Voluminous Gowns and Gender-Bending Looks: An Oscars '19 Fashion Review
To be honest, I’m not exactly a film buff, so I’ve never been one to really pay attention to the Oscars. However, there’s no denying that red carpet fashion is highly influential and exciting to observe (though Business of Fashion seems to disagree), so of course, I’ll tune into what celebrities are wearing. With everything from Billy Porter’s tuxedo gown to Gemma Chan’s huge ruffly Valentino Haute Couture gown, this year’s Oscars had some stunning looks. Unfortunately, it had far more disappointing ones too. Keep reading for my review of all the major looks from the night.
Let’s start off with what was probably the most talked-about look from the night. Billy Porter, who stars in the television series Pose, wore a black velvet tuxedo gown designed by Christian Siriano, who is easily one of the most inclusive designers in the industry. There are a million reasons to love this look, from the lush fabric to the flawless tailoring to the way it twists existing ideas about gendered dressing. This look was as much of a social statement as it was a beautiful gown. Porter showed everyone that there’s no need to be stifled by the binaries of fashion, dismantling the idea that masculinity can only look one way. Porter’s confidence is inspiring, and I hope we get to see more gender-bending outfits on the red carpet in the future.
As much as I love Constance Wu, I have to admit that she’s been bringing some pretty dull looks to the red carpet this season. For the Oscars, she wore a canary yellow pleated Atelier Versace gown, and while it was pretty, it was just so boring. The dress looks like something that comes from Macy’s prom dress section, and while it makes for some nice twirling shots, it feels like something we’ve all seen a million times before. The asymmetrical off-the-shoulder detail is perhaps the most interesting part of the dress, but to be honest, it looks like part of the left shoulder’s overlay was bitten off right before the event, leaving Wu no choice but to just walk the red carpet anyway. Hopefully she’ll be wearing something more noteworthy and less cutesy next time.
Amy Poehler twisted gender norms while looking chic and confident in an all-black pantsuit from Alberta Ferretti. The look featured a mix of masculine and feminine elements, as she had a ruffled blouse that kept her from looking too serious and wide leg trousers that fit perfectly. She put her hair up and accessorized minimally, giving the look an androgynous and sophisticated feel. Overall, definitely a solid outfit.
Lady Gaga is known for consistently standing out at award shows, from her infamous meat dress to jaw-dropping haute couture gowns, she’s proved that she can really pull off anything. This time, she graced the red carpet in a black Alexander McQueen dress, elbow-length leather gloves, and a 128.54-carat “Tiffany Diamond” necklace, which was last worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her old Hollywood glamour-inspired look was certainly beautiful, but it wasn’t her most memorable. Additionally, the craftsmanship of the dress wasn’t the best. There is a line right where the fabric goes from form-fitting to flared out, making the silhouette less smooth than it could have been. However, I do love the curved neckline and the padding on the hips. All things considered, this was a good look, but not a great look.
Awkwafina wore a shimmery pantsuit from DSquared2, and while I think the concept suits her, the execution fell flat. I love the color and the big pussy bow blouse, but the positives stop there. The blazer seems to be too small, as the single button looks like it’s working hard to keep itself in place, and the pants fall awkwardly and look uncomfortable. In comparison to some of the pantsuits that other guests wore, it’s clear that this one simply doesn’t fit well. If the tailoring were impeccable, then this look would have easily been one of the best from the event, but tragically, that wasn’t the case.
Kacey Musgraves, who won Album of the Year at this year’s Grammys for her album Golden Hour, wore a bubblegum pink tiered tulle dress from Giambattista Valli. Tulle dresses have been very popular this red carpet season, likely due to their femininity and drama, and while some people seem to be very over the trend, I’m still a fan. While I think the bow at the waist is unnecessary, I love the big shoulders and the mock neck, which give it an updated ‘80s prom queen vibe. Overall, definitely a top look from the night.
Ad campaigns featuring diverse body types have grown exponentially in recent years, but many designers still refuse to work with plus-size clients, claiming that they are too hard to dress. However, Ashley Graham consistently proves them wrong; her curves were perfectly accentuated in this black Zac Posen dress. Though simple, its details helped keep it from being boring. The asymmetrical neckline and mermaid skirt gave it an interesting silhouette that made her look glamorous and classy.
Michelle Yeoh, who plays the formidable matriarch Eleanor Young in Crazy Rich Asians, wore a cream and silver gown from Elie Saab’s Spring 2019 Haute Couture collection. I absolutely love the silhouette of the dress; the off-the-shoulder neckline is elegant without being bland while the voluminous bottom adds drama and glamour to the look. However, the embellishments feel unremarkable. Countless women have worn similar-looking embellished dresses to major events, and while they all look pretty, none of them stand out. This look was alright, but it could’ve been more interesting.
15-year-old Elsie Fisher has a history of wearing suits to major events, so it was no surprise when she came to the Oscars in one as well. This three-piece Thom Browne suit is definitely one of my favorite outfits from the night, though I might be biased because of my love for Thom Browne. The look was sophisticated and cool without feeling stuffy, and the present-shaped bag gave it a playful touch. The patent leather shoes gave the outfit some texture and kept it from being too plain. While looking at this makes me realize how poorly dressed 15-year-old me was, I love seeing younger stars wear something simultaneously daring, chic, and age-appropriate.
Rachel Weisz wore a bright red gown from Givenchy’s Spring 2019 Haute Couture collection under the creative direction of Clare Waight Keller. While I usually love Waight Keller’s work, this dress just feels confusing to me. I’m sure there’s a way to put latex and beading together and make it look good, but this wasn’t it. The pleats give the dress some shape, but it just feels like there’s too much going on here, especially with the overly-perfect hair and headband. Overall, this look is just sorta strange.
Chadwick Boseman is one of the best-dressed men in Hollywood at the moment, and he consistently shows up in fantastic menswear looks that stray outside the standard black and white tux (the Givenchy Haute Couture look from last year’s Oscars is one of my personal favorites). This year, he wore Givenchy Haute Couture again, and the outfit included an embellished tailcoat and a long silk scarf in place of a tie. The detailing on the jacket is beautiful and the rest of the outfit is understated, allowing the sequins and embellishments to really shine. Boseman’s willingness to take fashion risks and push the boundaries for what formal menswear can look like has paid off yet again, as this look stood out for all the right reasons.
Let’s end on a high note and talk about what was easily my favorite look from this year’s Oscars. Gemma Chan, who played the stylish Astrid Leong in Crazy Rich Asians, wore a giant neon pink gown from Valentino’s Spring 2019 Haute Couture collection, under the creative direction of Pierpaolo Piccioli. Piccioli consistently designs beautiful gowns every collection, full of vibrant colors, subtle yet loud details, and flawless craftsmanship, and this dress was completely on par with his past work. Chan’s confidence paired perfectly with this gown’s drama, leading me to believe that Valentino and Chan are a match made in heaven; few can pull off such bold looks with ease. Even better, Chan was hiding rice cakes and cookies in the pockets of the dress. What an icon.