The SAG Awards carpet is always an odd duck. So much of the rest of awards season is about honoring the many people who work on a movie or a series; the SAG Awards is a quiet admission that we all secretly like the actors best. And they like each other best! And they like coming together to congratulate each other most of all.
That’s not quite as bad as I’m making it sound. Sure, this red carpet doesn’t use a tall step-and-repeat all the way down, so half the press photos of a twenty-thousand-dollar-dress are accessorized by fifteen people milling around in the back, but we’re here to celebrate acting, and acting like fifteen people aren’t photobombing your step-and-repeat is a very useful test of your abilities. (Plus, that gives you a chance to see my favorite thing on red carpets, which is People Working the Carpet and/or Being Hustled Quickly Past the Chaos, Pretending to be Invisible Mere Inches From the Stars.)
And if nothing else, the SAG Awards have awards for best ensemble cast, which makes a lot more sense than trying to single out the most publicity-friendly cast member as an unofficial torchbearer for the team. This shot, of the cast of GLOW, is a perfect example of why; nearly everyone in that photo had at least one immortal line reading, and it’s nice when an awards show can recognize the whole.
In awards-season terms, the SAG awards is the cool kids’ cocktail party, and a lot of the dresses here are either trial runs for other carpets, or deliberately playful. The GLOW cast got both, and I love that you can tell they all quietly agreed to nod at the ’80s and still managed such a wide range of looks. For example:
Alison Brie, a one woman “came to the concert in the band tee” division, because that’s just how she is as a person and as an actress. It works for GLOW, and it works for this dress, which was the result of several mood boards about how to get the maximum 1980s vibe from the neck while making sure (“Making SURE, Madison,” someone barked down the line at one point to an assistant who was frantically writing things down with one hand and holding this dress with the other) that the makeup and hair would be sufficiently fresh and modern that she didn’t land up on anyone’s worst-dressed lists.
Betty Gilpin, wearing the sort of understated dress that the girl who got a lot of the lead roles in the undergrad theater department (1988-1989 academic year) and who had already mentioned that she was going to New York for the summer, “Just to see what happens,” would have worn to a New Year’s party at the house of the guy she had a crush on but would absolutely never say a word to, because that would spoil it.
Sydelle Noel, benevolent sorceress from some amazing fantasy-quest movie we never deserved.
Sunita Mani, Total Eclipse of the Heart Impersonator Award (Evoking the Lighting Division), 1985.
Kate Nash, wearing a combination of selvage ends from the Gunne Saxe factory.
But even if you couldn’t accessorize alongside a dozen costars, you could still accessorize. This red carpet is increasingly intense about fashion, and it shows.
LOOKING GREAT BUT NOT PLAYING AROUND DIVISION
Yara Shahidi, in what might be the look of the night if only for the undercurrent of thumbing her nose. It takes guts to watch the Golden Globes carpet fill with black pantsuits, look at your awards calendar, and say, “Yeah, I can compete with all those on a heavily-photographed carpet and come out on top,” but that is exactly what happened here, and they were right.
Greta Gerwig. I think I might just be the prime sucker demographic for whatever rogues’-gallery feel her team is going for this season, because I love this acid-Deco look as much as I liked her very different noir approach at the Globes. It’s walking a line between actress and director without sacrificing personality; that’s very hard to do, and I really love how it’s turning out.
Tracee Ellis Ross. She’s in costume as a Greek Goddess (Hera? She looks kind of All Done, that’s very Hera) and it’s working.
Marisa Tomei. The tea length is a great length for this carpet, which is constantly trying to fool us that it isn’t as big a deal as it is. This look, from the appropriately-over-the-top sequins to the deliberately carefree hair, is designed to look as though she dropped by this carpet on the way to someplace else, where even cooler people are having an even more exclusive time.
Kelly Marie Tran. You know how famous Kelly Marie Tran got overnight? So famous that somebody let her team hem this dress. (Good call; it’s a gorgeous and unexpected print; it looks great on her, and she looks radiantly happy about it.)
