Red carpet season is in full swing! Last night we had the SAG Awards, otherwise known as the Costume B-Roll, where the only goal is to look half-decent, burn off whatever lingering obligations you have to a designer your client has promised to wear, and quietly begin marketing yourself for a very different role a year from now. As such, almost no one looked bad, because no one was taking any risks – this was a look nice & show up affair for neatly everyone. In that case, we’ll only have a few divisions, but sometimes people’s dress choices are interesting almost despite them! (“People” = a team of trained professionals who have long meetings including inspiration boards and projected income charts. “Them” = the actors they are dressing.)
Look of the Night:
Absolutely literally, the look of the night belongs to Frances McDormand. But I also enjoy her outfit. (Not as much as her face, but how could you?) I hope she dressed herself. I hope she dressed everyone behind her. I hope she gets award-worthy material every year. Imagine seeing this every year!
Now, just because most people didn’t take a risk doesn’t mean the carpet was entirely risk-free. A few people took a chance! And mostly it paid off! Or it was hilarious, which is just as good. (I’ll be calling back to the Golden Globes a lot in this post; you can find that Red Carpet Rundown here for reference.)
TOOK A CHANCE DIVISION
Last year, Lupita Nyong’o ran a great game of solids in amazing shapes, fumbling only with the Met Gala dress, and since that’s a place that demands risk, it still made sense. This year, however, she’s out to establish herself as a style force to be reckoned with. The flower bustier at the Golden Globes nearly, but not quite, won everybody over. Here, another pattern in a much more modern silhouette, and it’s a stunnah.
Emma Stone. If you had asked me which rising star I expected to be taking the most interesting red carpet route after an out-of-nowhere awards performance, it would not have been Emma Stone. But this is an outfit that has to be worn with both utter commitment and a huge wink at the audience, and so she is, and here we are.
Rosamund Pike made sure everyone saw her commitment to being a thin, fuckable actress as soon as possible after a baby, so she could line up for awards nominations for playing a woman who loathes being required to remain thin and fuckable. She also wants to seem edgy and game for whatever (good for designer collaborations), but part of me has to assume this dress is just an avant garde “you saw your cutouts, aren’t you happy yet?”, which makes me like it a lot more than I would otherwise like a 3D floral cone.
“Wait,” said Julia Roberts, looking at Emma Stone on the red carpet, turning to her stylist. “Is this the signal? Are pants back? I’ve been waiting so long! I will NOT REST until I have a fancy pants outfit! Something tuxedo-y, but also like a flight suit. If Emma Stone did it, damn sure I’m going to. I want it, and I won’t settle. Find it.”
But even when you’re not taking a huge risk, you’re still making something of a statement on the carpet. This is a runway of pros, and they know exactly what they want to tell you. (Unless their stylists have messed up, or they secretly hate you.)
LOOKING STRATEGICALLY GREAT DIVISION
A lot of looking strategically great, specifically at the SAG awards, is being part of a team,since this is an ensemble-awards show and you might all have to rush the stage at any moment. Worth keeping in mind watching these casts come together.
Uzo Aduba. This is an amazing dress; like snakeskin from far away, textured and layered close up, a nice acidic lemon toned down by its own construction and movement. She looks awesome.
Laverne Cox, wearing this outfit effortlessly. I didn’t even bother with the full shot, because the bottom of this dress could literally be trash bags scrunched up to make big rosettes, and it wouldn’t matter, would it? (The bottom of this dress is a very nice fishtail.)
Danielle Brooks, looking amazing in this dress. (I wonder sometimes if the Orange is the New Black team checks in during red carpet season just to hold up swatches and make sure everybody looks good in a clump in case they take the stage for group wins.)
Jackie Cruz, in a fantastic sparkly number, also casually coordinating with everybody else.
Kimiko Glenn, in a slightly plummy neutral that has a touch of Sad Bodice sliding down on the top, but otherwise beautifully fitted. Not sure how I feel about the tones of dress vs tulle, but am happy to chalk that up to a klieg coloring issue. Gently blending in with the OITNB crowd.
Vicky Jeudy, also a recipient of the OITNB memo, in a dress that looks, in the best way, like she walked out of Jupiter Ascending.
For Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie in full, gleeful Jean Harlow drag. She’s always interesting on a red carpet – she’s as happy to wear something funky as something feminine, and I tend to love her playfulness (she once wore a dress with flamingo print to an awards ceremony, because when you’re that tall, why not have fun with it?). I’m into this, too, though it’s decidedly on the girly end of the spectrum, and likely that’s not a coincidence.
Sophie Turner, in her prime ingenue years, and making the most of it in a dress that’s Audrey Hepburn from the waist up and youthfully restrained from the waist down, except for that amazing flirty detail on the shoe. (She’s holding her own bag, though, which baffles me. Game of Thrones sent seven people to the carpet and there wasn’t one available PA to grab that bag off her shoulder before the cameras started?)
And Maisie Williams, in an incredibly canny dress. Arya is amazing but grubby, and nobody on Maisie’s team wants that image to stick past this show if they can help it; very few of those roles to go around, and it’s better to remind everyone you’re pretty under all that Westeros grime. Enter fuschia lace! That solves that.
Viola Davis, walking perfection.
