Please, not another cream-coloured, hand-beaded, silk chiffon, strapless bustier gown with a five-foot train that drags across the floor! Seeing another B-list celebrity wearing the same type of dress at every red carpet event is as depressing as watching a funeral march (or a wedding march?). Seeing them wear it to the Cannes Film Festival is torture.
Most of these women who walk the red-carpet must share stylists. They wear the same hair, some jewelled drop earring, and they have on a carbon-copy dress that I’ve probably seen ten versions of in the past. If you follow this formula, you’re indisputably guaranteed a spot in some trashy blog’s “Best-Dressed List.”
Maybe it was Eva Longoria Parker in that typical one-shoulder Pucci gown. Hearing her get praised for this dress truly inspired me to want to gauge my eyes out, cut off my ears and then type this obituary. In that order. After spending fifteen minutes browsing through a gallery of less than impressive red-carpet photos on some gossip website (that proved to have less than impressive taste for putting up said photos), I came to a few conclusions:
1) Black-tie has never seemed like such a snore.
2) I -- a regular mortal being, who cuts her own bangs, has a (below) average income, and prefers to carry vintage briefcases over a Vuitton any day -- have never felt less envious of these unoriginal blue-blooded sheep.
3) No matter how much money you have, sometimes taste is an innate gift, right? The “real” people featured on style blogs seem to get it right a million times better.
In North American fashion, the Cannes Film Festival act as an international publicity stunt for designers, along with other major red carpet events such as the Costume Institute’s Met Gala. In the last ten years, designers have focused on tracking down famous women to model their clothes because the amount of attention and free photographs that will be taken is undeniable. The age-old relationship between cinema and costume has translated to Hollywood and fashion.
The concept of “celebrity” as a publicity stunt used to be, and still somewhat is, crucial. For the regular Joe or Jane, it was like keeping up with the popular girls in high school -- the Plato’s Cave of fashion, if you will. You recognized that face from that film you saw. You related to that face you saw on the screen and thus emotionally identified yourself as an entity in said film. Eventually your curiosity to know more about that face led you to the small print under a Cannes red-carpet photo in some magazine you were reading while waiting in the aisle 3 cashier line at Safeway. For the last decade, most people’s attention to red-carpet gowns has been related to a “false” concept of reality based on what was perceived in newspapers and magazines.
Which is why the red-carpet dress is supposed to be a big deal of eye candy for the average person. Of course, “false” is the keyword, and the frothy, pastel-colored concoctions as of late have recently felt unfitting and unsuitable for our generation. Such formulaic styling choices represent bygone years of taste defined and dictated by a generation of wealthy baby boomers who couldn’t relate to the new millennial generation. When a huge crop of celebrities started hiring the same stylists in fear of being placed on a worst-dressed list on some newsstand, the young millenials began to demand new definitions of glamour.
Timing is important in fashion, and it separates the good from the bad and the ugly. After all, fashion and beauty are related to context. Take for instance, the Sex and the City film. Reasonably successful, especially with fans of the television series who followed Carrie Bradshaw closely as she led liberal feminism in stilettos instead of loafers over ten years ago. The show was timed perfectly with the rise in incomes of the baby boomers, and for their children it painted a desirable life to look forward to.
Consider the sequel’s release, birthed in an age of recession. The second film felt over-the-top, hard to relate to, and uncomfortable to watch (I’m talking about the impractical clothes… not the sex). Gasps of previous excitement now turned to groans, which I heard from a few ladies in the theatre when Carrie walked out of her cab in 90-degree Abu Dhabi wearing a purple, floor-length crinoline skirt to go shopping. The mainstream market formulas of the successful women’s show worked for a particular generation a few years ago, but the same formula couldn’t recreate the feelings of freshness, hipness, and hilarity.
This is proof that what we used to think was “beautiful” on the red-carpet, on screen, and in the magazines, has nowadays shifted to ordinary. It was hard for Kate Beckinsale to revive the same level of public excitement over her blue Marchesa at Cannes when Charlize Theron wore a similar Dior years ago. Ironically, current red carpet fashion is evidence of the lack of imagination that exists among some of the most popular faces in Tinseltown. One of the major issues of the red carpet dress is that it’s short of the aggressive styling seen on fashion runways and in fashion magazines -- the smorgasbord of colour after accessory after piercing after tattoo after runny liquid eyeliner on Poker Face songstresses and other various ingenues. Nowadays, the young, trendy wannabes such as yours truly expect to see more refreshing faces like Tilda Swinton and Charlotte Gainsbourg at these events. Otherwise, they’re just not worth looking at.
I can’t help but wonder if boring, cliché red-carpet dresses will follow the same pattern as cliché, heavy handed movies that have done so poorly with movie critics and box offices (that’s YOU, Robin Hood). That’s the relationship between Hollywood and fashion, cinema and costume. Like my good ol’ go-to-date movies that always have a spot in the theatre, there will always be that red-carpet dress that’s “pretty” to look at, and temporarily satisfying at a below-mediocre level. But in the meantime, red-carpet fashion is going to be stuck in its creative rut if some rich bitch doesn’t spice up this schnitz soon.