In simpler times, red carpets could be pretty predictable. There would be gowns. Tuxedos. Jennifer Aniston would show up in a black slip dress, looking radiant and also as if she just threw it on. The bigger, most-watched names would show up late, adding another 15 minutes to the show’s airtime and giving us custom Dior as a treat.
That’s not how things go anymore. Last night’s Emmy Awards marked a new era of red carpet dressing for the remote age. We’re working from home now. Celebrities are no exception, though theirs might be substantially larger than ours are, better designed, and with fresh flowers seemingly always in shot. (The only thing that remains: Jennifer Aniston always wears a simple black dress, and she always looks amazing.)
The question, “Why are we even doing this anymore?” was asked by host Jimmy Fallon, and no doubt tons of people at home wondering what could possibly be the point of watching rich and beautiful people win mounds of copper. The wardrobes met the moment: There was a “screw it, why not?” element to what people chose to wear.
Some went bold—see: Tracee Ellis Ross’ tiered gold Alexandre Vauthier gown, ruffled as a wedding cake and paired with a matching mask. Others were casual, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan at home in pajamas that coordinated with her dogs’ pink bow ties.
Others would not settle for one or the other—Regina King donned two Schiaparelli looks; one royal blue dress with a parachute-esque cape floating off the back, and another pink blazer thrown over a shirt honoring Breonna Taylor.
Octavia Spencer, too, went with a Tadashi Shoji dress that resembled a silk robe; on Instagram she admitted to being “barefoot” and spending the night on her plush white couch.
The rules of dress have not just changed; they’ve evaporated. Everything goes. Zendaya, the newly-minted youngest Emmys Best Actress winner set the new standard. She wore two gowns: one empire waisted by Christopher John Rogers and another two-pieced custom Armani Privé, including a stunning crystal bandeau top. It was glam, but not the old way; there was a sense of fun and exploration in both pieces.
Cynthia Erivo wore a green and purple mini dress by Versace, its swirling pattern resembling a geode.
The Insecure cast celebrated at an empty SoFi Stadium, so naturally Issa Rae posed in a long tangerine cutout dress by Sergio Hudson. The red carpet can still be ritzy, no doubt, but the night’s overall loosening up seemed to bring out natural personalities. The step and repeat has died, at least temporarily, and no one misses it.
Billy Porter and Kerry Washington also brought some high drama with their fashion; Washington’s sparkly Oscar de la Renta dress was, according to Instagram, the first time she’d dressed up “in a while.” Porter’s Ashi Studio suit, all white with double breasted pockets, flare trousers, and an extra-long sash, was a little Hillary Clinton at home—refined, but not overly so. Still, it expertly matched the white roses on a table behind him on Zoom.
Laverne Cox, no slouch on any red carpet, did the most in a custom Kim Kassas Couture jumpsuit. It was belted across the waist, but full of mesh and chiffon, which made it prime for twirling. The actress shared a behind-the-scenes video where she posed for photos on Instagram; Cox’s dizzying poses prove she is a true professional.
The Emmys begin a long, indulgent award season that ends around mid-February; who knows what our reality will look like by Oscar night. Last night we saw fashion for fashion’s sake; celebrities at home or in award suites were dressing up for themselves rather than the red carpet machine. The clothes were serious, but the attitude was not—a very welcome change for 2020.