yet designers weren’t afraid to stick to tradition, and it worked. Harry Shum Jr. of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” showed up in a white, overlapping chef-style tuxedo with dark trim, reminiscent of his role in the film. His look was tied together with a wide, sash-like belt, offering a dapper fusion of Eastern and Western fashion as an acknowledgment of Shum’s Chinese heritage.
Of the black and white looks, Rihanna’s was a clear standout. The nominee for Best Original Song started her night in a brownish-black, leather-mesh ensemble by Alaïa, reminiscent of her Super Bowl halftime look from last month by the same designer. Rihanna performed her song “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” but not before changing into her second look, a custom Maison Margiela black bra and pants set draped with beading. The singer’s first two darker looks were contrasted with her final outfit of the night, which included a turquoise custom Bottega Veneta buster, skirt and shearling stole.
While some played it safe in black and white, one resounding theme seemed to be an homage to disco balls and duvet covers. For many critics, the heavy, draped and curtain-esque fabrics were the downfall of the night. Yet, from Cara Delevigne’s beloved deep red Elie Saab old Hollywood gown to Florence Pugh’s Twitter-ridiculed edgy off-the-shoulder Valentino gown (with shorts peeking out), heavy fabrics offered a refreshing new texture to accompany the champagne carpet.
On the other end of the spectrum, several stars opted for more delicate looks, trading heavy stiff fabrics for shiny silk and satin embellished with sequins and beading. Actresses Ana de Armas and Zoe Saldaña each wore sleek, sleeveless, shimmering, neutral gowns from Louis Vuitton and Fendi, both of which have been compared to wedding dresses. Two of the night’s most talked about looks combined shimmering embellishments with voluminous sheet-like layers. Allison Williams of “M3GAN” was the topic of much conversation, in a pinkish gray floral long-sleeve Giambattista Valli gown, complete with an oversized, baby pink pleated cape train. In a similar combination, Fan Bingbing shined in a silver halter dress with dramatic puffy green sleeves and a matching cape.
Like the carpet itself, many stars and designers exceeded in steering away from tradition. But while much has changed during the Oscars’ 95-year history, film and fashion will forever complement one another. There’s no denying the importance of walking the carpet, whatever color, as a means of experimentation and expression.