Billed as the most politicized red carpet in modern history, the Academy Awards somehow managed to walk a fine line on Sunday night between sober discussions of the Time’s Up movement and having a little bit of fun with fashion.
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Of course, as evidenced by the Golden Globes black dress protest in January, that is partly because images can create more powerful statements than words, and so fashion has become a means of making a statement. We are living in a moment when commentators are less likely to discuss details of jewelry and shoes than they are to talk about Time’s Up pins and shades of eye shadow in symbolic relation to the color codes of suffragettes. In some ways, this has elevated the conversation, or at least we can say this has eliminated some of the usual drivel.
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But fashion still has a place on the carpet, and for most of us watching at home, or on our computers, there is still an important story to be told in the dresses. Even among the early arrivals, like Allison Janney and Jane Fonda, it was clear that this night would be about full-length dresses that were slightly revealing in their bodycon silhouettes, as fitted as superhero costumes. Perhaps that was the intended reference, for the implication is that women are the victors. It certainly wasn’t a year for retro ball gowns, in any case.
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It was interesting that even without a unified dress code for the Oscars, so many women chose dresses in bright red, a power move. But those in more classical feminine pink looked razor sharp, often in architectural shapes like Saoirse Ronan’s bow-topped silk faille dress from Calvin Klein By Appointment, or Viola Davis in bright pink Michael Kors Collection.
For this reason, this year’s Oscars best-dressed list is not just about dresses for the sake of their aesthetics, but rather, a selection based on those women who represented the power of this movement in gowns that did their part for the cause.
Lupita Nyong’o in Atelier Versace
A warrior actress in a warrior-themed dress by the warrior designer Donatella herself – Lupita’s gold gown defines power dressing for today.
Zendaya in Giambattista Valli Haute Coure
The one-shoulder goddess gown brings lots of couture volume without any fuss, a Zendaya style trademark.
Margot Robbie in Chanel Haute Couture
Does Chanel only design white dresses for the Oscars? I’m not complaining, mind you, as this year’s model is yet another class act.
Meryl Streep in Dior Haute Couture
Wearing red on the red carpet is the ultimate power move, more so when you bring the décolleté.
Nicole Kidman in Armani Privé
The curvy bodice and bowed front create a curious silhouette, but Kidman’s confidence brings this structural gown to life.
Greta Gerwig in Rodarte
Such a sunny dress brings a needed dose of Vitamin C to the draining ceremony and long night ahead.
Viola Davis in Michael Kors
Not the most original thing we’ve seen from Kors, who practically mints lacquered sequin dresses in his sleep, but this one looks as happy as Davis does.
Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein By Appointment
Opting for a bright color sends the right message of optimism for a young voice for the future.
Sandra Bullock in Louis Vuitton
A chic and sleek sparkler, perfectly executed.
Danai Gurira in Gabriela Hearst
A pink strapless gown à la Marilyn is almost a cliché in Hollywood, but I’ve never seen one so removed from the realm of girlishness as when styled with a shaved head and loads of diamonds.