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Fewer Risks on the Oscars Red Carpet

Classic-inspired looks were the rule, reversing a trend toward more daring awards show looks in recent years. Plus what else to watch for this week.
Ana de Armas in Louis Vuitton.
Ana de Armas in Louis Vuitton. (Getty Images)

The conventional wisdom around awards shows these days is that their importance as a cultural force is in possibly terminal decline. Last year’s Oscars had the second-lowest ratings ever, besting only the awkward mid-pandemic edition in 2021. Fashion brands still compete to dress the hottest celebrities, but to them the red carpet is just another marketing event among many.

This Sunday’s show provided a possible antidote to all that pessimism. There were more big, popular movies among the nominees, like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” There was genuine suspense about who would take home some of the acting awards. And there was the slap factor. It all added up to a likely ratings bump, though not a return to the days when 40 to 60 million Americans tuned in, even factoring in viewers on TikTok, which streamed winners’ speeches live for the first time.

What did celebrities, and the small group of mega brands that dress them, do with the opportunity? The carpet itself got a radical reinvention in champagne, departing from a tradition dating back to 1961. But as far as the clothes go, the Oscars were perhaps the first major test for how the return of tailoring and elegance on the runway are resonating beyond fashion week. Classic silhouettes were the rule, albeit with leg slits and other twists that were seen as daring even a decade ago. Cate Blanchett wore a top from the Louis Vuitton archives and a skirt made from sustainable silk, the biggest platform yet for her sustainable spin on couture. Few followed her lead in repurposing looks, though plenty of dresses were inspired by vintage designs, including Ana de Armas drawing Marilyn Monroe comparisons in Louis Vuitton. A few stars tried for something different, including Florence Pugh in Valentino and Lady Gaga in the closing look from last week’s Versace show. But the brands that dominate red carpet dressing seemed particularly risk-averse this year, especially when compared to the eclectic mix of designs showcased at the 2022 Oscars.

If last year’s red carpet was defined by Timothée Chalamet, Kristen Stewart and other risk takers, Austin Butler summed up this year’s affair nicely when he told E!’s Laverne Cox: “I don’t know what story I’m telling you, I just thought it was a beautiful tuxedo.”

What Else to Watch for This Week

Sunday

The 95th Academy Awards

Monday

Rakuten Fashion Week begins in Tokyo

US inflation data for February released

Tod’s reports results

Wednesday

Seoul Fashion Week begins

Dubai Fashion Week ends

US February retail sales

Inditex, Brilliant Earth report results

Thursday

Signet Jewelers, Land’s End, Designer Brands report results

Friday

Eurozone February inflation data

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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