A retro rewind and glamorous gowns for the ages at the Oscars

The red carpet style at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood was such a total retro rewind Sunday night that even the boldest-dressed of the bunch (Janelle Monáe, we’re talking to you and your Elie Saab Haute Couture gown) wouldn’t have looked out of place at the 19th Academy Awards, thanks to many throwback silhouette gowns, rich velvet fabrics, details including romantic lace and trailing capes, and sparkling accessories such as jeweled headbands and focus-pulling statement necklaces.

Among the more memorable members of the new Old Hollywood glamour squad in black (or near black) colors were Taraji P. Henson in a custom off-the-shoulder navy velvet Alberta Ferretti gown and dazzling Nirav Modi statement necklace; Kirsten Dunst in a strapless, black Christian Dior Haute Couture gown; Alicia Vikander in a custom black lace Louis Vuitton dress; and Brie Larson, who stood out in a custom strapless black velvet ruffled gown by Oscar de la Renta that was as simple as it was stunning.

Standouts in white included Karlie Kloss in a curve-hugging Stella McCartney gown with cape-like details at the shoulders and Chrissy Teigen in a similarly curve-hugging and caped confection — her long white crepe and mousseline dress adorned with gold embroidery with cape back details coming from Zuhair Murad’s spring 2017 couture collection.

Naomie Harris similarly stunned in a white strapless sequin dress by Calvin Klein (the brand actually dressed three of Harris’ “Moonlight” costars as well, marking the first big red carpet push since designer Raf Simons took the helm as chief creative officer of the fashion label). 

And a few of the night’s retro romantic looks were black and white. One came courtesy of Michelle Williams, who took the plunge with a Louis Vuitton dress that combined a black plunging neckline top with an embellished white skirt.

Another was Emma Roberts, who managed to be on trend and still send a message about sustainable style by wearing a plunging neckline spaghetti strap crystal and jet embroidered couture Armani Privé dress from the designer’s very first Privé collection in 2005. (Roberts wore the vintage dress as part of Suzy Amis Cameron’s 8-year-old Red Carpet Green Dress eco-friendly frock awareness campaign.)

Ruth Negga’s retro look was inspired by a time long before Hollywood’s Golden Age. She worked with stylist Karla Welch to create a look Welch described to the Hollywood Reporter as “a pagan goddess look,” thanks to a custom red Valentino Haute Couture gown, especially designed for the actress by creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli and accessorized with jewelry from L.A.-based Irene Neuwirth, featuring Gemfields responsibly sourced Mozambican rubies for a headpiece, earrings and ring that made her look regal — and absolutely timeless. 

It’s hard to know exactly what was behind the retro rewind vibe of this year’s Academy Awards, but the takeaway — at least to those of us watching the red carpet arrivals — was of an entertainment industry trying to escape, at least wardrobe-wise, to the “good old days” — or at least, to an era that’s not as fraught as the current one. And that sends a message just about as clear as the blue ACLU support ribbons pinned to the chest of Negga’s dress and Kloss’ hip.

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.  

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