A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, fashionistas such as Marie Denee are yearning for some escapism through the red carpet even as the glamour and drama will be served virtually.
“Right now, we’re in sports bras, fancy caftans, sweats or matching sets in the home,” said Denee, the Atlanta-based founder of a digital plus-size fashion platform called the Curvy Fashionista. “I may not want to put on a gown to go into the grocery store, but I would love to look at one.”
Ahead of this unconventional awards season, The Times compiled 20 major red-carpet looks from the last two decades. Because the timeline commences in 2001 with a focus on Hollywood awards ceremonies, there are notable exclusions, including Jennifer Lopez’s revealing green Versace dress from the 2000 Grammys and showstoppers worn by Beyoncé and Rihanna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s various galas.
Still, these selected looks have catapulted careers, kicked off trends, launched memes and simply looked stunning.
Julia Roberts in Valentino at the Oscars in 2001
Credit for picking Julia Roberts’ vintage Valentino design for the 2001 Oscars should go to her niece, Emma Roberts, who also concocted a funny nickname for the sleek black gown accented with white stripes. “I was like, ‘You should wear the skunk dress,’” Emma Roberts told E!’s Ryan Seacrest in a red-carpet interview at the Academy Awards in 2017. “And she ended up winning [an Oscar].”
Björk in Marjan Pejoski at the Oscars in 2001
By donning a swan dress from Marjan Pejoski and pretending to lay a giant egg at the 2001 Oscars, Björk pioneered using the red carpet as a performance-art venue. As Melanie Minichino, a Los Angeles-based actress who in 2016 stitched Halloween costumes inspired by the swan-clad songstress for herself, her husband and their then-1-year-old daughter, put it, “When [Björk] did that, there wasn’t Lady Gaga [around]. That was a big deal, and it was so memorable.”
Halle Berry in Elie Saab at the Oscars in 2002
In 2002, Halle Berry made entertainment and fashion history. The “Monster’s Ball” thespian became the first Black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar. She also picked an unforgettable burgundy gown by a once-obscure designer named Elie Saab, who has since flourished as a go-to red-carpet designer.
Lady Gaga in Armani Privé at the Grammys in 2010
At the 2010 Grammys, Lady Gaga accelerated her ascent as a high-end fashion star in a celestial-inspired dress made for her by Armani Privé.
Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford at the Oscars in 2012
Thirteen years after garnering an Oscar as an ingenue in a bubblegum-pink dress by Ralph Lauren, Gwyneth Paltrow took a sophisticated turn at the 2012 Oscars in a white column dress by Tom Ford with a matching cape.
Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Couture at the Oscars in 2013
Before tripping on her way to collect an Oscar in 2013 for her work in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Jennifer Lawrence captivated viewers in her pale pink Dior Couture gown that hugged her statuesque figure, then puffed into a voluminous skirt.
Lupita Nyong’o in Prada at the Oscars in 2014
After an impressive first-time awards season, Lupita Nyong’o accepted an Oscar in 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave” in an ethereal sky-blue gown by Prada. A month later, the Kenyan Mexican actress was named a brand ambassador by French beauty brand Lancôme.
Emma Stone in Lanvin at the Golden Globes in 2015
Emma Stone arrived at the 2015 Golden Globes in a strapless Lanvin jumpsuit, heralding the proliferation of pants on the red carpet among celebrities such as Yara Shahidi and Taylor Swift.
Laverne Cox in Prabal Gurung at the SAG Awards in 2016
Inspiring a GIF is one indicator that a dress has made an impression. That’s what happened to Laverne Cox’s custom wine-colored dress, enhanced with cutouts and a cape, by Prabal Gurung at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards. “There’s actually a GIF of me walking in that dress,” Cox said in an interview with The Times in 2019. “That’s kind of epic.”
Pharrell in Chanel at the Oscars in 2017
Well before Harry Styles and other men started piling on pearls, singer Pharrell looped several strands of the black gemstones over his Chanel tuxedo at the 2017 Oscars.
