What to Wear on the Red Carpet?

What to wear on the red carpet? Schiaparelli, Dior and Chanel have some ideas. Armani, too.

The fact that the big Oscar nominations reveal fell right in the middle of the Paris couture shows was a coincidence, but a fortuitous one. After all, ever since the end of the actors’ strike, the red carpet has been a veritable explosion of pent-up fashion fantasy. What better place to shop for that than at the couture?

Little wonder then that the celebrities (and their stylists) are back in town, swanning onto the front rows of the brands where they have relationships or want to have relationships or that are trying to lure them into relationships.

Little wonder that Chanel’s Virginie Viard enlisted one of the brand’s ambassadors, Margaret Qualley, to open her ballerinas-in-the-1980s show, held beneath a giant monogrammed button and rife with bouclé in Jordan almond tones, leotards, white tights and tulle. Ms. Qualley has the Grammys, with her musician-husband Jack Antonoff, looming on her calendar next month. Now she has something to wear!

Still, even off the red carpet, couture is having something of a movie moment.

As it happens, Glenn Close and Juliette Binoche were also doing some frow hopping during the shows as they are among the stars of a limited series, “The New Look,” that debuts on Apple TV+ in February. The story of the rebirth of couture after World War II as seen through the prisms of Dior and Chanel, it features Ms. Binoche as Coco Chanel and Ms. Close as the Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow.

And “Cristóbal Balenciaga,” a biopic of the Spanish designer often called the greatest couturier of all that focuses on the same period and includes cameos of Dior and Chanel, aired on Disney+ just before the shows began (at least in Europe; in the United States, it is still waiting for a release date).

Both series focus on the idea of the couture as a riposte to the horrors and deprivation of the war; a clarion call of humanity. Given what is going on in the world, you can understand why filmmakers — and the designers who love them — might think it was a good time to revisit this particular period. In any case, it’s all starting to seem a lot like life imitating art imitating life.

And not just when it comes to galas. The age of luxury sweats and elastic waists appears to be at an end (thank goodness). Dressing — real dressing, as in the postwar years, when it was synonymous with self-respect — is taking the high ground.

At Dior, the designer Maria Grazia Chiuri said she was inspired by a 1952 dress by Monsieur Dior known as La Cigale and its counterintuitive juxtaposition of internal structure imposed on undulating moiré. That led to a series of trench coats and dresses elevated to their own special status by dressmaker details — cowl necklines, shawl collars, blouson sleeves — and jeweled embroidery. Well, we are all sort of in the trenches now. Button up and buckle down.

For a backdrop, Ms. Chiuri commissioned a series of enormous murals from the 94-year-old artist Isabella Ducrot, featuring garments stretched entirely out of proportion. Which, Ms. Chiuri said before the show, seemed like a fairly accurate summation of the current moment and its tendency to extremes. Perhaps in response, she worked small: pleating a white silk column into the sort of highly complex geometry that can only be done by hand; torquing the neckline of a slither of gold velvet; eschewing corsetry for structure created via seams.

Ms Chiuri can make a perfectly pow-worthy look — some of her moiré ball gowns have “Oscars” written all over them — but they are less interesting than her more intimate explorations. Commentators often whine on social media that her work doesn’t look like couture, as the techniques don’t read on the small screen. But to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, this is what couture looks like. It’s one way the real world seeps in.

It makes more sense, in any case, than Ms. Viard’s decision at Chanel to embrace shiny white tights and the current trend toward cropped tops and pantslessness. The tights, which came with leotards and under classic pastel tweed jackets often paired with the scrim of a see-through chiffon “skirt” or “trousers,” appeared in every look, including one peekaboo lace jumpsuit. Granted, they are very of the TikTok moment, but that may be even shorter than the bride’s wedding gown, which was more like a wedding tunic.

Chanel, haute couture spring 2024Chanel

At least at Schiaparelli thoughts of modern technology sent Daniel Roseberry down a more ambitious path, which involved the news about A.I. coming out of the United States; his own Texas roots, as well as Elsa Schiaparelli’s roots (she also pops up in the “Balenciaga” series); and the fact that her uncle, Giovanni Schiaparelli, was the director of the Brera Observatory in Milan and discovered the trenches on Mars.

That led Mr. Roseberry (naturally) to thoughts of “Alien,” the 1979 movie, and its sequels — all of which he has seen, he said during a preview, at least six times. And that led to a somewhat chaotic mash-up of the surreal, the Martian and the cowboy.

Jackets came in bandanna prints dangling floor-sweeping fringe and sporting armor-size buckles; decorative knots bristled from oversize sleeves. One cocktail dress was made from hundreds of upcycled bits of pre-2007 technology (motherboards, computer chips, flip phones) that had been bedazzled within an inch of their afterlife; so was a toddler-size doll, toted by a model in white cargo pants and a tank top.

Mr. Roseberry has become a celebrity magnet thanks in part to his ability to master the social media moment (i.e., that doll), but it’s his simpler clothes that cut through the noise: a strapless black velvet bombshell gown framed by nude jersey draping; some high-waist black pants beneath a plain white buttonup with power-pose shoulders and a sharpened pencil pinning the collar like a sword. Or a point.

One that goes beyond the red carpet and straight to the contemporary condition. Greta Gerwig, controversially snubbed for best director by the Academy of Motion Pictures despite their many other nominations for “Barbie,” could wield that with aplomb.

SOURCE: New York Times

About Michael Zotos 468 Articles
Founder and owner of Performer.com/Performer Media LLC, a multimedia content creator for a variety of national plus local print & electronic media affiliates.