Was Cher Award Season’s Biggest Fashion Inspiration?

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Though a lot happened on the 2021 Oscars red carpet on Sunday night, the only thing we woke up thinking about this morning was Zendaya’s yellow, midriff-baring Valentino gown. The look — which glowed in the dark and was paired with matching Jimmy Choos and 183 carats (worth over $6 million USD) of Bulgari diamonds — was styled by Zendaya’s go-to stylist Law-Roach. And, like the vintage YSL set, previously owned by Ebony Fashion Fair founder Eunice Johnson, that Zendaya wore to the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards last week, this one, too, was inspired by a look from the past. Who, you ask, was Sunday night’s inspiration? Why, it was Cher, of course.
According to Law’s Instagram, the inspiration behind Zendaya’s Valentino gown was a cut-out dress worn by Cher on her eponymous variety television show, which aired from 1975 to 1976. Alongside a compilation of looks from the show’s first and only season, which was posted by @howtobeafuckinglady on Instagram, Law wrote “constant inspiration” on his stories. 
Designed by Bob Mackie, who was responsible for all of Cher’s over-the-top and glamorous ensembles from the show, the yellow dress featured a wrap-around design that left a diamond-shaped view of the singer’s midriff. It wrapped around further to reveal a neck-tie that served as a necklace. Cher's signature long locks stretched behind her back. Sound familiar?
Zendaya wasn’t the first red carpet regular to pay homage to the iconic performer this award season. Dua Lipa, in partnership with Donatella Versace and her stylist Lorenzo Posocco, also channeled the “Believe” singer at the 2021 Grammys red carpets. Dua Lipa’s gown was made entirely of Swarovski crystals — 55,000 of them, to be exact — and took 1,500 to make, according to Posocco. The front of the dress featured a butterfly motif, a Cher and Lipa go-to, which the latter also had embellished on her nails and on one of her teeth (dedication). 
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
Lipa’s look was directly inspired by Cher’s Grammys look from nearly 50 years earlier. For the 1974 award show, the singer wore a white bandeau top (another trend at the Oscars red carpet!) fixed with a large blue-and-pink butterfly pin, a matching maxi skirt, and a sheer white shawl. Her hair was adorned with an even large butterfly clip. As it was her first public appearance with then-boyfriend David Geffen, following her divorce from Sonny Bono, many presumed the butterflies were a symbol of her freedom. They hold a meaning for Lipa, too: "There was a lot of symbolism for me this year with butterflies and it's also very symbolic for Versace and Donatella, too," she told E! News on the red carpet. (Butterflies are also currently trending in fashion.)
Between Zendaya’s Valentino gown at the Oscars and Lipa’s Versace number at the Grammys, Cher’s influence was strong on the 2021 red carpet circuit. It’s too bad award season is over, because, with looks this good, we would have loved to see more A-listers taking cues from one of fashion’s most iconic dressers. 

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