Red Carpet Decorum: Why Actresses Should Discuss Their Outfits
This time of year, there isn’t always a huge amount to look forward to. But there’s one thing that always brightens up the seemingly endless cold, drizzly days and long, dark nights: the start of the Hollywood awards season.
When it comes to who wins the awards themselves, I’m not really that fussed. Hollywood is an overly self congratulatory industry, and I think the number of awards that are dished out are rather excessive. But, unsurprisingly, I do love the outfits.
I’m always intrigued to see who pulled out all the stops and who, well, didn’t. Plus it’s always interesting to read other’s commentary on outfits (or at least the ones that don’t steer into trolling territory). So when the award season kicked off with the Golden Globes on Sunday night, I excitedly settled down on the sofa at 11pm to watch the Red Carpet coverage with a big glass of red wine and a bowl of popcorn (farewell ‘healthy diet’ New Year’s Resolution).
On the outfit front – I’ll be honest – I was a bit underwhelmed this year. There were a few stand outs: Viola Davis killed it. Blake Lively looked divine post-baby. Regina King was gorgeous. Kristen Bell was sexy yet classy. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus looked hot as always. Oh and Rachel Evan Wood rocked a custom tux. But other than that, it wasn't great.
But that’s not what disappointed me the most when watching the Red Carpet. It was the attitude of many of the ladies. When they were asked who they were wearing, several grumpily mumbled the designer’s name, whilst others gave the presenter a cold hard glare. And some didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the label they were wearing!
Now as someone who has always proudly identified as a feminist (in the literal sense, not the extreme burning-bras man-hating warped version), I am all for promoting the fact that women have far more substance than looking pretty. And I do agree with Reese Witherspoon for starting the #askhermore campaign a few years ago – when it was highlighted how the male actors are always asked about their ‘craft’, whereas the female actors just get asked about their clothes.
BUT that does not mean the actresses shouldn’t be asked about their gowns at all. As Theresa May put it recently "I know I have a brain and I'm serious so I can wear pretty shoes." Intelligence and an interest in style are not mutually exclusive, and it's important we don't perpetuate stereotypes. But there's an even bigger reason why celebrities should talk about their outfits: because they have been gifted them for free to promote a designer. And, in some cases, they have even been paid to as a brand ambassador.
I find it highly rude for celebrities to take advantage of the privileged opportunity to wear a stunning piece of couture that several people spent days, if not months, creating, for them to then sneer at questions relating to their look. If you don’t want to talk at all about your clothes – fine. But then go out and buy your own outfit instead. Don't take advantage of the fact that a large number of people's careers in the Fashion Industry are influenced by your star power, and then act all offended - or even refuse to answer - when questioned about what you're wearing.
30 years ago the red carpet was not a big occasion. When Meryl Streep was nominated for Kramer vs Kramer in 1980, the Globes was "a little afternoon event record on CCTV for the L.A.County area only", and because "in those days they didn’t lend dresses… [she] wore [her] wedding dress". But of course designers now do lend dresses, because it is a globalised television event. So it’s only courtesy to say thank you to that designer for making you look good by crediting them in an interview.
It’s no wonder there was such an uproar when Anne Hathaway made an 11th hour decision to ditch her Valentino gown and wear Prada instead when she won her Oscar for Les Miserables. By that point Valentino had even released a press statement saying Hathaway was going to be wearing their creation. So I felt very sorry for the team at Valentino when she turned up on the red carpet in something entirely different. It might have ‘just been a dress’ in her eyes, but it was someone else’s livelihood, making it a selfish and disrespectful move. She later released a public apology for her behaviour.
But the worst offenders in my eyes are those who have a bespoke gown made specially for them – and yet still act snarky or sarcastic when asked to discuss what they’re wearing. I like Emma Stone, but I was not impressed when she was asked about her dress at this year’s Globes and replied ‘well it’s pink, and has stars on it.’ Yes it was, but it was also Valentino Haute Couture specially designed for her by creative director Pierpaola Piccioli. Whilst she did eventually note it was Valentino, I think Piccioli and his team deserved a bit more gratitude, recognition and commentary for taking the time and effort to design such a beautiful piece.
There are of course actresses that really do cherish the chance to wear amazing garments – and I applaud these ladies. I don’t consider them any less intelligent or talented than their peers, I just appreciate that they appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given. I was particularly taken a couple of years ago when Hayden Panetierre turned up at the Globes wearing Tom Ford. A label notorious for only dressing one lady at each ceremony, they had in fact officially dressed Naomi Watts that day, but Paneiterre happily spoke about how she’d bought the gown herself off the rack (shock!) and how much she loved it. Tom Ford himself was so chuffed he later sent Panetierre a bouquet of flowers thanking her and saying how beautiful she looked. In that instance Panetierre wasn’t even under an obligation (morally or contractually) to speak about her gown, and yet she respected the craftsmanship that had gone into it so much that she did.
So come on ladies. Please start showing a bit more respect towards the designers you’re wearing. You can most certainly demand to be asked more, but also accept that you should speak pleasantly about your outfit too. Either that, or don’t walk the red carpet and wear a donated dress at all. You can’t have it both ways.
Second image and thumbnail image (cropped): Absolute Power by vaibhav ahuja - on Flickr.com