Oscars 2021: How the event achieved its 'Inspirational x Aspirational' dress code with reds, metallics, political statements

The ceremony gave a much-needed glimpse into a (hopefully) near future, when physical events and red carpets won’t be as much of an anomaly as they are today, and simply dressing up won’t be considered both inspirational and aspirational.

Shubhanjana Das April 26, 2021 18:48:08 IST
Oscars 2021: How the event achieved its 'Inspirational x Aspirational' dress code with reds, metallics, political statements

L to R: Reese Witherspoon; Zendaya; Laura Dern; Riz Ahmed. AP photos

Bringing the awards season to a close with the only one being held in person, the 93rd Academy Awards’ Red Carpet took place after being deferred for two months due to the pandemic.

The event witnessed the stars pull out all the stops for this year's capital-M fashion moments, as has been tradition. It seems that revered fashion houses like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Maison Valentino and Chanel, among others, were put to work by stylists months ahead of the D-Day, as they doled out ensembles that blended nostalgia and contemporary relevance with apposite precision.

Even though 'experimental' was largely off the table (anyone missing Billy Porter?) this time round, the sartorial choices made for the carpet more than met Oscars 2021's dress code of ‘fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational’. From crisp whites to vivid neons, structured metallics to big princess gowns, one even witnessed some bandeaus and midriff cut-out ensembles. And then of course, there was Zendaya — a bonafide look-book unto herself; we will get to that in a moment.

The ceremony gave a much-needed glimpse into a (hopefully) near future, when physical events and red carpets won’t be as much of an anomaly as they are today, and simply dressing up won’t be considered both inspirational and aspirational.

The ravishing reds

Did Reese Witherspoon, Olivia Colman, Amanda Seyfried, and Angela Bassett get a memo for red that others did not? Seyfried’s crimson red Armani Privé gown awash in tulle, Witherspoon’s micro-pleated Dior number, Colman’s formal-meets-red-carpet piece, again by Dior, and Bassett’s statement poofy shoulders in an Alberta Ferretti gown were definitely not the ones to shy away from stealing more than a moment or two.

Oscars 2021 How the event achieved its Inspirational x Aspirational dress code with reds metallics political statements

L to R: Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Colman, Angela Bassett. AP photos

The bandeaus

The runways and the red carpets seem to be having a moment of nostalgia with what looks like their nod to the 90s, as the good old bandeau tops and midriff-baring gowns have made a comeback and how.

Singer Andra Day’s golden Vera Wang piece whose drape was inspired by the Oscar allegedly required collaboration with a welder, as the seemingly featherlight, mid-riff baring dress was made of actual metal.

On the other hand, there were Carey Mulligan — who shimmered in a two-piece Valentino Haute Couture gown — and Zendaya, whose Cher-reminiscent neon gown also in custom Valentino Haute Couture, were looks worth revisiting for sartorial inspiration for several fashion seasons to come.

But perhaps what stole the show was the Malcolm & Marie-star's $6 million Bulgari necklace stack, featuring more than 183 carats of diamonds. Phew!

Oscars 2021 How the event achieved its Inspirational x Aspirational dress code with reds metallics political statements

L: Andra Day; R: Carey Mulligan. AP photos

The reliable classics

Chanel loyalist Margot Robbie and her newly acquired bangs were a sight to behold on the red carpet, while Vanessa Kirby’s 90s' Hollywood glam by Gucci was a veritable flashback of the red carpets of the yore.

There was also Regina King in her custom jewel-encrusted Louis Vuitton gown with its butterfly sleeves that most charmingly exuded a high-fashion winter queen aura, which she delicately offset with a blunt bob. This was followed by Halle Berry’s mauve that cut through the sea of reds, whites and metallics — but her Dolce & Gabbana number reminded one of just how much we love (and sorely missed) a dramatic train moment on the red carpet.

Bringing her signature subdued high-glam look in couture, presenter Laura Dern’s classic black turtleneck broke into wispy white feathers in an Oscar de la Renta creation. It was clean, simple, but served with just a hint of the fantastical, thereby hitting the precise 'Inspirational x Aspirational' notes, perhaps.

Oscars 2021 How the event achieved its Inspirational x Aspirational dress code with reds metallics political statements

L to R: Margot Robbie; Vanessa Kirby; Regina King; Halle Berry. AP Photos

The mean tuxes

From Riz Ahmed’s red carpet debut in Prada and Leslie Odom Jr. gilded in a gold Brioni suit, to Colman Domingo’s hot pink Atelier Versace suit — the men of the moment came through, and how.

However, the dapper LaKeith Stanfield took a different route and went unapologetically retro with a slim-waisted, thick-belted, custom Saint Laurent jumpsuit with broad breast pockets and a flared collar that boasted a strong late-60s, early-70s energy. The Judas and the Black Messiah star completed the look with a pair of tinted glasses.

But, the real showstopper was the Minari star Alan S Kim in his half-school-boy, half-soccer-star Thom Browne short tux paired with mismatched socks. And yes, he is all of nine.

Oscars 2021 How the event achieved its Inspirational x Aspirational dress code with reds metallics political statements

L to R: LaKeith Stanfield; Alan S Kim; Leslie Odom Jr.; Colman Domingo. AP photos

Shiny in white

Nominated in the best supporting actress category for her role in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova ensured that her red carpet debut was not just head-turning, but conversation-starting as well. She got by with a little help from her crisp, cream-coloured custom Louis Vuitton gown that fulfilled the staple Cinderella-meets-old-Hollywood-glam moment every red carpet demands.

We also saw Viola Davis in a stunning Alexander McQueen cutout bodice and princess skirt piece, along with Tiara Thomas’ red carpet pantsuit in custom Jovana Louis, which further made a case for white this season.

Oscars 2021 How the event achieved its Inspirational x Aspirational dress code with reds metallics political statements

L to R: Maria Bakalova; Viola Davis; Tiara Thomas. AP photos

Honourable mentions

H.E.R committed to the monotone look with elan. Nominated for best original song for 'Fight for you' in Judas and the Black Messiah, the singer wore a cobalt blue custom Peter Dundas flared-leg jumpsuit, complete with an embellished hooded cape boarded in embellished lyric motifs over a matching halter neck. Her cascading wavy mane and Chopard jewels sealed the look.

The 74-year-old Glenn Close was also among the few who ditched the gown for a jewel-tone blue embellished Armani Privé caftan that the Hillbilly Elegy actress paired with dark slacks, matching gloves and Christian Louboutin heels.

Oscars 2021 How the event achieved its Inspirational x Aspirational dress code with reds metallics political statements

L to R: H.E.R. ; Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free; Glenn Close. AP photos

However, perhaps the most politically charged fashion moment at the event was helmed by Two Different Strangers directors Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, who opted for custom Dolce & Gabbana tuxedos in black and yellow, which had names of the people killed by the US police lining the inner sides of their jackets. Their sneakers also added room for more names. Clearly, the duo and their outfits were both winners.

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