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Fashion With a Purpose

Red carpet fashion – where does it stand in today’s society? Over the years, the highly talked about and anticipated events have become an inescapable spectacle. Is this a good thing? Is it worth the hype?

Many would answer yes, and honestly who could blame them? Red carpet fashion has proved to be an important part of the fashion industry and our society. So, in some ways it’s only fair to give the red carpet the recognition that it deserves. However, it’s not all positives.

The history of the red carpet

In 485 B.C. the Aeschylus play ‘Agamemnon’ shows the first recorded use of the famous, coloured flooring. Within this play, a wife is shown laying out a red carpet ready for her returning Trojan war hero husband. However, upon seeing this he refuses to walk on it due to viewing Gods as the being the only worthy ones. So, how did the red carpet gain its prestigious title?

The tradition started with Sid Grauman who used the red carpet for the first ever Hollywood film premiere in 1922. After this, the evolution of the red carpet continued with Hollywood becoming the carpets biggest connotation. It became the place where the biggest Hollywood stars could be seen and interacted with – a rare and exclusive event.

With the link formed, Hollywood now went hand-in-hand with the carpet overpowering the floors historical names, such as the royals.

The pre-ceremony walk continued to grow in importance, and perhaps became more of the spectacle that we know today, with the 1964 broadcast of the Oscars. It was this awards ceremony that first announced the stars as they arrived and gave them longer airtime.

Although the red carpet is still a Hollywood event, throughout the years many celebrities have used these occasions as an opportunity to make a statement. So, what are some of the red carpet moments that had a powerful message?

The 2018 Golden Globes blackout

This is arguably one of the most well-known red carpet statements and, at the same time, one of the most talked about.

The red carpet blackout was a statement made during the #MeToo and ‘Time’s Up’ movement which highlighted the harassment of women in the entertainment industry. The attendees showed solidarity with the movement by opting to wear all black for the event. This red carpet was a clever form of activism that showed the powerful combination of voice and fashion.

The evening made fashion front and centre of the ‘protest’ instead of just pushing it to the side in name of the cause. The night proved this to be a well thought out decision that really benefited the cause. This is due to the all-round fashion choice changing the focus of the night. Instead of the most-asked question being ‘who are you wearing?’, it was replaced with ‘why are you wearing black?’ This allowed the focus to solely be on the movement which was brought to people’s attention using fashion.

Although it made designers lose out on the publicity, the all-black dress code allowed for them to be challenged creatively.

Billy Porter wearing a tuxedo gown

At the 2019 Academy Awards, Billy Porter wowed the world with his red carpet outfit – a tuxedo gown. Although gender-fluid clothing is rising in popularity, this was the first stand-out moment shown on the red carpet.

In the red carpet environment, men are generally limited to wearing suits which Billy Porter simultaneously went against while still incorporating it. The tuxedo jacket top effortlessly flowed into a long gown allowing the powerful fashion statement to merge the two ‘norms’.

It was a mainstream way of showing this ever-growing movement and is one that Billy Porter has continued to push. In other red carpet events, Porter has carried on delivering barrier breaking looks that start conversations.

Issa Rae at the 2018 CFDA Awards

At the 2018 CFDA Awards, Issa Rae wore an influential outfit that focused on the representation of black people. In this red carpet statement, her belt shocked everyone with a powerful message.

The purpose of this message was to shine a light on the misrepresented race with black people often being shown in a bad light. When questioned about the gown, Kerby Jean-Raymond, the designer, said “We don’t have to be Jay-Z, we don’t have to be Kerby Jean-Raymond, we don’t have to Issa Rae, we can just be who we are and just exist and we’re still superstars in our own rights, no matter what we do.”

Not only did the statement on Issa Rae’s belt send a positive message on the view of black people, but it also helped lift the men and women it impacted.

Lena Waithe at the 2018 Met Gala

The 2018 theme of the Met Gala was ‘Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’. And Lean Waithe certainly used her imagination and took a very unexpected road with her red carpet look.

In the fashion industry, the Met Gala is one of the biggest events that showcases fashion as an art form. So, Lena Waithe taking this opportunity to make such a statement at the most talked about fashion event is inspiring.

Instead of taking the easy option for the 2018 Met Gala theme with designs of the church, Waithe instead opted to call attention to the church’s rejection toward the LGBTQ community. She did this by wearing a black suit with a long, body-encompassing cape inspired by the community’s flag. When asked about this choice in response to the theme, Waithe simply said “God made us all in His image.”

But is it more harm that good?

Red carpet fashion still needs a lot of improvement when it comes to sustainability and inclusivity. With single-use, environmentally damaging outfits and with certain fashion designers still refusing to work with ‘plus-sized’ women, there are areas of this world that need to change – and quickly.

However, as shown above, red carpet fashion has proved itself to be a vital voice in societal movements and the fashion industry as a whole.


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