Red carpet fashion: Whatever the shade, it’s time to ask about more than the dress

Shall we go black? Or smokey silver? Dang it, let's do both! Best supporting actress nominee Allison Janney's opulent metallic satin sleeves streched the all-black brief at the Baftas. Ian West/PA Wire.
Shall we go black? Or smokey silver? Dang it, let's do both! Best supporting actress nominee Allison Janney's opulent metallic satin sleeves streched the all-black brief at the Baftas. Ian West/PA Wire.
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Fashion is about self-expression, whether individual or in collective solidarity, or both (perfectly possible, as we have seen). Ahead of the Oscars, Fashion Editor Stephanie Smith celebrates impressive stand-up-and-stand-out statement dressing 2018.

Tomorrow night is Oscars night, the big reveal, when we will finally learn the names of the winning stars, films, screenplays, directors and costume designers as well as the answer to the smouldering sartorial question – will the female attendees yet again dress in sombre solidarity with the #TimesUp movement?

Nominated for the best all-black dressing looks at the Baftas, Lily James (left) and Gemma Arterton at the Royal Albert Hall: Ian West/PA Wire.

Nominated for the best all-black dressing looks at the Baftas, Lily James (left) and Gemma Arterton at the Royal Albert Hall: Ian West/PA Wire.

It’s been a stormy year in Hollywood so, if nothing else, the 90th Academy Awards are expected to have a more serious atmosphere than usual. Hopefully, less calamitous too, considering last year’s wrong envelope drama.

Chances are that this will not be a black attire only affair. The Academy reportedly wants the ceremony focused on “films, not the cultural moment around them”. We won’t know for sure until the red carpet opens for business. In any case, the Oscars tend not to go hand in hand with predictions of any kind. Except that men will mainly be wearing black tuxedo suits – a uniform they don’t much seem to mind.

This year we should be looking out for the #AskHerMore line of questioning, encouraging journalists to pose more searching questions of female attendees than simply “who” they are wearing. It was pioneered back in 2015 when Reese Witherspoon used her Oscars appearance to complain about the dumb questioning practice. Last year, at the Golden Globes, when red carpet host Ryan Seacrest said to Emma Stone: “Tell me about your dress,” she tartly replied: “It’s pink and there are stars on it.” Then she won best actress in a musical.

This goes a long way to explaining the movement for uniform black at the Globes and Baftas – women are more than the colour of their gowns, for pity’s sake. Yet surely they should be able to wear what they like, without being judged disloyal and unsupportive? Before the Golden Globes, the Time’s Up initiative said: “We chose black because we know pretty much everyone, everywhere, owns a piece of clothing in black, and we want this to be a special night and a moment of solidarity for people everywhere.”

The Duchess of Cambridge chose dark green with a black sash for the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall. Chris Jackson/PA Wire

The Duchess of Cambridge chose dark green with a black sash for the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall. Chris Jackson/PA Wire

The black looks captured a significant moment, but at the Baftas there were hints that some attendees missed expressing themselves through a bold or serene or whimsical colour choice. There was much black with embellishment, feathers, opulent metallic trims, cream collars and, especially, see-through black. It’s been an opportunity for experimentation with form and silhouette – who knew you could wear all-black so many ways?

Conformity doesn’t suit everyone, however. Frances McDormand chose a black, red and pink pattern dress and declared she had a problem with “compliance”, while stressing her solidarity with her sisters.

Whatever colour female attendees wear, it’s never too late to be reminded that the woman wears the dress, not the other way around.

Email: stephanie.smith@jpress.co.uk

Taking the suit option, with colour a-plenty, Cyndi Lauper at the Grammys in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Taking the suit option, with colour a-plenty, Cyndi Lauper at the Grammys in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

* Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscars take place tomorrow (a week later than their usual February date, to avoid conflict with the Winter Olympics). In the UK, red-carpet coverage will start from 11pm, and the ceremony will begin at 1am. You can watch live on the dedicated Sky Cinema Oscars channel, beginning with Oscars 2018: Red Carpet Live, from midnight, before the Oscars 2018 Live begins at 1.30am on Monday.

THE MAIN NOMINEES

Best Picture: The Shape of Water leads the pack with 13 nominations, while Dunkirk has eight and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has seven nods. The others are Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Get Out, Phantom Thread, Lady Bird and The Post.

Lead Actress: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water; Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Margot Robbie, I, Tonya; Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird; Meryl Streep, The Post.

When the brief is black ... 'Daringly short and plunging: Halle Berry at the Golden Globes. Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

When the brief is black ... 'Daringly short and plunging: Halle Berry at the Golden Globes. Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Lead Actor: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name; Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread; Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out; Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour; Denzel Washington, Roman J Israel, Esq.

Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project; Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water; Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World; Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Supporting Actress: Mary J Blige, Mudbound; Allison Janney, I, Tonya; Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread; Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird; Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water.

Best Director: Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan; Get Out, Jordan Peele; Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig; Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson; The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro. Greta Gerwig, incidentally, is only the fifth woman in history to be recognised in the category.

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It can be hard to make all-black appropriate when you're a younger nominee.  Here's the long and the short of it. Saoirse Ronan at the Baftas. Yui Mok/PA Wire.

It can be hard to make all-black appropriate when you're a younger nominee. Here's the long and the short of it. Saoirse Ronan at the Baftas. Yui Mok/PA Wire.

I, Tonya best actress nominee Margot Robbie at the EE British Academy Film Awards last month. Ian West/PA Wire.

I, Tonya best actress nominee Margot Robbie at the EE British Academy Film Awards last month. Ian West/PA Wire.

A black flowing cape style with contrast sleeve lining by Rebecca Ferguson at the Baftas. Ian West/PA Wire.

A black flowing cape style with contrast sleeve lining by Rebecca Ferguson at the Baftas. Ian West/PA Wire.

Opulent grandes dames Isabelle Huppert, left, and Angelina Jolie at the Golden Globe Awards in January (Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP).

Opulent grandes dames Isabelle Huppert, left, and Angelina Jolie at the Golden Globe Awards in January (Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP).

Soft blue is a standout shade for spring and one we might see more of on the red carpet. Geri Horner at the National Television Awards 2018: Ian West/PA Wire

Soft blue is a standout shade for spring and one we might see more of on the red carpet. Geri Horner at the National Television Awards 2018: Ian West/PA Wire