How COVID Has Changed Red Carpet Fashion

red carpet fashion in the age of covid

Getty Images; Chung and Zendaya courtesy of Eco AgeInstagram

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Style Points is a weekly column on how fashion intersects with the world at large.

Some of the most talked about red carpet looks of the past few months hardly look like what we might have seen in the days leading up to the lockdown. There was Regina King who made a powerful statement by wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt to accept her Best Actress Emmy from her couch. Julia Garner and Rachel Brosnahan wearing pajamas (albeit very luxurious) at the Virtual Emmys. Even the scenery looks different – the usual sea of ​​black-clad publicists is replaced by a few close friends and family stretched out in the living room.

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Even though fashion in all its forms is decidedly more casual right now, that doesn’t mean red carpet attire has become synonymous with loungewear, even though much of the action takes place on the sofa. . What happens instead is a shift towards what Tom and Lorenzo’s Lorenzo Marquez calls “understated elegance”. Co-creator Tom Fitzgerald agrees. “Right now, the overall celebrity style tone seems to hover around ‘dressy casual’. The kind of look a star might wear to make an appearance on a talk show rather than the kind of look she would wear on a red carpet, ”he says. “Celebrities like to pretend promotional work like red carpets and public appearances is taxing, but most stars don’t become stars without a healthy need for attention from time to time. They weren’t all going to stay home in their sweatshirts and yoga pants for most of the year.

alexa chung at prada at the green carpet fashion awards
Alexa Chung wears Prada look again at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards.

Courtesy of Eco Age

But the line between relatable and glamorous is hard to cross, especially right now. When a large portion of your audience is experiencing mass unemployment and struggling with economic grief and pain, how do you dress to impress without alienating them?

One way to crisscross this circle is to recycle your greatest hits. At the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, where the emphasis is on sustainability, vintage looks dominated the virtual red carpet. Zendaya was in the Versace archive for 1996 (which also happens to be the year she was born), while Alexa Chung again wore a Prada dress she had previously been seen in in 2016. At the Venice Film Festival last month, Cate Blanchett rehearsed pieces she had worn to high profile events.

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As the distinctions between the fashion seasons have flattened over time in general, this approach seems appropriate. “I think like a lot of us got stuck at home, some people had this moment of thinking, ‘wow, why do I have all this stuff when I’m only wearing the same six clothes?” Says Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself. Marquez observed “an increased appreciation for less flashy looks and a sense of economy or sustainability right now. There is always value for stars who send messages their own way, and right now the message audiences seem to appreciate the most is “We’re all in the same boat.” I think people want to see fashion stars, but they don’t necessarily want to see the kind of glamorous high fashion looks and diamonds that you might find at a red carpet world premiere or awards show. industry.

regina king accepting her emmy award
Regina King accepts her Emmy award.

ABC

But, notes Fitzgerald, “the fashion industry – and by extension, the stylist industry – does not survive on promoting already existing pieces. Stars stay at the forefront of public attention by constantly serving a reason for the public to watch them. Fashion magazines and websites like ours can feature a star wearing something they used to wear and make it stand out, but we can tell you from experience that the fashion-watching audience is much more interested when a star wears. something new.

Others have looked at fashion as a form of escape from an uncertain and painful reality. Breathtaking glamor moments, like Zendaya in Armani Privé and Regina King in Schiaparelli at the Emmys, have sparked excitement among fashion-watching audiences. In some cases, they even benefited from the lack of real context. Catherine Kallon, founder and editor-in-chief of the Red Carpet Fashion Awards, notes that King’s dress “fitted well into the alternate reality of Instagram, where people are often seen as an exaggerated version of themselves.” .

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“People, for the most part, don’t indulge in pandemic fashion,” says Heather Cocks of Go Fug Yourself, “and I think that’s because they realize it’s okay to want that. It’s normal to need it. As a world, we all still need beauty and fun, art and joy. That doesn’t rule out the horrors of this time in history so we can all take a second and treat each other, even if we do it like peepers from our couches.

72nd Annual Emmy Awards cover by Walt Disney Television
Zendaya accepts her Emmy Award.

Frank OckenfelsGetty Images

While little moments of glamor give us joy and escape right now, every red carpet reviewer I’ve spoken to agreed that fashion won’t stay in this fashion forever. Kallon thinks that while we could see “a more low-key take on next awards season,” and maybe even some sort of thematic element in all-black dress code style at the 2018 Golden Globes. “But I hope so that by May 2021, with the Met Gala and the Cannes Film Festival, the red carpet will be in full swing, “she says, including many” dresses that make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up in the end. . “

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Fitzgerald draws a comparison to the sartorically exuberant Roaring 20, who immediately followed the Spanish Flu pandemic. “Styles change and the future looks tough,” he says, “but there has never really been a time in the past hundred years when the celebrity-watching public wanted stars to stop looking like stars. stars. We will be back to red carpet style around this time next year.

Cocks agrees. “I don’t think we’re heading into a new era of asceticism. If and when the red carpet events return to what they once were, I think people are going to take a breath, and I can’t wait.”

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