The 90th Annual Academy Awards may be the last event of a long award season, but the Time's Up and #MeToo movements are far from over. Unlike the Golden Globes or The Grammy’s, there wasn’t a recommended dress code of black gowns or white roses. But, there was an unofficial color of the night, with a surge of women choosing blush and cream-colored getups for the red carpet. It’s a new color that plays it safe at a time when fashion shouldn’t. They were ethereal and pretty, some with lots of small details you would only notice upon closer inspection, and made all the women who wore them look like bridesmaids at the same wedding.
Those nine women come from all types of acting careers, from all sorts of relationships with #MeToo. Mira Sorvino, who was one one of the dozens of women who came forward with allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein, wore an embroidered Romona Keveža gown as she posed with fellow Weinstein whistleblower Ashley Judd. Also, on the carpet in off-white getups were Allison Williams, Danai Gurira, Gina Rodriguez, Elisabeth Moss, and more. They were as statuesque and stately as they should’ve been, though nothing special. But if three is a trend, then nine is a moment — a type of coincidence that was not just happenstance.
It’s not even that these beige princess-style gowns are a runway trend. But, the dress is so ubiquitous on the red carpet that it’s nearly a cliché. The equivalent of a black cocktail dress for a party, or a navy skirt suit for work, the blush princess dress is a surefire way to fit in while blending in. So, for what has shaped up to be the most forward-thinking season of red carpets in history, why are celebrities trying to be invisible? Or is sticking to tradition a way to shield oneself from a red carpet culture that, currently, is filled with PR landmines? Either way, it would have been powerful to see celebrities put what they’d learned from recent ceremonies to use — that the clothing that you choose can reinforce and support what you have to say.
Sources within the Time’s Up campaign reportedly forewent directing celebrities to wear black or bring activists as guests, with networks like ABC and E! shifting the focus from fashion and politics to the films and designating fashion coverage to a roundtable of apt hosts, respectively. Of the media coverage surrounding the ceremony, president of entertainment of ABC Channing Dungey expressed a desire for a pause: "We certainly want to honor and respect Time’s Up and allow that message to be heard. But we’re trying to make it more planned than spur of the moment,” adding that she hoped every award recipient didn't feel like they had to acknowledge the cultural reckoning independently.
That didn't stop some stars from dressing with past activist dress codes in mind, with Taraji P. Henson wearing a black Vera Wang number (based on the Golden Globes’ #wearblack missive) and Laura Dern in white by Calvin Klein By Appointment (a possible extension from the Grammy’s all-white red carpet). Henson caused a stir on Twitter after checking host Ryan Seacrest on air, who, recently accused of sexual harassment by a former stylist, tempered between questions about designers and movies. But the most powerful garb-to-gab connections came from deeply personal references, like Tiffany Haddish’s epic Eritrean gown she wore to honor her father and her heritage, or Rita Moreno’s homage to herself in the form of rewearing her Oscars dress from 1962, when she won the Best Supporting Actress award for “West Side Story.”
The ubiquity of blush-colored gowns was a missed opportunity, considering just how much discussion of diversity and authenticity was center stage this year, from the monologues to the themes of this year’s nominated films. But, we’re only one award season in, and we’ve yet to see the full potential of what the future of protest fashion could look like, especially when the industry's red carpets are becoming a platform for speech, not just marketing.
Of those who wore dusty pink and beige gowns at last night’s Academy Awards, only a handful of them have added their voice to the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements with their own stories. And it’s worth noting that only two of them were women of color. So, was last night’s sea of beige the chosen color for actresses who consider themselves more of an Activist-Lite than a Nasty Woman? The jury's still out.