Saoirse Ronan’s red carpet evolution

A few short years ago, Irish superstar Saoirse Ronan insisted she wouldn’t wear anything girlie. Carolyn Moore looks at her evolving fashion sense at the award ceremonies.

“Before we met, I said, ‘I don’t wear pink, I don’t wear sparkles, and I don’t wear anything girlie’,” Saoirse Ronan told the Hollywood Reporter of her initial meeting with her stylist of three years, Elizabeth Saltzman.

Now, however, if you were to attempt to find a cohesive thread in the Irish actress’ eclectic fashion choices, pink would surely be it.

Leaning hard into her penchant for pink for the Oscars, this girlish, pretty, if slightly underwhelming Calvin Klein gown capped off an awards season full of sartorial twists and turns.
Leaning hard into her penchant for pink for the Oscars, this girlish, pretty, if slightly underwhelming Calvin Klein gown capped off an awards season full of sartorial twists and turns.

It was no surprise, therefore, to see her fall back on her favourite colour for the Oscars, in a Calvin Klein dress that was in many ways emblematic of the juxtaposition of softness and strength that has come to define her style. While it’s impossible to pinpoint a ‘signature style’ in someone who jumps from a bold Gucci gown one day to the quiet modernity of Calvin Klein tailoring the next, as she’s become increasingly emboldened to try new things, balancing a soft femininity with stronger elements and edgy accents seems to be Ronan’s signature approach.

After a break from the spotlight, and with Oscar hype building, Saoirse made a purposeful red carpet return at last November’s Gotham awards, in feminine but directional Rodarte.
After a break from the spotlight, and with Oscar hype building, Saoirse made a purposeful red carpet return at last November’s Gotham awards, in feminine but directional Rodarte.

She’s come a long way from her Oscars red carpet debut at the age of 13, and she credits Saltzman with pushing her out of her comfort zone and finally making fashion fun. Though the pair have only been working together since Ronan embarked on her Brooklyn press tour in November of 2015, the intensity of two high profile press tours plus two awards season runs – necessitating dozens of different looks – means they are very much in sync.

Setting out her red carpet stall for the season ahead, stylist Elizabeth Saltzman saved this eyepopping pink and orange Gucci gown for January’s Palm Springs Film Festival.
Setting out her red carpet stall for the season ahead, stylist Elizabeth Saltzman saved this eyepopping pink and orange Gucci gown for January’s Palm Springs Film Festival.

Initially, “I didn’t know her and I couldn’t get a read on her style,” Saltzman said last month, revealing on the Business of Fashion podcast that when Ronan’s team approached her about working with the actress on three looks, she said no.

Pulling her first about turn of the season, Saoirse took an edgier route for the New York Film Critics Awards on January 3, in a modern, minimal Calvin Klein trouser suit.
Pulling her first about turn of the season, Saoirse took an edgier route for the New York Film Critics Awards on January 3, in a modern, minimal Calvin Klein trouser suit.

“I don’t do one-offs. I like to have a relationship and work with someone to find the best them; to give them confidence so they don’t have to think about clothes.”

Flipping the switch in a more youthful direction for the AFI Awards on January 5, the asymmetric top and fringed trousers give this Cushnie et Ochs look a playful feel.
Flipping the switch in a more youthful direction for the AFI Awards on January 5, the asymmetric top and fringed trousers give this Cushnie et Ochs look a playful feel.

And it seems confidence is exactly what Ronan was lacking. “The first time I went into Elizabeth’s studio, there were things on the hanger that I thought, ‘oh no, I’m not brave enough to wear that… I could never pull something like that off’,” she told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016; but to see her on the cover of AnOther magazine last month, in voluminous Gucci harem pants and outlandish leg-of-mutton sleeves, it’s clear the stylist has succeeded in coaxing her out of her fashion shell.

