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Red carpets and after parties: Oscars dresses that mattered

Lauretta Roberts
25 February 2019

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Oscars on Sunday was that the ceremony went without a hitch. Fears about its lack of a host leading to chaos all round were unfounded. Perhaps in future years, instead of desperately trying to find a host who will a) be any good and b) who won’t upset anyone just won't happen.  Why bother when it doesn’t matter?

When it came to the red carpet (and the Vanity Fair after-party) there were fewer surprises than usual, apart from the odd renegade. Dresses were relatively conservative and the general consensus is that there was little on the game-changing front this time.

But that's not to say the style choices won't be influential. There's been a lot of discussion about whether the Oscars actually matter any more, but the fact is that they do, especially to the fashion industry. They’re a unique publicity opportunity and for the bridal and occasionwear categories, they offer up so much more inspiration than the hundreds of shows during runway season. So what were the key trends?

Screen sirens


Brie Larson in Celine by Hedi Slimane, Emma Stone in Louis Vuitton, Stella Maxwell in Versace, Molly Sims in Zuhair Murad, Kiki Layne in Versace, Jennifer Lopez in Tom Ford

Celebrities shimmered and shone their way down the red carpet (largely courtesy of Versace) and if anyone thought the sequin/beading trend was on its way out, Oscars night should make them think again. Whether it was allover sequins, beaded fringes, or sequin and bead textual effects, shine was the key direction for materials. With shimmering effects so visually strong, the silhouettes were largely slim and relatively simple - anything more would have felt like too much.

Queens of Hollywood


Queens 2 Angela Bassett in Reem Acra, Charlize Theron in Dior, Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen, Danai Gurira in Brock Collection

There was a regal edge to many of the red carpet dresses with a train or royal gold being a must-have to really establish a presence on a night when everyone was competing for attention. At its most extreme, Glenn Close wore hand beaded Carolina Herrera (see above), which apparently weighed a ton (so it was lucky that she didn't win the Best Actress Oscar as she might have struggled to get it onto the stage). At the other extreme, winner Olivia Colman made a more wearable statement in custom Prada. The ingenious element of this dress was how the detail that ended in a train wasn't too overpowering and the simplicity of the basic dress silhouette underneath still showed through.

Pink Power


Gemma Chan in Valentino, Helen Mirren in Schiaparelli, Marie Kondo in Janny Packham, Sarah Paulson in Brandon Maxwell

The appeal of pink just goes on and on and the current crop of runway shows is backing it heavily for the coming autumn/winter season. The choices at the Oscars also suggested that it could make a big impact for bridal and summer occasion dressing. Choices ranged from the palest icy or dusty pinks, to brighter interpretations and muted berry shades. Worked in sheers over a contrast neutral tone, it felt subtle and wearable for even the most pink-averse person.

Grecian goddesses


Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Versace, Jennifer Hudson in Elie Saab, Kiki Layne and Constance Wu in Versace

The one-shoulder dress made a big impact on Sunday evening and showed how timeless classics can be continually reinvented. We may have the Greeks to thank for the look (or at least Hollywood's fantasised view of how the ancient Greeks dressed), but the classic Grecian look actually took a backseat to more body conscious dressing. Combined with other key trends such as shimmer, molten materials and pink, it was the key neckline direction on the night.

Sheer style

Tina Fey in Vera Wang, Constance Wu in Versace, Letitia Wright in Dior, Kacey Musgraves in Giambattista Valli, Michelle Yeoh in Elie Saab, Krysten Ritter in Reem Acra

Designers pulled out all the stops to make the most of the beauty of sheer materials and showed just how much variety they could achieve. Frothy, girlish sheers will clearly influence the bridal sector for both wedding gowns and bridesmaids dresses, but the use of stiffer organzas could also be key and as a more clean-lined alternative to the full-skirted ballgown style that’s also making a comeback in the wedding dress market. Sheers as a foundation for beautifully textured beading also worked well, and designers made the most of power colour, showing that sheers in intense shades can impress without being too fussy.

Body beautiful

Amy Adams in Versace, Serena Williams in Armani Privé, Regina King in Oscar de la Renta

Designers and celebrities made the most of the beauty of the female form with dresses that hugged every curve. End of story. Actually, that’s not the end of the story as it's worth pointing out that this made the biggest impact with strapless dresses, although the one-shoulder necklines that proliferated on the red carpet also came with their fair share of bodycon silhouettes. This was glam femininity run riot, but it worked.

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