With late summer comes Labor Day, long weekends, lazy days—and the chance to watch celebrities step on and off boats clad in head-to-toe European couture. The Venice Film Festival has returned once again, and like the Cannes red carpet in mid-July, it’s heralding the return of all-out, unabashed glamour.
The event, which was kicked off by a Dolce & Gabbana runway show, has been a bit of a return for the embattled Italian house. After releasing a racist ad mocking Chinese culture in 2018, the line has lost a significant portion of its followers, especially the younger, more socially conscious, and very online ones.
While D&G hasn’t been exactly silent since then—First Lady Jill Biden, along with Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and even Melania Trump have all sported their looks—stars have come out in full force this week to show off its metallic, figure-hugging frocks at Venice.
Kitty Spencer, Princess Diana’s niece and a Dolce ambassador who wore five (five!) of the label’s looks for her July nuptials, bravely took “a detour from her Positano honeymoon” to attend the Venice show, per Vogue. Also in attendance were a “Ben-less” J.Lo, Dame Helen Mirren, Sean Combs, Christian Bale, Vin Diesel, Doja Cat, January Jones, and Jennifer Hudson. (Congratulations to whoever got to assign table arrangements for this dizzying mélange of famous names.)
But the Dolce & Gabbana show wasn’t even the main event. Now stars of the festival’s films have flooded The Floating City, and their stylists have not come to play games. In fashion parlance, so many of these looks aren’t just outfits, they’re “visual moments,” meant to drum up social media enthusiasm and re-shares. Sure, it’s hard to feign interest in rich, pretty people wearing very expensive clothes given, well, everything—but some of the celebrities are doing the most to make us care.
Take, for instance, Dame Helen’s stunning, custom-made seafoam green D&G frock, which fit like a (stunning) glove and essentially turned the actress into a sentient mermaid figurehead. Her matching headband gave the outfit just a hint of ’60s mod.
At the same opening night ceremony, director and Venice jury member Chloé Zhao showed up in her signature lowkey, too-cool style. This time she wore a floor-length, watercolor gown and toted a Fjällräven Kanken backpack. It was the fanciest back-to-school outfit ever, and quite a whimsical break from the torrent of capitol-F fashion people who take it all just a little too seriously.
But no one really went for it quite like Cynthia Erivo. With the help of stylist Jason Bolden, the actress showed up in custom Versace, as ones does when they want to make an impact. “Alexa play ‘feeling myself’ by @beyonce,” Erivo wrote on Instagram. Can’t blame her for that.
Earlier, Erivo had stepped off a ferry in oversized sunglasses, a Janet Jackson t-shirt, and roomy cut-out jeans that provided another nail in the supposed skinny jeans coffin. Petition to make all denim look like this, now.
Gowns were everywhere, but some actresses wore trousers with aplomb. There was Isabelle Huppert, who always looks French and effortless, showing us all how it’s done in breezy separates as she waved to cameras.
Kirsten Dunst worked the whole “stylish school marm” look in a Salvatore Ferragamo skirt suit she cinched with a fire engine red belt. It was a little costume-y—something she might wear in some Netflix interpretation of Strangers on a Train with an all-female cast (please make this happen)—but that’s what made it so fun.
There’s little that’s fun about face masks these days, but fun wasn’t what Brazilian actress Bàrbara Paz was going for when she wore a dramatic gas mask attached to a potted plant she wore across her back. Instead, the outfit was a protest. “The Amazon is the lung of the world and humanity has the right to breathe,” she wrote on Instagram. “We all carry a little bit of the Amazon inside of us.” The suit came from Gucci, and the accessory was made by styling team Adriana and Luciana Toledo.
Speaking of Gucci, creative director Alessandro Michele was seen wearing. a printed top, shorts, and socks with sandals. He looked like a tourist in this tourist town—well, a very rich one.
The Lost Daughter star Dakota Johnson also opted for Gucci, wearing a classic black suit with a slight modification: the bra top, a trend that refuses to die out.
Kristen Stewart, a Chanel ambassador and star of the upcoming Diana biopic Spencer, wore perhaps the exact opposite of a princess gown: she showed up to the film’s premiere in a tweed romper with hot pants. Few could pull this look off, but Stewart brought some moxie mugging to the cameras, and somehow made looking like a sexy widow a thing.
Penélope Cruz, who also reps Chanel, wore—surprise—three different outfits from the French house all in one day. The first two were classic tweed suits, but the last one really packed a punch: a black-and-white ballgown she wore to the premiere of Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers. He co-star Milena Smit, wore Givenchy to a photocall. Plus, Almodóvar did his best film professor cosplay in a paisley button-up and dark sunglasses.
Another daring look executed perfectly: Zendaya, in the blazer-and-plunging white dress Valentino number she wore to the Dunes premiere. The actress, who just turned 25 this week, just about always looks amazing, even when she’s styled to appear as if she just rolled out of bed.
She later wore a tight tan tank Balmain dress and posed with co-star Timothée Chalamet. He wore a rather itchy-looking metallic suit by French designer and frequent Chala-collaborator Haider Ackermann. In photos the suit did not glimmer nearly as much as it did on video captured by Variety editor Ramin Setoodeh. Italians: no smoking next to him, please. We do not want to flambé Chalamet.
Props go to Benedict Cumberbatch and his wife, the playwright Sophie Hunter, who attended the premiere of The Power of the Dog looking very British. Cumberbatch wore a black suit and Hunter had on Emilia Wickstead. The pattern on the gown first resembled repeating lobsters, but on second glance it’s a fleur-de-lis print.
Zoe Saldana looked absolutely stunning, as she normally does, at The Hand of God premiere. She, too, wore Dolce & Gabbana. This one was red hot and shimmery, with an up-to-there leg slit. Occasion dressing at its most obvious, though that’s not a bad thing.
And then there was Tiffany Haddish, who was really a standout in Christian Siriano at the premiere of The Card Counter. She dyed her pixie cut icy blonde for the occasion, and accessorized with chunky Pomellato jewelry. She also matched her co-star, Oscar Isaac, who wore a white suit coat. Yes, it’s tough to care about celebrities right now—except when they wear stuff like this.