“Red Carpet Renegades”

Award Shows: Photo credits David McNew Getty Images; Albert Watson AMPAS; Kevin Mazur Getty Images

From May 2 to September 27, 2023, the Writers Guild of America —representing 11,500 screenwriters—went on strike over a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. From July 14 to November 9, 2023, the American actors’ union SAG-AFTRA was on strike over a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

After a highly disruptive entertainment season, the award season is in full swing as we begin the new year. Among the upcoming high-profile happenings in celebration of film, music, and TV are the Golden Globes on Sunday, January 7, the Critics Choice Awards on January 14, the Emmy Awards (postponed because of the strike, will take place on January 15), the Grammy Awards on February 15, the SAG Awards (which will stream on Netflix for the first time ever) are slated for February 24, and the BAFTAs on February 18, culminating with the Oscars on March 10. Of course, there’s the Met Gala, which takes place on May 6.

Naturally, the focus will be on the all-important red carpet, which has become a large part of the cultural and fashion landscape. I have very strong opinions about what I want to see; assuredly, it’s not a parade of matronly “Mother of the Bride” gowns or glitzy Las Vegas showgirl-style dresses accessorized with borrowed jewels.

This is 2024. Where’s the uniqueness, eccentricity, and modernity? Why does everything have to be formulaic? Before the season begins, I wanted to celebrate the bold risk-takers whose choices fly in the face of tradition. They think out of the box and help define modern glamour. Here’s to the red-carpet renegades in 2024!

Sharon Stone wears a Gap t shirt with a Valentino skirt at the 1996 Academy Awards. Photo by wireimage.com

High/ Lo
The Oscars are the apex of red-carpet fashion. It’s where the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is on full display as celebrities dress up in custom designs and haute couture. But sometimes, the most straightforward style choices prove the most memorable!

Sharon Stone made red carpet history when she arrived at the 1996 Oscars in a simple black Gap t-shirt. Unexpectedly, the celebrated look was a last-minute fix. After a delivery mishap ruined Sharon’s original plans (the “Basic Instinct” star actually had two Vera Wang design options), she called her costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, for help.

Mirojnick started putting an all-black look together from clothes in Sharon’s closet. She ended up with a simple black Gap t-shirt, a Valentino ready-to-wear skirt, and an Armani tuxedo dress worn as a coat. Sharon picked a Gardenia out of the garden for the final impromptu touch and placed it on the lapel.

Sharon Stone wears a white Gap shirt to the 1998 Academy Awards – Photo by Getty Images

One more of Sharon Stone’s great fashion moments involved another high/low combination. At the Academy Awards ceremony in 1998, Stone confidently rocked a crisp white shirt unbuttoned to the waist, the sleeves rolled up, tucked into a ruched satin Vera Wang skirt. It’s been widely copied since that time (most recently by Zendaya at the 2022 Oscars), but Sharon still did it best!

“We’ve gotten past a problem with women wearing pants. When women wear pants, it’s powerful. When men wear a dress, it’s disgusting. We’re not doing that anymore. I’m not doing it.”

Billy Porter, Academy Awards, 2019

Billy Porter in Christian Siriano at the 2021 Academy Awards, Photo by Getty Images

Red Carpet Gender Benders
“Pose” star Billy Porter defied fashion norms by stepping onto the 2019 Oscars red carpet in a head-turning custom creation by designer Christian Siriano, including a sharply tailored tuxedo jacket over a full-skirted strapless velvet gown.

The boundary-pushing look was a deliberate play on masculinity and femininity. It challenged rigid Hollywood dress codes and stated the strict sartorial expectations imposed on men while attitudes towards women’s clothing have markedly progressed.

Janelle Monae in Christian Siriano at the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Photo by vanityfair.com

Janelle Monae is no stranger to flaunting tradition; her choices often revolve around tailoring. This custom Christian Siriano design, which Janelle wore to the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, was especially memorable. I love everything about it, from the color to the flattering fit and the way it counterbalances masculine with feminine.

Jordan Roth wearing Balenciaga to the 2023 ABT Fall Gala, Photo credit, Instagram

We can always count on Jordan Roth to surprise and delight on the red carpet. The 7-time Tony Award-winning producer assuredly has a flair for avant-garde, gender-fluid fashion and can seemingly pull off anything. One especially notable outfit is Jordan’s blue velvet Balenciaga gown worn to the ABT fall gala at Lincoln Center last October. It was jaw-dropping in its simplicity.

Red Carpet ‘Brownies’

Catherine O’Hara in Custom Thom Browne attends the 2021 SAG Awards Photo Courtesy of Emma Louise Swanson

Is it any surprise that Thom Browne, who loves to promote the idea of a modern uniform and challenge traditional dress codes, has created some of the most extraordinary gender-bending red carpet moments?

