It didn’t help that the red carpet was, in fact, grey. And that like much of the UK, it was raining in Beverly Hills. And that the starriest of stars – Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Rihanna – who we’ve come to bank on for kickstarting awards season with their reliably frou frou glamour, didn’t actually make it.
And it really didn’t help that the best looks on were in fact black, although the Triangle of Sadness star Dolly de Leon (wearing an extraordinary gown in buttery soft black leather by the designer Norman René Devera), Hacks’ Megan Stalter, (giving Angelina Jolie’s leg flashing a run for its money in a Versace with two splits) and Natasha Lyonne (in clingy Givenchy, patent platforms and a copper bob) looked anything but dull.
But this year, as is often the case these days, it was down to the men to shake things up.
Call it the Chalamet effect, but gone were the penguin suits, and gone even were the ties. Influencer Josh Richards might be best known among gen Z but from here on, he’ll also be known as the guy who, like the actor, swapped his shirt for a see-through mesh top.
Historically, what men wear on a red carpet was always relegated to background chitchat, certainly among the melee of princess gowns and big hair. Then in 2019, Chalamet wore a Louis Vuitton harness to the Golden Globes and Billy Porter wore a Christian Siriano ballgown to the Oscars, and the menswear landscape changed for ever, reflecting the dwindling divide between it and womenswear. At least, on the red carpet.
It was Donald Glover who won the proverbial red carpet, though. Wearing a black jacket with peaked shoulders over a pair of cream silk pyjamas by Saint Laurent that pooled over his shoes, the effect was elevated pandemic-wear, practical – the pyjamas had pockets, which at the very least gives you a nice way to pose – but comfortable, old meets new.
See also Andrew Garfield, in a burnt orange linen suit, pretending it wasn’t January; Tyler James Williams in a washed-out cropped Matador-style suit by the streetwear brand Amiri; Seth Rogen in a peachy Dior tuxedo, complete with cumberband; Hacks’ Mark Indelicato in a buttercream brocade longline 1930s-style suit and The Banshees of Inisherin’s Barry Keoghan in a pastel blue Louis Vuitton suit, gift wrapped at the neck with a little handkerchief. Porter even wore another Siriano ballgown, this time in Pantone’s 2023 colour of the year, Viva Magenta.
Social media has always played a hand too, with the most successful looks becoming memes. 2023’s Instagram moment came in the form of opera gloves. Worn by Nicole Byer in Siriano, Lyonne in Givenchy and Ayo Edebiri (were her Rosie Assoulin tan gloves a pop at her former potwasher role in The Bear?) they were an old-school flourish – it’s impossible to see a pair and not think of Audrey Hepburn who, like Lyonne, tended to wear Givenchy – modernised by the sprinkling of fancy diamond rings worn on top.
In some cases, they made for a baffling addition (some even came attached to the gowns themselves), although given the number of viruses in circulation and yet no one wore masks, probably a sensible one too.
It’s perhaps telling that the most arresting look of the night was in fact neither suit nor gown, but a mashup of the two – accessorised by a single blue tear painted on her left cheek – as worn by House of the Dragon’s Emma D’Arcy. Blink and you’d miss the skirt worn underneath. “I was going for a ‘child prodigy at the big piano recital’ sort of look, except we added a single tear to the make-up, so I guess the recital went really badly,” the actor said of by her Acne Studios “suit” before the ceremony. “I’m wearing a skirt and trousers, because nothing says ‘non-binary’ like wearing trousers and a skirt simultaneously.”
Traditionally, what people wore on a red carpet was never what they actually wanted to wear. A star’s dress choice was mostly engineered in collusion with the marketing power of big brands who paid for the privilege, with some stylists becoming as famous as the people they dress. When MeToo happened – and when we realised the red carpet was as much about objectification as who was dating who – we expected a reset. But Hollywood’s fashion industrial complex will probably never shake off its murky past. Nor will people stop wearing Dolce & Gabbana despite its history of racism and homophobia. An economy unto itself, thousands of dollars passes hands at these events. And they probably will forever more.