The step and repeat during awards season red carpets in 2021 felt like a collective sigh of fashion relief, as stars stepped out once again in all their splendor. The overarching trend was a return to glamour. That translated into Old Hollywood-inspired looks, the pageantry of dresses with capes and out-to-there trains, flurries of ostrich feathers and elegant elbow gloves.
After months spent in sweatshirt sets, skin was in with va-va-voom slits, plunging necklines and coy peek-a-boo details aplenty. Aside from Jason Sudeikis’ tie-dye hoodie at the Golden Globes, guys were also glam-men in suiting with fresh pops of color and sequined sparkle.
Old Hollywood Style
A slew of leading ladies dazzled by channeling Old Hollywood aesthetics — think Anya Taylor-Joy in Dior haute couture at the Emmys and Elle Fanning in Gucci (if only via Instagram) at the Golden Globes.
This trend crescendoed with a string of style odes to retro starlets at the Met Gala, where Yara Shahidi referenced Josephine Baker; Billie Eilish paid homage to Marilyn Monroe; Eiza González gave a nod to Ava Gardner; and Gemma Chan looked to Chinese-American film star Anna May Wong.
Long gloves proved to be a fashionable and practical pandemic extra. Cynthia Erivo donned white, elbow-length leather gloves by Valentino haute couture to the Golden Globes, while Emma Corrin’s talon-like manicure peeped out of her fingerless Miu Miu opera gloves at the Emmys.
Additionally, black leather opera gloves were a choice accessory with strapless white gowns for Tessa Thompson at the Gotham Awards (in Bach Mi) and for Gigi Hadid at the Met Gala (in Prada).
Dresses with coordinating capes are having a moment. Earlier in December, mom-to-be Jennifer Lawrence looked radiant in an embellished Dior gown with a pleated cape at the Don’t Look Up premiere and Sarah Jessica Parker served up whimsical Carrie Bradshaw style in a caped Oscar de la Renta look at the And Just Like That premiere.
Another prime example: Lady Gaga’s pleated, purple Gucci cape dress at the U.K. premiere of House of Gucci (paired with of-the-moment rhinestoned opera gloves). And who can forget Kate Middleton’s grand entrance at the U.K. premiere of No Time To Die in a gold-sequined, bejeweled cape gown by Jenny Packham?
Flurries of Feathers
Angela Bassett wowed at the Golden Globes in a purple Dolce & Gabbana gown trimmed with feathers at the shoulder and slit, while Laura Dern’s Oscar de la Renta gown at the Oscars was finished with a frothy white feathered skirt. Cynthia Erivo had three flights of fancy — one at the Emmys in a Louis Vuitton gown with a burst of colorful feathers at the hem and two more at the Venice Film Festival, donning a Schiaparelli couture gown with a fuschia feathered skirt as well as a black-and-white Gucci gown with feathered bodice.
As for feathered extras, Harry Styles lit up social media by wearing three feather boas at the Grammys. Kacey Musgraves’ topped off her MTV VMAs look with a Valentino couture feathered headpiece (and requisite opera gloves in red leather). And Lil Nas X wore a yellow Gucci suit with feathered cuffs to the LACMA Art+Film Gala in November.
Lots of leg, after seasons of sweats, is another red carpet do. Zendaya stepped out at the Venice Film Festival in a leggy, custom leather Balmain gown that showcased her gams.
Bassett’s feathery Golden Globes gown featured a show-stopping slit, as did her bold-sleeved red Alberta Ferretti gown at the Oscars. So did González’s red Versace number at the Met Gala and Gaga’s Gucci cape dress. Chan closed out Cannes in a memorable Oscar de la Renta metallic floral halter dress with a slit.
Statement-making trains showed up in A-game style, a chic way to maintain six feet of pandemic spacing. Think Taylor-Joy’s yellow Dior shawl with a flowing train at the Emmys; Eilish’s peach Oscar de la Renta gown with a long train at the Met Gala; and Chan’s sequined LBD by Prabal Gurung finished with a cascading mint green train at the Met Gala.
And an incognito Kim Kardashian arrived at the Met Gala in a haute couture Balenciaga body stocking-dress complete with a blackout mask and a trailing train.
Leave it to J. Lo to create an unforgettable fashion moment in a plunging Georges Hobeika gown, accented with a string of Swarovski crystals at the neckline, for her red carpet comeback with beau Ben Affleck at the Venice Film Festival.
Taking the plunge at the Golden Globes was Julia Garner in Prada and, at the Oscars, Amanda Seyfried in a red strapless Armani Privé dress and Borat 2 star Maria Bakalova in an ethereal white Valentino gown. Meghan Markle got in on the trend in a low-cut red Carolina Herrera gown at the Salute to Freedom Gala in November.
Flirty cutaway midriffs stood out at the Academy Awards on Zendaya (in a neon yellow Valentino Couture gown) and Andra Day (in a gold custom Vera Wang dress), while Carey Mulligan bared her midsection in a shimmery bandeau top and matching ballgown skirt with a train by Valentino couture.
Nicole Kidman looked chic in a cutaway black Saint Laurent gown at the CMAs, as did Chan in a glam crop top and matching skirt by Sohee Park at the Rome Film Festival as well as Kate Hudson during the Venice Film Festival in an intricately cut-out Monot dress. Going for sheer dazzle, Dakota Johnson donned a barely-there silver chainmail Gucci gown dripping in jewels and fringe at the Venice Film Festival.
Many leading men made a compelling case for velvet suiting in fresh hues. Exhibit A: Daniel Craig’s pink velvet double-breasted evening jacket by Anderson & Sheppard at the final No Time to Die premiere in September. Other winning looks: Jake Gyllenhaal’s emerald green velvet Bottega Veneta suit at the New York Film Festival, Jason Sudeikis’ blue velvet Tom Ford suit at the Emmys, Jared Leto’s teal Gucci suit at the House of Gucci premiere in London and Jason Momoa’s burgundy Henry Poole & Co. smoking jacket at the London premiere of Dune.
In a redux of her famed 1995 appearance in a red velvet Gucci tux designed by Tom Ford, Gwyneth Paltrow turned up at the Gucci Love Parade fashion show in Hollywood in a new version by creative director Alessandro Michele.
While men going glam is not new, extra sequined sparkle added an optimistic spirit to the year. Colman Domingo’s custom, electric pink three-piece suit and tie by Atelier Versace set a new standard at the Oscars, dazzling with 4,500 Swarovski crystals and sequins. The Venice Film Festival marked Timothée Chalamet’s time to shine in a custom Haider Ackermann crewneck and trousers, embellished from head to toe with tiny black sequins.
At the Los Angeles premiere of House of Gucci, Leto accessorized his pink Gucci suit with sparkling black lace gloves. And Dan Levy stood out at the Golden Globes in a yellow Valentino couture suit and the brilliance of a sequined sweater.