Brow Beat

The Best Oscar Fashions Weren’t on the Red Carpet. They Were on Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry.

Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry, redefining fashion.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Since the very first ceremony in 1929, when Best Actor winner and future Nazi Emil Jannings showed up at the Roosevelt Hotel in a darling little black dress designed by future Nazi Coco Chanel, the Academy Awards have always been the ideal place to catch a glimpse of the respective futures of fashion, fascism, fascist fashion, and fashion fascism. This year was no exception, as Hollywood’s brightest stars bedazzled the world’s hottest red carpet, each bright, hot actor or hot bright actress an individual sequin in a beautiful, sparkling gown that would almost certainly go full-on Nazi under the right circumstances. But this year, the boldest and most impressive sartorial choices weren’t on the red carpet: They were on the stage, which had no carpet of any color. Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry presented the Academy Award for Best Costume Design wearing outfits that, we can confidently predict, will define the season, the year, and the century to come. Soak in every detail:

Neither McCarthy nor Henry would reveal who they were wearing, but it’s clear that this is either work of one of California’s New Minimalist houses or of a designer who has studied them rigorously. The clean, sharp lines of McCarthy’s dress are reminiscent of Mijeong Park’s spring collection, while the bold colors and vintage fabrics in Henry’s shawl and dress combination can only have come from a Philip Ayler limited run. The theme here is unity: Each individual piece of clothing joins the other parts of the ensemble to produce a unified effect, like individual robot lions forming a larger, more powerful robot named Voltron in order to fight Emperor Zarkon. The result is so harmonious it’s difficult to pick out the individual pieces, which is why you’d be forgiven for missing the subtle allusions to Oscar nominees sewn into the very fabric of the clothing like hidden notes from Reynolds Woodcock. To choose just one example, it’s impossible to imagine Melissa McCarthy’s outfit without the white cowboy hat that tops it off, but only true movie buffs will recognize it as the same white cowboy hat seen in the finale of 1951’s Best Animated Short Gerald McBoing-Boing. Besides that long-overdue shoutout to the Hubleys, the other allusions were to movies featured at this year’s Academy Awards. How many of these iconic pieces of cinematic fashion did you spot?

• The collar and wig from Mary Queen of Scots
• The hat, shawl, and gloves from Mary Poppins Returns
• The gown and the rabbits from The Favourite
• A different dress from The Favourite
• The boots from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
• A bunch of other things that seem like they’re from The Favourite, probably.
• The scruggs from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
• The makeup from Black Panther
• The actress from Can You Ever Forgive Me?

They had everything but the fist from F.I.S.T. It’s clear that once again the Oscars have redefined fashion for us all, with consequences that will gradually ripple down all the way to Anne Hathaway’s cerulean sweater. Start stockpiling glue guns and stuffed rabbits now.

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