Black dresses and the history of political fashion on the red carpet
by Mary Ward
The Golden Globes are not until Sunday night, US time, but the key red carpet trend has already been determined.
In a statement released on January 1, Time's Up, a newly-formed group of 300 women in the entertainment industry – Shonda Rimes, Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep included – announced they would be taking a number of steps in response to the ongoing revelations of sexual harassment unveiled following the Harvey Weinstein expose, including a drive for gender parity at studios and the creation of a $US13 million ($16.6 million) legal defence fund for less privileged women.
But there is one directive from the group which will pique the attention of red carpet-watchers: encouraging women to wear black to the Golden Globes.
The move, which has been rumoured for weeks, is likely to completely change the tone of Sunday's red carpet coverage.
It is not the first time black, the colour of mourning, has been used to make a political statement on the red carpet. Black suits were worn by actors – including Jennifer Garner and Edie Falco – to the 2001 Emmy Awards, in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11.
Much like this year's awards season, attendees at the 2001 Emmys navigated how to have a celebration in a context which did not feel right for one. Originally to be held on September 16, the ceremony was postponed twice: first due to the attacks, and again when its new October date coincided with the start of US airstrikes in Afghanistan.
When the ceremony was ultimately held on November 4, many of the women who dressed up still did so with a nod to the nation's mood: the cast of Sex & the City accepted their Best Comedy award in black evening gowns.
Because, for women on the red carpet, an outfit is much more than clothes. Although the "#AskHerMore" movement has encouraged entertainment reporters to engage with women beyond their (almost always hired and often contracted) wardrobes, a question about the dress is received without fail in every rushed, 30-second interview. If you want to make a statement at an awards show – short of storming the stage – you do it with your dress.
Or with your non-dress, as has been the case. In 1972, Jane Fonda accepted her best actress Oscar for Klute in a black YSL pantsuit, a subversion of gender norms that was adopted by Westworld actress Evan Rachel Wood last year as she completed the awards show circuit.
"I want to make sure that young girls and women know they aren't a requirement and that you don't have to wear one if you don't want to," she told cable TV channel E!'s Ryan Seacrest at the Golden Globes, wearing a custom-made suit by Joseph Altuzarra. "Just be yourself because your worth is more than that."
Recently, red carpet political acts have been more closely targeted, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blue ribbons worn by Oscars attendees last year, supporting the organisation's legal advocacy work in the aftermath of US president Donald Trump's proposed travel bans. At the SAG Awards, safety pins were the anti-Trump accessory of choice (worn by those who felt marginalised by the Trump administration's policies).
Not that you need to be a big name to make a political statement on the red carpet, which is such a well-watched space that it has found itself the venue of a number of feminist acts of protest in recent years.
UK domestic violence awareness group Sisters Uncut jumped over the barriers at the 2015 London premiere of the film, Suffragette. The group chanted "dead women can't vote" before being carried away by security.
Locally, the 2016 AACTAs red carpet at The Star in Sydney saw members of Women in Film and Television NSW storm the red carpet in sausage outfits to protest the Australian film industry's "sausage party".
Fashion is political. Gender is political. And – with women its overwhelming subjects and consumers – it is hardly surprising that the red carpet has power as a political space.
And, this year, as it has in the past, that space seems set to be utilised.
The Golden Globes red carpet begins at 9am on Monday, Sydney time.
SOURCE : THE SYDNEY MORNING TERRACE