Sarah Paulson. I really like this. A classic column, with just enough interest in the design to look modern and fresh (hard to do with a black and white dress, sometimes).
Emmy Rossum. She does such a great job on Shameless, and every time you see her on the red carpet she looks like the most rested princess in the land, and that is absolutely on purpose, because the last thing anyone wants her to project on the red carpet is any of those Shameless sharp edges, even if the dress is expensive. Her team defaults to “lovely,” because they’re thinking past Shameless and want you to be, too.
Julianne Moore, in a dress you wear when you’re pretty sure you’re going to win and don’t want anything tripping you up on your way to the stage.
Gretchen Mol, in a gorgeous dress that looks like an amazingly glamorous 1930s ghost haunting the fanciest hotel in town, who will help a plucky devil-may-dare girl reporter to solve an Old Hollywood mystery.
Kelly Macdonald, girl reporter.
Anna Chlumsky. I might like this more than I should – certainly rust matte with an ice-blue satin is a daring combination, and it’s unusual enough that I enjoyed looking at it for about ten seconds trying to figure it out, which is about five seconds longer than some of these dresses get, without looking like a total disaster – and sometimes that’s all you want.
Joanne Froggatt has been playing the angelic Anna for approximately twelve years of Downton Abbey, where so many soapy afterthoughts have happened to her that she’s about to get an evil twin, which would justify this dress all by itself. But it reminded me of the moment in Legend when the Gothic, amazing Lily who can outsmart the Devil himself wakes up a happy princess dressed in white again, and you’re so horribly disappointed in the change that you imagine she must be, too, and as soon as the forest pollen settled she was going to hike right back into the woods and learn sorcery. Joanne Froggatt wants to play someone less angelic, okay, and they’re just letting you know, no pressure.
Keira Knightley, who was an utter disaster at the Globes, here in a dress that actually looks like a feasible garment. Still no great shakes, though. You know what looked great? Her dress for Critics’ Choice, which she must have thought constituted her best chance at a win, because there’s no other reason to show up in that to a lesser-photographed red carpet unless you assume you’ll be taking the stage.
Tatiana Maslany, not yet famous enough to be allowed to hem her loaners that one necessary inch, wears a dress with one stripe for every character she’s played on Orphan Black.
Stephanie Beatriz, in a lovely color with a bodice that looks as if it’s sliding gently off. This dress is not my favorite; it’s here mostly because she posted a picture of her ride over, and I’m keeping it here so you realize I’m not kidding about wrinkle prevention.
Mayim Bialik in a dress that I loved SO MUCH right up until that enormous mermaid business which threw of the proportions. Honest question: looking at this picture, how tall is Mayim Bialik? If your answer is “maybe short than I thought,” her stylists have not done their job. (The rest of the dress is gorgeous. A seamed skirt that graduated to a slightly less exuberant mermaid hem would have single-handedly prevented that weird truncation.)
However, for some people, we can only hope this is not actually an attempt to practice for anything, because if it is, we have problems.
NO THANKS DIVISION
Andrea Riseborough. I made a disappointed shriek when I saw this. Andrea, I enjoy your acting so much and you are literally a luminous being. Who did you let powder you? Who did you let put a neutral lip on you when this dress is such a dusty color? WHO DID YOU LET MAKE YOU WEAR THIS DRESS? I want so much more for you than this!
Natalie Dormer has grown ill with making Natalie Dormer Face. It has drained her of all life; she can barely lift her mouth into that pained expression that passed once for insouciance. She will smirk her way into the sickbed soon, from there to be buried in the graveyard of Shticky Facial Expressions. (This attempt to shroud her in youthful color means nothing if the makeup artist is in a race with Andrea Riseborough’s makeup artist.)
Laura Carmichael. She knows her mistake, her eyes betray it all, but oh, alas, too late! Too late!
Felicity Jones. So polished – hair, makeup, jewelry – and in almost any other color this dress would be lovely. But it’s too close to her skin tone without the excuse of sheerness or sparkle. She honestly looks like she’s dressed like a finger for Halloween.
Naomi Watts. “Actually, maybe I do want a little sparkle. But only the littlest, limpest sparkle available to us. No, nothing on the bodice. No, nothing on the skirt. What if we just draped a little tinsel? That’s just right.”
Julianna Marguiles. I understand the color, which like most colors is great on her, and I like a nice dramatic drape as much as the next person. I might even like THIS dramatic drape from a different angle. But this is how she posed, and does it look like she went to the ladies’ room and caught it somehow and can’t fix it and has to soldier through? It sure does.
And lest you think any of this is easy, this is the “Taittinger brand ambassador,” whose last name is Taittinger, naturally, wearing a dress of dark champagne (get it?) that she is clearly not entirely comfortable in, and maybe even jewelry she owns herself because this is Taittinger money we’re talking about.
But she has not gotten red carpet training, and so she’s leaning forward to listen to someone with her shoulders, not that skirt-fixing straight-back bend-over you see on professionals so it covers the motion with dress prep, and worst of all, she’s beginning to RESPOND – speaking? Shifting her facial expression because she didn’t walk onto the carpet with her dazzlingly natural smile already fixed? Something – and this is the photo of her that we have now. This is the one that went to press outlets. The red carpet is a ruthless beast.