It wasn’t meant to be black, but it was always going to be Versace for the Golden Globes. Donatella’s confident, empowering silhouette was on point for the theme of the night.
It wasn’t meant to be black, but it was always going to be Versace for the Golden Globes. Donatella’s confident, empowering silhouette was on point for the theme of the night.

There’s a world of difference between editorial styling and crafting a red carpet fashion persona, but interestingly, Saltzman also revealed to the Business of Fashion that for this awards season, Ronan herself was keen to push her look in a more editorial direction.

Returning to her signature soft blush tones in Michael Kors Collection for the Critics Choice Awards in January, a dark lip drags this Old Hollywood look into the 21st century.
Returning to her signature soft blush tones in Michael Kors Collection for the Critics Choice Awards in January, a dark lip drags this Old Hollywood look into the 21st century.

“She didn’t want to wear just another pretty dress; she wanted to be a little edgier, more true to herself, a bit more editorial,” she told host, Imran Khan of Ronan’s step away from the “whimsical elegance” that defined her in 2016.

Another pop of pink at January’s SAG Awards, and a softer beauty look to complement a custom Louis Vuitton dress with a metallic trim that adds an element of edge.
Another pop of pink at January’s SAG Awards, and a softer beauty look to complement a custom Louis Vuitton dress with a metallic trim that adds an element of edge.

To that end, she’s certainly taken some sartorial risks, and she couldn’t have a better partner in crime than Saltzman, whose editorial experience with Vanity Fair has made her adept at shaping a narrative. With three Oscar nominations under her belt at just 23 years of age, people may be calling her the Irish Meryl Streep, but her red carpet spirit animal is surely Cate Blanchett. Both extraordinarily accomplished, there’s a cerebral edge to the way they dress. Far from seeming like a frivolous pursuit, their willingness to push the envelope with high-end fashion merely adds to their gravitas as serious actresses.

At the Director’s Guild Awards, Raf Simons’ modern take on a fifties-style, full skirted frock for Calvin Klein offered another sartorial surprise from Saoirse, who favours a sleeker silhouette.
At the Director’s Guild Awards, Raf Simons’ modern take on a fifties-style, full skirted frock for Calvin Klein offered another sartorial surprise from Saoirse, who favours a sleeker silhouette.

After an 18-month break from the red carpet, Ronan made a purposeful return to the fashion forum in Rodarte in November; then, on January 2, her appearance in Gucci at the Palm Springs Film Festival cemented her anointment as 2018’s awards season fashion darling. The dress had been tailored for her months earlier, but, Saltzman revealed, “Kept getting bumped because it wasn’t quite right. It was loud and unique; a different story.” When the Palm Springs Film Festival rolled around in January, Ronan’s Oscar nomination was almost a certainty.

This subtly sparkling Chanel dress at the BAFTAs in February was sheer perfection – whimsical, elegant, and darkly romantic, this is how you stand out in a sea of black.
This subtly sparkling Chanel dress at the BAFTAs in February was sheer perfection – whimsical, elegant, and darkly romantic, this is how you stand out in a sea of black.

“We knew this was happening, so we asked, how do we want to start 2018 off, and it was with a bang!” Several sartorial twists and turns later, we’ve seen her navigate the highs and lows of awards season in a who’s who of the world’s most prestigious brands –Versace at the Globes, Louis Vuitton at the SAGs, Chanel at the BAFTAs - augmented with lesser known labels like Cushnie et Ochs, Teresa Helbig and Alexandrine. Admittedly, it’s been hard at times to identify that consistent narrative Saltzberg speaks of, but if there’s been one constant throughout Ronan’s awards season showing it’s that, sadly, supporting Irish design seems to have been taken off her fashion agenda.

Short and sweet, this fun, retro, embellished Prada dress – perfect for the laid back Independent Spirit Awards – represented yet another style shift for our style chameleon in March.
Short and sweet, this fun, retro, embellished Prada dress – perfect for the laid back Independent Spirit Awards – represented yet another style shift for our style chameleon in March.

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