Samira Wiley, who would be higher on this list except that she looks uncomfortable under the weight of those lashes. The celestial trend has gotten so big that it was bound to show up here. (See also Natalie Dyer, being worn by a stunner of a gown.) While I prefer the bodice on Dyer’s dress (Samira Wiley looks a little compressed up top), this is a great choice for Samira Wiley—eye-catching, a good color for her, enough embroidery to avoid the Weird Briefs Conundrum that plagues so many net gowns.
Uzo Aduba. She’s done edgier things, but developing a classic red-carpet look is rarely a bad idea, and this was an on-trend color without being quite like anyone else’s pink, so it’s well-chosen.
Holly Hunter. I really like this (it feels oddly fresh even though it’s more classically gown-y than a lot of other dresses on that red carpet). I also appreciate that she’s nearly elbow-deep in her pockets just to prove she has them. Clutch purses are the bane of existence if you are at all forgetful, I am guessing from hypothetical experience that has never ended in tears. Guess what’s harder to forget? The shit in your pockets.
Odeya Rusha. This is such a great look for someone who’s trying to gain a little traction on the red carpet – it’s architectural without being so avante-garde as to risk looking foolish (no Met Gala overstepping here), and it was deployed at the perfect time to get photographed as much as possible. Canny setup all around.
Millie Bobby Brown’s outfit is doing two things. First, it’s directly pushing back against her look at the Globes (which included some sultry eyes directed at the Glam Cam or whatever) and making her look as youthful and playful as possible, which she probably needed to do at some point during this awards season. Secondly, it’s auditioning for A Jen Bartel Version of Teen Leia miniseries so hard it sort of hurts.
Sadie Sink, who started out with a very youthful Globes look this year, easing up a couple of years without pushing any maturity envelopes; this is a more sophisticated look, but that’s in terms of the 1930s silhouette rather than any attempt to age her up for the cameras. Smart decision-making.
Nicole Kidman. Is she a little upset that sequins turned out to be such a HUGE thing on the carpet this time and instead of standing out like with last year’s parrot dress she is now just in a middling execution of the Sequins Idea, with one flower right at her shoulder so when they cut in for her acceptance-speech close-up there would be visual interest? You’ll never know, will you? That’s what being an award-winning actress is all about.
Allison Janney, absolutely thrilled to be wearing cooler sequins than Nicole Kidman.
Geena Davis, who is going to wear the Vengeful Widow vibe all season long for reasons no one can blame her for whatsoever.
Elisabeth Moss, who looks really good. Whoever is dressing her for this should keep dressing her, and never let her near a flesh tone again.
Of course, the point of this red carpet being a Hip Fun Time for Cool Actor Friends is that you do get to play around more here than you would on the more big-ticket carpets. A lot of people just decided they wanted to have fun with it. It kind of worked out!…kind of!
MAYBE PLAYING AROUND DIVISION
Sally Hawkins. Look, we know this is an oddball outfit. It’s not like Sally Hawkins didn’t know this was an unusual choice. The point of this outfit is to be about two clicks too weird for the carpet it’s on, and it is definitely doing that. Opinions about its aesthetics are sort of beside the point.
Lupita Nyong’o. She usually looks great, and this is no exception; the sequins and overlay somehow manage not to fight, so she looks playful but elegant. (I would do nothing but wear sequins if I was famous, so I’m of the mind that This Look Did Not Require Feathers, but you know, she looks as if she’d willed them into being, and that’s what being able to Wear Clothes is about.)
Margot Robbie, in costume as The Role of Tonya in I, Tonya, which is an entity unto itself that’s being pushed through awards season like a tank. (Did you know she was in in a movie about a figure skater? Well, you do now, asshole.)
This is such a departure for Reese Witherspoon that it almost feels like a needle scratch. What it actually feels like is that she took a break from solid-color scuba sheaths to put on Storytime at the Fanciest Belle-Adjacent Library her PR Team Could Find: The Dress. She is in A Wrinkle in Time, she is thrilled about it, and she is going to look slightly more approachable for exactly as long as that movie is in theaters.
