Ah, the BAFTAs; never the showiest jewel of red carpet season, largely because it can only barely bring itself to care about being part of red carpet season. The BAFTAs are so begrudging about the increasing importance of the red carpet that it doesn’t even bother with the hedge nonsense. This isn’t Versailles; you get a few stanchions and then we’re all done, okay?
There’s something kind of soothing about a red carpet that secretly doesn’t care. In nearly every shot here, there’s either an awkward architectural feature (those BAFTA columns look like lighting-rig supports that someone decided to brand at the last second), or a clump of people who don’t care who’s taking pictures, or a soothing sea of background folks, or those stanchions, which are perhaps my favorite red-carpet appearance of recent years. The BAFTAs will show up, but you cannot make the BAFTAs care. The outfits reflect this; there’s only a handful, and there was a distinctly “save your best for later” air to the whole thing, so this is gonna be brisk.
Look of the night: Antonia Thomas. Sometimes I pick a look of the night because it’s a genuinely stunning garment that shows a perfect coalescence of the persona and the personal on whatever playing field is in front of them; sometimes I pick it because it’s clear someone chose it against the advice of their stylists and it’s working anyway. Sometimes, I just have to pick it because of the person wearing it. When I saw this picture, I said, “Wow, she looks great,” and it took me a full five seconds to actually notice this dress. The dress looks suspiciously like someone told an ice skater she had thirty seconds to get to her film premiere and she grabbed a skirt and booked it. (I like a nice beaded top, but this is not one.) But do you care? Nope, because Antonia Thomas loves this dress and is wearing the holy hell out of it. That’s good enough for the BAFTAs.
John Boyega. His red-carpet presence has been pretty impeccable; in a sea of men’s tuxes that are more or less identical, and in a world where men can show up to red carpets with dark jeans and a button-down when his women costars have been chirpily held hostage in a hotel room for four hours as a team of trained professionals zip-ties and plasters them into acceptable shape, John Boyega is always impeccably dressed for the occasion. Everything’s fitted to the centimeter, he looks great in velvet, he looks great in the jewel tones he’s been using. (Am I torn on the size of his tie? I am, but I will admit I don’t have enough menswear experience to know the optimal width of a bowtie with a collar that high. Does it matter on the whole, given this suave-as-hell silhouette? I bet you didn’t even notice it until I said something.) In conclusion, it’s just nice to see him on a red carpet, okay? It’s just really nice.
Maggie Smith. You should be so lucky that Maggie Smith shows up at your event. She is a busy lady who has to rest from all the 80-pound costumes Downton Abbey shoves her into and, presumably, catch up on the episodes of Black Sails she has queued up on her DVR even though she promised her son she’s not going to be up his nose about his acting. She just wants to check in, is all. (The dress is perfectly fine for the BAFTAs, and honestly, as evening cardigans go, she’s found a pretty nice one, especially considering the texture; it doesn’t pucker or pull at the seams, and the sleeves are loose without getting into boudoir-robe territory. Also, I hope she’s proud of Toby; he’s working very hard this season.)
Heida Reed. There was something of a generation divide on the carpet, with women over 60 generally opting to wear a jacket because they did not care, and everybody else knowing that the difference between Leading Lady and Mother of Teenager is the ability to wear sleeveless gowns in frigid temperatures. Heida Reed is best known for Poldark; she wants you to know she is ready for any modern role you might care to consider her for. (I would consider her for a really Deco-stylized Morticia Addams, because this is a pretty stellar look, though I accept that I will always be a little bit inclined to favor any lady who looks like she just rose from her coffin to sample the blood of the wicked.)
Angela Bassett. Are you kidding me. This color is beyond great on her, and that clean line all the way to the “Who, me?” train length is just perfect.
Cate Blanchett, who has not lost her ability to wear incredibly dramatic clothes look like they’re jeans and a tee shirt. That millefleur is so good I won’t even talk about the skirt.
Julianne Moore has two modes; one of them is Modern Art Patron, and the other is Old Hollywood Star. The former is hit or miss. The latter is almost inevitably a hit. The black ribbons meet in a chunky bow at the back, and it all looked great.
Gemma Chan. Her hair looks lovely. I wish her hair had allowed for a better glimpse of the amazing ice-crystal beading on her shoulders. Sometimes in life there are things you can never reconcile.
Kate Winslet. Prime BAFTA dress – lovely, but not spectacular. If she has something cutting-edge, we’ll see it at the Oscars. Her job here was to be sleek and awards-level professional, and she’s achieved it. Note that all the interest was at the shoulders, so when you’re on the podium accepting your award, should you just happen to win an award, you look awesome. (The loose hair works here, suggesting that somehow this entire ensemble is a casual night on the town for a woman just out to have fun, which is a pretty nifty trick for some hair.)
My favorite character arc of the red carpet season is Alicia Vikander’s slow realization that this Louis Vuitton partnership means she actually has to keep finding Louis Vuitton dresses to wear on the red carpet. She looks up for the challenge, but that is also a 35-pound leather dress, so I think some of this challenge is coming from within, you know?
Saoirse Ronan, who has her red-carpet style on lockdown and her body language so completely controlled that I had to check my SAG post to see if her pose was identical. It’s not, though; you can see that head tilt is a full ten degrees more askew than the SAGs. I don’t know how I could ever have been fooled.
“How sheer could we take this dress?” asked someone, and someone else said, “Definitely more sheer than this – like, ‘see the shadows on the backs of my knees’ sheer,” and someone said, “That’s perfect, thanks,” and now here’s Olga Kurylenko.
Gwendoline Christie. Do I like the vaguely rustic gold bias-tape trim? I actually do, though I’d have scraped off some of that shoulder width to get a more trapezoidal frame on the bodice. However, someone will have to explain to me the pairing of that trim with the eggplant, because surely there was an option that was slightly more drapey that showed off the angular trim without looking like they were mortaring some taffeta together. This cannot have been Britain’s last fabric.
Rooney Mara, who at some point is literally just going to turn into an Arthur Rackham illustration of a birch nymph crying in the woods.
And last, Dakota Johnson, who is still being styled with the political savvy of a Dune novel. Sartorially speaking, this dress is fascinating; it definitely looks out of place here, but deliberately – it would look right at home in LA, where careless youthfulness reigns and being so toned and thin you don’t need any kind of visible smoothing beneath your flowy gown is ideal, because all that careless youth is casually propelling you right through your career at the moment. It’s a dress designed to remind you she was in a sexy movie – and could, if you would like to cast her, be in many more! (I am saying this in all seriousness; I have seen 50 Shades, and it was bad, but nobody in that movie was trying harder to make it work than Dakota Johnson.)
However, technically the best dressed of the night has to be Angels Costumes, which won a special award for a century of costume lending. It will surprise no one that my tour of their warehouse a few years ago was overwhelmingly awesome (and highly recommended if you’re at all into costume, though sadly it’s only a few hours instead of the six-day sleepover I secretly wanted). Congrats, everybody at Angels; you’ve more than earned it.