Best dressed on the red carpet in 2017

Rachel Marie Walsh narrows down the best of this year’s red carpet looks.    

Ruth Negga in Givenchy Couture at the Golden Globe Awards

Ruth Negga in Givenchy Couture at the Golden Globe Awards.

Ruth Negga’s stylist Karla Welch topped The Hollywood Reporter’s list of 2017’s most powerful stylists.

Power, in this context, stems from one’s ability to turn a red-carpet ingenue into #MegaNegga in one awards season.

Ruth’s impressed fashion pundits all year, eschewing traditional pretty in favour of challenging vintage Valentino and Chanel.

Vintage selections charm experts while contributing to a brand’s prestige by emphasising their heritage.

Any actress can look pretty in a designer dress, the implication here is that both star and stylist have studied up a bit and are celebrating what makes a couturier special.

There may also be a link established between the young star and Hollywood legends of old, reinforcing the brand’s relationship with Hollywood for a new generation.

Welch called the silver Givenchy she wore to the Globes “modern armour” but no barbs needed deflection.

Brie Larson in Oscar de la Renta at the Academy Awards

Brie Larson in Oscar de la Renta at the Academy Awards.

Black gowns are often dull but this de la Renta made Brie Larson luminous.

The beautiful (if weighty-looking) full-body ruffle and tulip bodice must be hard to keep straight while walking but look super-romantic in the Oscar pics.

Shoes are usually under wraps but the split front reveals her Aquazzura sandals.

Stylist Cristina Ehrlich started off in television and understands clients as unique fashion characters, according to a 2016 THR interview.

There is a clean, well-appointed look to her choices that lets Brie’s natural beauty shine.

Brands that view red-carpet as part of their communications strategy help make stylists famous in their own right.

Their relationships can generate side projects like product lines, brand consulting and even reality shows.

Unsurprisingly, many of the biggest names made their bones in glossy magazines or fashion PR.

Jennifer Lawrence in Atelier Versace at the London premiere of Mother!, September 2017

Jennifer Lawrence in Atelier Versace at the London premiere of Mother!, September 2017.

Gianni Versace died twenty years ago in July. His namesake label dominates the red carpet.

A 2013 survey by the New York Times ‘Red Carpet Project’ named it the most-worn red-carpet name of the previous 15 years and THR reports similar abundance since.

Many brands pay-for-wear, but Versace does the best job of making it look like all the most glamorous, celebrated women in the world wear their clothes, whatever the method.

In 2007 the Milanese municipal council dotted the city with design sketches (the first step in a brand’s courting any celebrity) of his most iconic looks.

All this year Versace’s dressed stars in archive or archive-inspired pieces for events around the world in similar celebration.

This couture piece incorporates fine-mesh chainmail, one of the late designer’s signature materials. Jennifer Lawrence, whose influence is such that her haircuts get CNN ’Breaking News’ alerts, is contracted to Christian Dior but breaks on occasion for stunning gowns like this one.

Hailee Steinfeld in Ralph&Russo at the Academy Awards

Hailee Steinfeld in Ralph&Russo at the Academy Awards.

We can all observe how stars are ranked in Hollywood but fashion has its own hierarchy.

Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton et al. establish relationships with stars whose personal brand dovetails with their own.

If an A-list brand’s work is simply purchased by, say, a television actress, it is usually current collection.

A-listers are like next-season billboards that spark buyer and private client interest, which is why there are so many spring prints at winter premieres.

Hayden Panettiere caused a minor stir when she bought a dress by (A+list designer) Tom Ford for the 2014 Golden Globes, confessing to E! News that she’d “wear a plastic bag” designed by the Texan, yet failing to mention the brand had not actually chosen to work with her.

Ford was nice about it (she shared his note on social media), unlike the journalists who outed her store purchase.

The label an actress wears reflects her star power because she is on that label’s ‘level.’

Name association reinforces the label’s status and brand associations telegraph the star’s fashion savvy (which may be contracted anyway) to magazines and may get her stylist work that increases the number of A-list backs the brand covers on the carpet, thus broadening their influence.

Trade recognition still counts for something.

UK couture house Ralph&Russo joined the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (fashion’s top-tier’s governing body) in 2013.

The brand’s signature frothy, heavily hand-embellished gowns have a growing following among young actresses like Hailee Steinfeld, who chose a crystal-covered confection for this year’s Oscars.

Janelle Monáe in Elie Saab at the Academy Awards

Janelle Monáe in Elie Saab at the Academy Awards.

Janelle Monáe’s stylist Maeve Reilly told WWD she “literally cried” when she saw the Moonlight star’s Oscar gown.

Reilly’s website touts her ability to give clients a style ‘brand’ all their own. Monáe’s is generally colourful and masculine but she loves jewellery, says Reilly, and this Elie Saab is a multi-faceted gem.

Saab’s been an Oscars regular since 2002, when he dressed Halle Berry for her Monster’s Ball win.

He and fellow Lebanese designers Zuhair Murad and Reem Acra are famous for red-carpet looks that would be see-through save for lace inserts and hundreds of sequins, feathers and other embellishments.

These dresses are their niche and seasonal changes are not dramatic. All three are open about how celebrities boost sales and they do not even need the hottest star du moment to get orders, just one who looks hot in their signature style.

In a 2016 THR interview, Murad cited Jennifer Lopez, who is fabulous but neither an A-list actress nor much of a fashion influencer, as one a major driver for Middle Eastern clients.

Zendaya Coleman in Dolce and Gabbana at the Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in May

Zendaya Coleman in Dolce and Gabbana at the Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in May.

The Met Gala, fashion’s very own Oscars, exists to generate funds for the museum’s Costume Institute and open the exhibition for which the gala is themed.

Gala chair Anna Wintour’s team teams actresses with designers, so the normal red-carpet hierarchy is disrupted and labels lesser spotted at film events get international attention.

Were millennials aware of ReI Kawakubo before this year’s exhibition (Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between)?

Maybe not, Rihanna’s red ruffled muffin-dress and thigh-strapped sandals certainly met with resistance online.

Actress/singer Zendaya Coleman shunned the avant-garde dress code altogether in favour of this exotic bird-print Dolce gown.

Comme is a hard label to pull off and it takes a lot to stand out at this particular benefit.

Choosing a classic but colourful design and going big from hair to hem-circumference was probably a good move.


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