Mary J. Blige, in costume as anime opening credits.
Gina Rodriguez. I like so much about this dress (she really knows how to make complicated florals seem breezy). However, the line of the black on the bodice is straight-up a bra silhouette, and there’s nothing on the hem to draw the eye back down to the black and bracket it (a nice wide black hem to go with your inexplicable underwire silhouette, I beg you). Still, love the embroidery, love her makeup, and love how much she seems to love the dress.
Danielle Brooks, in costume as a Martian Queen, and looking great.
Carla Buono. What an interesting dress! It’s full-on 1970s, especially with the hair, but something about the fields of color on the skirt are reminiscent of the very graphic-design Vogue covers of the 1920s, where it always looked like the trees were descending to embrace whatever flapper was brave enough to stand there and eat her whole.
Kristen Bell, who needed to look immediately recognizable on the carpet so everyone could get a photo of the host without having to waste any time double-checking anything. Here she is, consummately professional, in a dress that sneezes itself into a ballgown at some point below the hips; by all means, take the picture.
Taylor Schilling. A lot of people probably don’t like this look, but I really do. A lovely evening sleeve (scrunched because the SAG Awards are Just a Very Chill Place where Actors Can Be Themselves), a nice column of subdued color with a sash that’s trying just hard enough that we wish it was trying harder without actually being like “god, that dress could use a bow.” It’s unremarkable, but in a way that feels like she’s comfortable. Looking relaxed on the red carpet is half the battle.
How relaxed was Mary Steenburgen about this look? She sat down in the car.
But for some people, there was no relaxing. They had looked at all the dresses in the world, and chosen poorly. For them, there was only…
THE NO THANKS DIVISION
Dakota Fanning. I’m recapping The Alienest for AV Club (starting tonight on TNT!), and Dakota Fanning is one of the main characters. At one point she and her maid peel off her corset to discuss how corsets are bad. And in 1896, they were definitely punitive; this was long past the point where stays were used to redistribute the weight and drape of clothes and right about the time people started making x-rays of women’s squashed internal organs. However, she and her maid peel her corset away from bare flesh, which is an instance of No Chemise that I just can’t get over. (This has nothing to do with this dress, it’s just that when I look at this dress I get so bored I immediately want to talk about something else.)
Saoirse Ronan, wearing a dress that is very Fashion Editorial and probably looks really cool in motion (a live-action special effect!), but in this photo just looks like one of those dolls printed on a single piece of fabric meant to be folded in half at the bottom and sewn up on both sides.
Allison Williams, in costume as a jellyfish princess in Disney’s inevitable live-action, grittier Finding Nemo prequel.
Yvonne Strahovski. I don’t like this look. However, I give her full marks for picking something that goes against the subdued Supporting Actress Special she wore at the Globes – where, it should be noted, she wore a ton of sequins right before this carpet got swamped with them, and now is wearing a fabric no one else on this carpet was wearing, so she’s probably predicted something else. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t doing work.
Why does Brie Larson look like she is mad specifically at me because she let a team of professionals put her in this dress just because it hinted at the Captain Marvel palette? I can’t help you, Brie Larson. Please just have the makeup team that gave you that great liner help you stage a mutiny, okay? You can do better. This doesn’t have to be what you settle for.
Some people lack the very specific but very unforgiving red carpet skill set. Laura Dern always looks as though she thought she was getting dressed to go someplace fun, and the car unexpectedly spit her out in front of all this, where someone had to explain to her for the first time what a red carpet was and what she was now expected to do, and she has to look dutifully into every camera in turn while being increasingly preoccupied and disappointed with the idea that the Speakeasy Ice Cream Party they told her about is probably not even real.
And Kate Hudson. You can ask what she was thinking, but what she was thinking was “I haven’t been in much lately, how do I get people to take my picture?”, so your question will be dismissed. That is the most GLOW-appropriate dress on the carpet from an actress not actually in GLOW; maybe tonight that counts as an award. It’s been weird enough.