Regina King in Christian Siriano at the Emmys in 2018
The neon yellow dress with a curved front that Regina King wore to win her third career Emmy in 2018 was her first custom item from Christian Siriano. The New York-based designer told The Times in 2019 that his studio was drenched in the futuristic color from his spring 2019 collection. “She wanted something that was actually quite simple but powerful,” Siriano said. Plus, the bold color reflected King’s rising Hollywood influence. “You have to be a strong power person because [the color] can overpower you,” he said.
Chadwick Boseman in Givenchy at the Oscars in 2018
In an elaborately beaded shawl collar coat, Chadwick Boseman broke barriers as the first man to wear Givenchy Haute Couture on the red carpet at the 2018 Oscars.
Timothée Chalamet in Berluti at the Oscars in 2018
In a crisp white Berluti tuxedo with slim cropped trousers, Timothée Chalamet showed off his style savvy at the 2018 Oscars. His return in 2020 to the Academy Awards was all the more mystifying because he chose the seemingly opposite, a navy Prada zip-up jacket and matching skinny pants, which spurred the internet to roast him as a hipster valet.
Cardi B in Mugler at the Grammys in 2019
In 2019, rapper Cardi B foreshadowed social distancing by gliding into the Grammys in Thierry Mugler’s shell-inspired pink satin and black velvet dress that flared out in the back a couple of feet.
Gemma Chan in Valentino at the Oscars in 2019
Gemma Chan’s bright pink gown by Valentino merged fashion and function, featuring a high ruffled neck, flowing train and pockets, in which the “Crazy Rich Asians” actress stashed cookies at the 2019 Oscars.
Billy Porter in Christian Siriano at the Oscars in 2019
Billy Porter’s custom tuxedo gown by Siriano made waves beyond the 2019 Oscars. Not only did Google report that Porter was its most searched person on the red carpet that year, but he also wore the black velvet design on the classic children’s show “Sesame Street.”
Lizzo in Atelier Versace at the Grammys in 2020
Lizzo elevated plus-size fashion in an all-white Versace ensemble at the 2020 Grammys. Complemented by a faux fur stole, the strapless dress melded a corset bodice, high slit and hand-embroidered Swarovski crystals. “When we see plus people on the red carpet, we may get arms covered up. We may get fit-and-flared [dresses],” style expert Marie Denee said. “Seeing that type of excitement with someone like Lizzo, who has been unapologetic, bold and comfortable in her skin, brought a level of fun and fashion and glam that needed to happen.”
Lil Nas X in Versace at the Grammys in 2020
Medusa heads, a harness under a cropped jacket, a cowboy hat and boots — Lil Nas X didn’t skimp on the details in his hot-pink Versace get-up at the 2020 Grammys. There’s also a kid-friendly version of the electrifying attire. For Lil Nas X’s children’s book, “C Is for Country,” illustrator Theodore Taylor III drew the rapper wearing the pink jacket over a yellow tee.
Janelle Monáe in Ralph Lauren at the Oscars in 2020
Aiming to tell a story through her clothes at last year’s Oscars, Janelle Monáe sought to draw inspiration from Ralph Lauren’s classic silhouettes and “futurize them,” according to her stylist, Alexandra Mandelkorn. Some 168,000 Swarovski crystals on her hooded gown with a peekaboo back helped her do that. “We also drew inspiration from Prince’s glittering hooded Oscar look,” Mandelkorn wrote in an email to The Times, “and most importantly, Janelle wanted a gown that was inspired by her ancestors, where she was the glittering reflection of all their bright and shining lights.”
Zendaya in Armani Privé at the Emmys in 2020
Despite the absence of a red carpet at the virtual 2020 Emmys, Zendaya made a dramatic entrance — and a historic win for her lead role in “Euphoria” — in her custom Armani Privé gown, which paired an embellished bandeau and a black skirt covered with powder-pink polka dots.
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