The Evolution of Red Carpet Fashion

Halle Berry in Valentino

Halle Berry in Valentino. Image source:

The tradition of the Red Carpet dates back to the mid-20th Century when studios ruled Hollywood. Awards shows gave studios an opportunity to showcase their talent for the world to see. Actors and actresses of the time were able to present their individual brand. Not only who they were as people but also highlight the characters they played in the movies. Lauren Bacall’s sexy floor length gowns and Katherine Hepburn’s trend-setting menswear gave the studios their publicity while allowing the Stars to promote their individual fashion.

Over the years, the evolution of design on the red carpet has gone from emphasizing individual style to designer product placement. The innovation we once saw that challenged current trends and revolutionized designs is now held tight in a safe space to hide from Fashion Disaster shows and Red Carpet chatter.

Shelley Komarov of Komarov Inc was a costume designer in Hollywood for many years before starting her own line. The Emmy Award Winning designer states that, “My job as a designer was to collaborate with actors and actresses and to bring my innovation to their unique style.” But in the 1990s, we saw strong shift in how fashion landed on the runway.

Uma Thurman in Prada

Uma Thurman in Prada. Image source:

In 1995, Uma Thurman wore her famous Prada Lilac Gown to the 67th Oscar Awards. Before this, designers had rarely used red carpet to flaunt their new styles and ideas. This dress got so much publicity and attention that designers realized a smash on the red carpet could land more press and buzz than a five-page spread in Vogue. In 2000, Halle Berry wore the game-changing white Valentino dress to the Golden Globes. Even those who didn’t watch the 2000 Grammys knew about J Lo’s V-cut Versace dress. Sometimes the publicity that surrounded the red carpet was bigger than the actual films being promoted.

Shows like E! Fashion Police who scold Stars for their risky fashion choices or magazine who rate red carpet Do’s and Don’ts, have made the red carpet a scary place to showcase fashion. When designers are putting all their money and labor into one dress to show on the red carpet, they shy away from anything to innovation. Playing it safe has become the trend to shield stars from any fashion ridicule. Stylists contribute even more to this problem by becoming the mind behind the celebrity’s fashion choice rather than the individual.

Komarov Shelley

Shelley Komarov with Matthew McConaughey

Komarov states, “Fashion on the red carpet was no longer a collaboration between designer and the actor. It became a place for stylists to water down unique styles and to serve as product placement for various designers.” We see a direct shift with young starlets playing it safe and sending beautiful but boring looks down the red carpet.

Overall this trend is trickling down everywhere. With the exception of trend-setters like Jennifer Lawrence who promote style at every turn, most of the red carpet is about staying between the lines. Emma Roberts may look great at film premieres, but she’s not doing anything to push the envelope or to challenge current trends. If all the young stars continue this trend, mainstream fashion will water down even more. Millennia customers will want more of the same and fashion will be anything but that.

The key to shifting away from this bland trend is to bring the power back to the celebrity and the designer. Bring back the idea of fashion collaboration to blend individual style with innovative ideas. To fight back against the fear of red carpet ridicule and use it as a venue to challenge the status quo and introduce new and exiting ideas while holding true to the style of the individual.

Many of today’s stars should consider the fashion advice of Judy Garland who said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of somebody else.”

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