By the time the Oscars rolls around, the red carpet can feel a bit like Groundhog Day. It's the same awkward questions about how nervous stars are, the same dozen fashion labels name-dropped, and the same versions of the same blush-hued princess dress. But things have been different this year.
It started with the #TimesUp blackout during January's Golden Globes, where a missive to wear all black to protest gender disparity resulted not only in some uniquely stunning looks — from Tracee Ellis Ross' satin turban to Clare Foy's Stella McCartney suit — but also in a unprecedented show of solidarity. For the first time, nearly everyone in Hollywood agreed that the red carpet could be a place to bring attention to real feats of activism. The icing on the cake was that it firmly established the connection between what actors wear and what they have to say. During each subsequent awards, it became clearer that the public began to expect that the clothing actresses wore would be a way to talk about the issues they care about. For fashion people, this was a moment to celebrate. We've always known that clothes should communicate something. But for that idea to become a cultural norm has done something amazing for the red carpet.
So, tonight's fashion speaks volumes about the topics at the forefront of conversation: The strength of women. The talent of black creatives. The beauty of originality. The way women's talents seem to blossom with experience. While there may not be one color that everyone is wearing tonight (for better and worse), we're stoked to see that women and men are using the red carpet as a platform rather than just a photo op. Click ahead to see our favorite looks that are closing out a season to remember.