For the first time in the history of red carpets, the trend of the evening will not be nude-hued dresses in mermaid hemlines. It will be black dresses, black tuxedos, and black jumpsuits — a colour that’s long been associated as a symbol of protest. That’s no accident. It was the uniform for Black Panthers, Black Widows, and witches; a colour for people in mourning or in memorialisation, who want to be taken seriously above all else. Ironically, it’s also a colour used to fade into the background for celebrities, especially — in theatre schools, wearing “blacks” during class strips an actor of identity to embody any character. But for the first major convention of Hollywood elites since the #metoo movement castrated some of its most powerful players, where Golden Globes women should be announcing their triumph and their resilience, the red carpet will be blanketed in black.
“I’ve heard pretty much every single person will be wearing black, whether you’re doing the lights to if you’re the caterer,” stylist Jordan Grossman tells me. (While she’s styled Chrissy Metz in the past, Grossman does not have any clients who will be attending this year’s Globes.) “The feeling is that if you don’t wear black you’re basically out of Hollywood.”
Hollywood Reporter wrote that Los Angeles showrooms are being depleted of their black dresses, and stylists like Ilaria Urbinati have committed to the theme for all her clients. I reached out to eight celebrity stylists with clients who are nominated for awards to comment — usually responsive, all uncharacteristically did not respond or declined to comment, evidence of the unusual lose-lose payoff of this year’s red carpet. Ironically, in a moment that was created for making a statement, the wear-black request has established another culture of silence.
The #wearblack request was the first revealed component in a staggering multi-part initiative called Time’s Up that was published in totality yesterday. To correct gender inequality in Hollywood and blue-collar industries, around 300 women have pledged money, time, and leadership to create a legal defence fund, lobby for legislation to penalise delinquent companies, secure promises for wage parity — all crucial, intersectional actions to take to fight gender-based discrimination. They also recommended supporting celebrities show up to the Globes in black. “For years, we’ve sold these awards shows as women, with our gowns and colours and our beautiful faces and our glamour,” Time’s Up member Eva Longoria told The New York Times. “This is a moment of solidarity, not a fashion moment.”
But if that’s the case, if the Golden Globes red carpet should truly be treated as a show of strength against gender imbalance — fashion be damned — then shouldn’t men and women show up in clothing that demonstrates their dissatisfaction with an awards show that didn’t nominate a single female director? Why stop at black dresses? Wouldn’t jeans and a T-shirt get across that point more directly? No matter the intent, the perception of saying that a red carpet is not a fashion moment is an empty gesture when you’re also dressed in couture. Is it any different than spending over £500 on a shirt that asks us all to be feminists or receiving a white bandana to wear to an invite-only Fashion Week show? It’s asking to be applauded for standing for something, without actually having to do much work at all. At its best, wearing black is a fashion gimmick that doesn’t match the significance and consideration of the other Time’s Up initiatives.
In a now-deleted Twitter post, actress Rose McGowan took Meryl Streep to task for not speaking out about the kind of workplace sexual bullying and gender discrimination perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein, while still committing to wear black: “Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black @Golden Globes in a silent protest. YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change,” she wrote. “I despise your hypocrisy.”
Forced to respond, Meryl Streep delivered a condemnation of her longtime collaborator, but also offered a rationalisation for her complicity. “Not everybody knew,” she said later in a statement to The Huffington Post, pointing to absence of investigative reporting around the subject, to explain that her silence was excusable. But in an interview with The Times, Streep seemed to suggest that her silence was not just justified — it was also righteous: “Now that people are older, and more sober, there has to be forgiveness, and that’s the way I feel about it. […] I don’t want to ruin somebody’s mature life.”
However you feel about the drama shaking out on Twitter and in news clips, the conundrum is clear: Participate, and you’re a performative feminist. Don’t, and you’re a scab.
Perhaps in any other year, for any other cause, wearing black on the red carpet would be universally celebrated — who could fault you for standing with victims of gender inequality? But, our ability to stomach T-shirt activism has diminished. Feminism might have been the biggest fashion trend of the year, but men are hired to direct top-grossing movies over women at a rate of 22:1 — and that stat hasn’t budged in 11 years. Women we thought were once invulnerable were shown to be victims of the men who make some of our most beloved movies. We know who did what, what happened to the victims, and how it was allowed to persist, all in excruciating, familiar detail. That is a specific horror that can’t be symbolised by one trend for all women — and it should definitely not be memorialised with the diamonds and stilettos sure to accompany these dresses.
So, what should people wear? Nothing understated. Nothing sombre. Nothing silent. Women should choose colour, shine, and personality as brilliant as they are. They should adorn themselves in armour and full pageantry — and pick dresses that men would hate, but women would love. Judging from the Instagram account of celebrity stylist Kate Young whose clients include Golden Globe nominee Michelle Williams among three other attendees, there will at least be some who choose to forgo black for something more glorious. After all, #metoo is not about mourning the darkness that has passed. It’s about seeing what’s possible when that blackness is gone.