Monday’s announcement of the 2020 Oscar nominations — a list that feels as white and male as a U.S. Senate subcommittee — isn’t just bad news for diversity at the Academy Awards. It’s also a downright disappointment for those who focus on fashion for the month-long red-carpet marathon.
The sting feels especially acute because, based on the Golden Globes, which kicked things off Jan. 5, this season seemed to hold some serious promise in the style department, both in terms of introducing fresh faces — Cynthia Erivo and Awkwafina to name two — as well as reuniting us with some of our favorite fashion power players and envelope pushers from red carpets past (Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, respectively).
Awkwafina, who made history at the Globes, did so in a tuxedo-inspired Dior Haute Couture ensemble with a ruffled collar and peak-lapel jacket. The next week, she switched things up, turning out to the Critics’ Choice Awards in a marigold yellow silk chiffon Elie Saab gown. Would her next red-carpet appearance be a pivot, a progression or something else? And what about the one after that? Alas, with “The Farewell” shut out of both this Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Feb. 9 Academy Awards, we won’t have the chance to triangulate where she’s headed — or whom she might wear — next.
Jennifer Lopez — her green Versace gown at the 2000 Grammy Awards set the bar for meme-making on the red carpet — has also turned out to be one to watch this season. She arrived at the Golden Globes in a voluminous, strapless Valentino gown with two immense bows at the bodice (one green and one metallic gold) looking like the last unwrapped Christmas present of the season. A week later, she upped the glamour game — and dialed down the silhouette — at the Critics’ Choice Awards, opting for a backless, curve-hugging Champagne-colored Georges Hobeika gown with crystal details.
Sure, she’s slated to appear at the SAG Awards, but that will most likely be her last chance for a red-carpet wow, because her “Hustlers” hustle failed to garner any Oscar nomination love. (The fashion gods have not totally forsaken us, though; Lopez will be performing the Super Bowl LIV halftime show exactly one week before the Academy Awards. Perhaps she’ll swap in what might have been her Oscar-night gown.)
Although she skipped the red carpet at this year’s Globes, Beyoncé still managed to generate buzz (and not just from the Beyhive, either) thanks to the custom Schiaparelli Haute Couture gown designed by Daniel Roseberry she wore and later posted a photo of to her Instagram account. As someone who has reliably brought her fashion A game to past Oscars (the strapless black velvet Atelier Versace gown she wore to the 2005 Oscars is among the all-time greats), it seemed likely that she’d find a way to top the over-the-top Schiaparelli at this year’s Academy Awards. However, because her song “Spirit” from “The Lion King” wasn’t nominated, the chances of seeing that happen are markedly lower. (On the bright side, chances of a Gucci-clad Elton John being spotted are now hovering near 100%.)
This isn’t to say that the upcoming Academy Awards will be completely devoid of fantastical frocks or wardrobe-related water-cooler moments; only that we can’t rely on the usual suspects to deliver the kind of jaw-dropping, statement-making, meme-generating style spectacles and unattainable levels of glamour we’ve come to expect. To that end, we’re crossing our fingers and pinning our hopes on the following.
Erivo made her awards-show debut at the Golden Globes in a custom tuxedo-inspired, hand-beaded Thom Browne gown that instantly earned her a spot on our best-dressed list. She was a fashion focus-puller again Sunday night at the Critics’ Choice Awards, arriving in a marble-printed organza mosaic Fendi Couture gown. Now that she has been nominated in the lead actress category — the only person of color on this year’s list of nominated actresses — we’re hoping Erivo (with the help of stylist Jason Bolden) will make a similarly bold sartorial statement.
Gerwig — her film “Little Women” is among the best-picture nominees — was a notable omission from this year’s all-male list of nominated directors (she did, however, get a screenplay nomination for her adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic book). This will make it all the more interesting to see what she wears to the Oscars, because for the Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards, she opted for outfits that riffed on the traditional trappings of men’s formalwear. For the former, she wore a custom black-and-white crystal-embroidered off-the-shoulder gown by Proenza Schouler that paid homage to the tuxedo. On Sunday, she went with a green velvet double-breasted tuxedo with wide-leg trousers by Alberta Ferretti Limited Edition. Whatever the Oscar nominee ends up wearing to the Academy Awards, it’ll be almost impossible for us not to find symbolism in it.
In a November interview with The Times, Dern talked about leveraging the power of the red carpet as a force for change, dropping a few broad hints about future fashion choices along the way. “Stella McCartney, who I love and is a friend, is working on something for me to wear soon that will be completely sustainable,” she said at the time. “And Gabriela Hearst is working on something for me that uses not only recycled materials but previously recycled materials. She’s going to take something I’ve worn before and then make something new out of it. I love the idea of deconstructing something and putting it back together. I’ll be wearing that sometime in the coming months.”
We’re smack in the middle of those coming months now. At the Globes, she accepted her supporting actress award for “Marriage Story” in a floral Saint Laurent dress with a bohemian vibe. On Sunday, it was a sleeveless Emilia Wickstead gown in an eye-catching shade of tangerine. With two more awards shows left to go — her “Marriage Story” role also earned her SAG and Oscar nominations — we’re hoping to see her wear something that helps jump-start the conversation about sustainability.
OK, so this one is technically more of a wish than a hope. Because Johansson has received two 2020 Academy Award nominations — a lead actress nod for her role in “Marriage Story” and a supporting actress nomination for “Jojo Rabbit” (the first dual acting nods since Cate Blanchett a dozen years ago), perhaps she can be persuaded to make two trips down the red carpet — each in a different dress — or go with a gown that, much like Lady Gaga’s four-in-one Brandon Maxwell gown at the 2019 Met Gala, can be reconfigured on the fly should she be fortunate to take to the stage to accept two statuettes instead of just one.
Not quite as far-fetched as a double-dipping Johansson is the prospect that maybe just maybe we’ll tune in to the Oscars telecast on the second Sunday in February and find a familiar fashion focus-puller in the house — former First Lady Michelle Obama. That could happen, given that she and her now-retired-from-politics husband were involved with the film “American Factory,” from directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, which was just nominated for documentary feature. During her tenure as FLOTUS, Michelle Obama helped make household names of designers like Narciso Rodriguez, Naeem Khan and Jason Wu, as well as used her wardrobe choices (particularly at state dinners and other formal, high-profile events) to send symbolic messages.