“Catherine O’Hara is such a truly unique individual who is so true to herself, and that is what I wanted people to see in what she was wearing.”

Thom Browne

Browne took inspiration from his fall 2021 collection, an ode to black-tie dressing, for the custom design Catherine O’Hara wore at the virtual 2021 SAG Awards. It comprised a black-and-white sequined tuxedo suit with a silk faille corset vest, a trompe l’oeil bow tie shirt, and an elongated version of Browne’s signature Hector bag.

Amy Fine Collins wears Thom Browne at the 2017 Met Gala, Photo: vogue.com

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite Thom Browne red carpet looks was worn by longtime Browne muse Amy Fine Collins at the 2017 Met Gala. The extraordinary trompe l’oeil gown was perfect given the avant-garde theme: “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.”

Cynthia Erivo wears Thom Browne to the 2023 CFDA Awards

Cynthia Erivo is known for making interesting and informed fashion choices. For the 2023 CFDA Awards last November, Cynthia chose a custom design by Thom, which had all the familiar Browne signatures: the white shirt, the black bow tie, the shrunken jacket, and a grand ball skirt. While Erivo is tiny (about 5′ tall), the outfit does not overpower her.

It’s Chic to Repeat!
While some celebrities will reuse a look once or twice throughout their red-carpet career, Blanchett is constantly digging in her archives to revive her best looks.

“On the red carpet, fashion is about being exciting, making a splash, and pushing our industry forward, so the bar is high.”

Elizabeth Stewart, Stylist to Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett in Givenchy Photo credit Venturelli, Wireimage

Cate Blanchett’s longtime stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, once said, “It’s chic to repeat.” And boy, did she mean it because it’s something Cate is known to do time and time again. The first time Blanchett wore this Givenchy spring 2018 haute couture dress with a tiered rainbow skirt and tight fitting backless black turtleneck was for the BlacKkKlansman premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

When Cate re-wore it for the premiere of TÁR at the 2023 Berlin Festival, she changed it up slightly but opting for a large black leather belt instead of showing the velvet waistband as originally shown on the runway.

In a League of Their Own

Selma Blair walks with a cane at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, pagesix.com

Selma Blair wasn’t using a customized cane as a prop when she walked onto the red carpet in an ethereal gown by Ralph & Russo at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscars after-party.

Instead, the 51-year-old actress, known for her Legally Blonde and Cruel Intentions roles, needed it to walk independently at this event, marking Blair’s first public appearance since announcing she has multiple sclerosis. She remarked, “It took a lot to come out here!”

Tilda Swinton wears Jean Paul Gaultier Couture at the 2023 Marrakech International Film Festival, redditmedia.com

On the big screen and on the red carpet, Tilda Swinton is genuinely one of a kind. Her bold fashion sense has undoubtedly made its mark on the film industry. While Swinton wears many different designers, she is best known as the muse to Haider Ackermann, and unquestionably, nobody looks better in Haider’s clothes than Tilda.

Not many women would think of wearing a grand coat on the red carpet (like this, from Jean Paul Gautier’s fall 2023 couture line, designed by Haider Ackermann), but that is what Tilda chose to wear to the 2023 Marrakech Film Festival.

She proved it could be as, if not more dramatic than, a predictable gown. I love the restraint Tilda used in pulling the look together. She wore a simple white t-shirt underneath and added no accessories other than the strappy pointed pumps. Modern perfection!

One young star who is making her presence felt on the red carpet is Taylor Russell. The 29-year-old Canadian actress (and rumored girlfriend of Harry Styles) is Hollywood’s most sought-after rising star and style star in the making.

Taylor Russell in Balenciaga Couture at the Venice Film Festival, September 2022, Photo by Getty Images

Since Taylor’s show-stopping Balenciaga look at the 79th Venice Film Festival in September 2022, she has continuously proved her prowess as fashion’s next It-girl on the red carpet. Solidifying her claim to the scene is fashion designer Jonathan Anderson, who had Russell open his Loewe spring/summer 2023 show. “I’ve never been so inspired by someone. It was the start of an extraordinary friendship and I just thought, she has to open the show. I’m so proud she agreed.

Russell undeniably loves to wow, and she has also mastered simple elegance. When the actress attended the press night after party for The National Theatre’s production of ‘The Effect’ on August 9 in London (where she stars), Russell opted for a design from The Row’s Resort 2024 collection.

Taylor Russell wears The Row to The Effect Press Afterparty, Photo by David M. Bennett for Images Entertainment for Getty Images

The two-piece dress, comprised of a draped corset-style top and long pencil skirt in different shades of brown tweed, was accessorized with only flat lace-up brogues. What a surprising choice! Even though it was not everyone’s cup of tea (a few complained that it looked too heavy for August), I loved it.

Latest Comments:

  1. Great article! I enjoyed every sentence–so true, unfortunate as it may be. I even learned some new jargon. Hopefully, it…

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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