Baftas 2019: Bridal inspiration and dramatic understatement

The Baftas may not have quite the can’t-miss-it appeal of the big Hollywood awards such as the Oscars, but they’re important nonetheless and as a trends indicator, Sunday’s ceremony was also pretty good one.

And of course, it’s not every awards ceremony that gets royalty turning up. Even more surprising, when royalty does attend, it’s rare that the princess in question manages to outshine all those red carpet regulars from the wonderful world of celebrity.

But this time, the Duchess of Cambridge managed to make a major impact in a just-about-perfect Alexander McQueen one-shoulder dress that was a gift to the bridal market. It set the seal on a red carpet that was generally very inspirational for the bridal sector. So let’s look at the big trends from the night.

Aisle have that one

The Duchess of Cambridges in Alexander McQueen
The Duchess of Cambridges in Alexander McQueen

The bridal market had plenty to choose from with the Duchess of Cambridge impressing in a Grecian-style gown whose appeal rested in its classical simplicity but also the fluidity of the reams of silk it used. It led the charge of white and pale toned dresses on the red carpet, which also included Cynthia Erivo’s creamy Vera Wang ballgown. The full skirt channelled the trend that was seen at the Golden Globes earlier this year and endorsed a silhouette that’s not been at the trend cutting edge for quite a while.

But in general, as with Kate’s McQueen, celebs chose to keep the silhouette more understated and made good use of the frothy properties of laters of sheer silk to make an impact. Rachel Weisz’s Gucci showed how this can have a lighter-than-air effect and also highlighted the benefit of low-key-but-striking beading. Meanwhile, Lucy Boynton in Dior showed how the combination of pleats and gathers can also create a light, fluid effect that’s very appealing when the wearer is moving – and in the age of the bridal video, that’s an important priority for any wedding gown.

But take note of Marina de Tavira in Oscar de la Renta too. The columnar white and gold dress would work well for lower-key weddings with a more sophisticated, less girly, edge that makes the most of the contrast between gold and white and a slim figure.

Bridal (main picture): Rachel Weisz in Gucci, Marina de Tavira is Oscar de la Renta, Lucy Boynton in Dior, Cynthia Erivo in Vera Wang

Tux times

Tux: Lily Collins in Givenchy, Irina Shayk in Burberry, Letitia Wright in Stella McCartney, Mary J Blige in Ralph & Russo

The tux, or tailored evening jacket, was popular choice on the night, reflecting trends that are also being seen at retail. But celebs also showed that Tux dressing doesn’t have to be predictable. Irina Shayk took the most traditional approach but also took advantage of having a figure to die for with a jacket cut to show as much as possible, plus cigarette pants designed to show off perfect pins and place the emphasis on heavily embellished footwear.

Meanwhile rising star award winner Letitia Wright mixed it up a little with her pantsuit in all white, thus providing another bit of inspiration  for the lower-key bridal market. It came from Stella McCartney, who seems to be making a speciality of providing celebs with wearable looks that don’t feel overdone for special occasions. Then Mary J Blige took it further with white crepe by Ralph & Russo complete with train and gold lace overlay.

But our favourite was Lily Collins’ inky purple lace dress with tailored cropped jacket. A sensible choice on a freezing February night in London, the jacket also came as a surprise and added an edgy feel to what would otherwise have been a traditional red carpet look.

Black and white

Black & white: Thandie Newton in Valentino, Viola Davis in Giorgio Armani Privé, Sophie Okonedo in Oscar de la Renta, Olivia Colman in Emilia Wickstead

The biggest colour story on Sunday evening was black and white as celebs used the stark contrast to play up architectural details, frothy fabrics, ingenue styles or stately looks that fitted perfectly with the movies that they were representing.

Winner Olivia Colman led the charge, channelling her role as Queen Anne in a dress by Emilia Wickstead. It came with a regal train but didn’t feel too overpowering for a someone who usually likes keep her red carpet choices simple. As inspiration for the more mature bridal market, the silhouette was a strong one, but the colour choice should also make an impact on the wider occasion sector.

Viola Davis in Giorgio Armani Privé tapped into the same trend with the shoulder-baring neckline tracking the standaway neckline trend that was big at last month’s couture endows (although in this case it was less ridiculous than we saw in January and a whole lot more wearable).

Meanwhile Thandie Newton’s Valentino and Sophie Okonedo in Oscar de la Renta both proved that black with white can be pretty as well as striking.

Slim Pickings

Slim pickings: Eleanor Tomlinson in Ralph & Russi, Elizabeth Debicki in Giorgio Armani Privé, Claire Foy in Oscar de la Renta, Olga Kurylenko in Giorgio Armani Privé, Cate Blanchett in Christopher Kane

Ballgowns may have made a big comeback at other awards evenings this year but the dominant silhouette at the Baftas was slimmer-than-slim, although it avoided the can’t-breathe-in-this-dress figure-squeezing look that is a frequent red carpet favourite. Think body-skimming columns or dresses shaped to flatter curves without hugging them too closely.

Colour and detail were key for the look with thigh-slashed skirts a popular option, along with statement details and clever cuts played up by material and colour contrasts. And colour and texture really were key with the night’s popular back working particularly well with columnar silhouettes, as did the deep greens and the lacy materials that were a popular pick.