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How Political Statements on the Red Carpet Have Evolved

The red carpet is famous for the glitz and the glamour and has become a spectacle for the world to talk about. Throughout 2018, Hollywood red carpet ceremonies became synonymous with attendees dressing in all black in support of the ‘Time’s Up’ movement.

This has been the grandest and most recognised political statement on the red carpet in years due to its mass turn out and widespread media coverage, however, politicising the red carpet is nothing new and has been a natural place for celebrities to draw attention to causes close to them for decades.

In 1973, Cher famously refused to follow conservative red carpet dress codes when she wore a sheer, midriff-baring dress to the Academy Awards.

Here’s some more examples when celebrities used the red carpet to promote a positive message.

Blacked out – Time’s Up

Celebrities including Meryl Streep and Justin Timberlake turned the red carpet into a sea of black outfits at the 2018 Golden Globes, when standing in solidarity with the ‘Times Up’ movement. Conversations between journalists and celebrities shifted from questions about fashion to issues surrounding women’s rights.

Actress Connie Britton wore a sweater saying ‘Poverty is sexist’ to highlight the fact women are not economically equal to their male counterparts. The 2018 Hollywood red carpet ceremonies were so iconic as both female and male celebrities wore black, showing that the whole industry was standing together and that change needed to happen immediately. The ‘Time’s Up’ movement was prominent on the red carpet in 2019 with celebrities wearing a black or white ribbon with the words ‘Time’s Up’ written on it.

The famous meat dress

Lady Gaga’s famous appearance at the 2010 MTV video music awards gained lots of media attention and was widely talked about. She wore an Alexander McQueen dress made from raw beef which is referred to as the ‘meat dress.’ Gaga explained in several interviews that the dress conveyed a powerful political statement surrounding the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.

The singer linked her 2010 red carpet look to her speech ‘The Prime Rib of America’, urging the US military not to discriminate against gay and lesbians from serving in the army.

Suited and booted

Traditionally women have been expected to wear a dress, yet many females have walked the red carpet wearing a suit – an effective way of making a political statement. In 1990, Julia Roberts drew attention to herself when she attended the Golden Globes in an oversized suit designed for a man. During the ’90s it was truly out of place for a female to wear a suit.

Evan Rachel Wood also gained attention for wearing a suit to the Golden Globes in 2017. She vowed she would wear a suit to every award show and red carpet event following that year. She wore her suit as a political statement to let young girls and women know that dresses weren’t a requirement.


Many celebrities have opted for more subtle ways to get their political statements across in the past. The red ribbon first gained prominence in 1992 in support of AIDS awareness and has been a staple accessory at the Grammys for nearly three decades.

Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Tom Hanks have been seen to have a ribbon pinned to their dresses and tuxedos. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins sported the red ribbon at the 1993 Oscars to raise awareness for the 266 HIV positive Haitians who were being held at Guantanamo. The red ribbon was especially important in showing solidarity as a few years previous there has been little acceptance towards sufferers of the AIDS epidemic.

Spelling it out

Whilst clothing and accessory choices have been used as political statements on the red carpet, in 2017 ‘The Big Bang Theory’ actor Simon Helberg and his wife Jocelyn Towne both made a bold statement at the SAG awards. This political statement condemned Donald Trump’s executive order which temporarily banned all refugees from entering the US. Helberg carried a sign which stated ‘Refugees Welcome’, whilst Towne had the words ‘Let Them In’ written above her chest.

Has the red carpet fuelled political change?

The answer is most certainly yes.

Whilst the red carpet is a great place for fashion inspiration, it is also a great place to raise awareness about political issues and steer conversations in a certain way. Celebrities have the privilege to use their platform in such a positively to make a change for the rest of society.

As celebrities have a mass following of fans and huge media coverage, lots of people and organisations are able to get on board with their political campaigns and fuel positive change.


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