If the red carpet is a litmus test of prevailing moods in show business, then 2019’s showed an industry more at ease with itself after a period of scandal, disgrace and introspection.
Whereas 2018’s award ceremonies heaved — rightly so — with the weight of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, this year saw stars beginning to revel in the frivolity of the spectacle once more.
There was a little more sparkle, a little less seriousness; there were more audacious entrances and fewer statement pieces.
Here are eight moments, outfits, garments and accessories that 2019 will be remembered for.
Billy Porter’s tuxedo dress
Billy Porter attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards in 2019. Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
A strong argument could be made for including anything Billy Porter did this year on our list — the surreal angular hat he took to the Emmy’s, the extravagant capes he wore to the Golden Globes and AMAs, or the fact he was carried into the Met Gala by six shirtless men while dressed as an ancient Egyptian sun god.
But it was the “Pose” star’s understated — well, by his standards — tuxedo dress that deserves the most credit. Designed by Christian Siriano, the outfit proved that Porter was out to do more than turn heads. His fashion choices may be outlandish and eminently meme-worthy, but the actor proved he could challenge stereotypes and provoke discussion along the way.
“We wanted to play between the masculine and the feminine,” he wrote in Vogue. “This look was interesting because it’s not drag. I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress.”
Timothée Chalamet’s sequined harness
Timothée Chalamet just topped off a remarkable year by being named the world’s best-dressed man (by British GQ) and fashion’s most influential man (by the fashion search engine Lyst). And it all began, back in January, with a glittery black harness.
The 23-year-old’s outfit at the Golden Globes was uncharacteristically demure — black pants, black shoes, black long-sleeved top. But it was the addition of a Louis Vuitton harness that lifted the piece into high fashion.
The actor has since insisted that he thought the garment was a bib (rather than the “sex harness” that some social media users likened it to). But whatever you want to call it, a few weeks later, Michael B. Jordan was pictured on a red carpet wearing an asymmetric floral one, also by Louis Vuitton.
And while harnesses haven’t yet gone mainstream, Chalamet’s was enough of a statement to mark him as someone to watch on other red carpets this year. He didn’t disappoint.
Lady Gaga’s camp extravaganza
Lady Gaga needs no excuse to dress theatrically. So when the 2019 Met Gala theme was revealed as “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” there was little doubt she would put on a show — quite literally.
More a four-part performance than an outfit per se, Gaga dominated the Met’s famous staircase for more than 15 minutes with a series of costume changes.
She began things simply enough: A billowing fuchsia gown, its parachute-sized train carried by a crew of tuxedo-wearing, umbrella-wielding men. With the help of designer Brandon Maxwell, she then stripped down to a black gown, followed by a pink slip dress and finally a crystal bra and panties. Accessories along the way included an umbrella, sunglasses, an oversized cellphone and a pink wagon with gold wheels, naturally.
Cardi B in Mugler Couture
Cardi B’s red carpet choices tread a fine line between bold and novelty. But her red carpet outfit at the Grammy’s in March marked one of the star’s finest style moments.
On the night she became the first female solo artist to win a Grammy for best rap album, Cardi looked to the past for inspiration. She landed on a 1995 dress by Thierry Mugler, a designer enjoying something of a renaissance more than 15 years after he left the industry.
Like a pearl emerging from a pink satin oyster she shuffled along the red carpet in one of his couture creations, evoking Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (but with a larger entourage). Later in the night, she performed in a sheer cheetah print catsuit and detachable peacock-feather tail — one of three other Mugler outfits she wore that night.
Jared Leto’s severed head
Remember when Jared Leto turned up to the Met Gala in a delicately crafted red turtleneck gown, strings of diamonds draped over his silky bodice? No? That’s probably because you were too busy looking at the severed head he paired it with.
In a classic case of the accessory outshining the outfit, Leto showed up clutching a replica of his head, which cost a reported $11,000. He then proceeded to pass it around celebdom and, perhaps unsurprisingly, lost it.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” he later told GQ of its whereabouts. “I think someone may have stolen it.”
Gemma Chan and the “Crazy Rich Asians”
Throughout awards season, the cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” proved something of a style tour de force. Red carpet after red carpet, they showed up, en masse, to steal the limelight — even when their movie wasn’t nominated.
Constance Wu, Awkwafina, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh all turned heads on this year’s red carpets (even comedian Ken Jeong got in on the action with a daring velvety pink jacket at the Critics’ Choice Awards). But none emerged from 2019 with more fashion kudos than Gemma Chan.
From a pleated Oscar de la Renta gown to a custom floral-print dress by Jason Wu, the British actress was consistently among award ceremonies’ best-dressed. And she saved her boldest look for the biggest stage: the voluminous pink, high-collared Valentino dress she wore to the Oscars.
Gwendoline Christie channels the gods
As if submitting her own Emmy nomination wasn’t enough of a statement, “Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie then showed up to the ceremony looking like a Grecian goddess.
Treading the under-explored red carpet boundary between biblical and regal, her flowing Gucci dress-and-cape combo was the ultimate throwback — the epitome of classical antiquity chic, complete with lion-head medallions, gold trim and medieval-style embroidery.
Christie’s look earned her social media comparisons to the likes of Marcus Brutus, Jesus, her on-screen character Brienne of Tarth (albeit in distinctly Lannister colors) and God.
Zendaya’s Cinderella moment
Zendaya channeled Cinderella for a mesmerizing moment on the red carpet at the Met Gala. The dress may have been made by Tommy Hilfiger, but the magic was supplied by stylist Law Roach.
Dressed in a long, hooded coat, Law flicked his wand and released a puff of smoke that lit up Zendaya’s grey organza dress from hemline to bodice.
It was every Disney princess’ ballgown dream.
The “Euphoria” actress even left one shoe on the stairs. An accident? We think not.
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