On the Oscars red carpet this year, the look was lush. Gowns shone in extravagant textures. Ruffles exploded from hems and multiplied over sprawling trains. Pleats and bustles were in good company. It was a spare-no-expense step into spring, a show of abundance that proved not even global supply chain issues can keep Hollywood from its pretty frivolities.
Kirsten Dunst arrived in eddies of red from head to toe. Aunjanue Ellis, of King Richard, wore a more undone set of ruffles in a rich poppy tone. The unwieldy train of Jada Pinkett Smith’s scrunchy, chunky gown covered the red carpet in swirls of emerald. In custom Gucci, Billie Eilish was in full bedskirt mode.
Ruffles found themselves more contained, but no less dramatic, on Niecy Nash, Rita Moreno (who told E! of her feathered hat, “I put a black wig underneath because I thought, ‘What the hell?’”), and CODA’s Amy Forsyth.
Sculptural elements—by turns sexy, demure, and stately—starred in several gowns. Tracee Ellis Ross’ Carolina Herrera dress featured a tiny seashell bust and arched panels for volume on the bottom. In matte steel-gray Armani Privé, Nicole Kidman wore the only chic, up-to-the-minute peplum that has ever been sewn. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s brutalist masterpiece featured a curious, vaguely biomorphic collection of medallions.
Why wear sleeves when capes exist? West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose wore hers with a brilliantly creased pair of Valentino Couture trousers. Laverne Cox’s was more like a cloud: a voluminous bundle that fluffed behind her like a portable step-and-repeat. Carolina Gaitán, of Encanto, wore a shrug that held its own shape, framing her in sumptuous lengths of satin.
The night’s most opulent textures were a true grab bag of luxury. Lily James’ baby-pink Atelier Versace gown paired lace with tulle for a 1995 jaunt through the Macy’s lingerie department. Alana Haim’s scalloped sparkles came from Louis Vuitton. In addition to sequins, there were finger-length golden rods swinging freely from Lupita Nyong’o’s Prada dress. And Jessica Chastain looked like magic in an ombré Gucci number that saw liquid bronze ooze into holographic lavender, culminating in a rippling hem that added a touch of weight for flow.
Pleats can also flow, adding movement and space, or they can add structure and rigidity. They did both on Sunday. Stephanie Beatriz was a rope bondage goddess in black, while Olivia Colman was angelic in shimmering plissé and wizard sleeves. Serena Williams’ chiffon fluttered, while Megan Thee Stallion’s froze in place, like a periwinkle sfogliatelle.
Tuxedos are plenty dressy—but they’re a little, well, prude. This year, three actors on the red carpet added a much-appreciated smattering of skin to the classic Oscars getup. Kristen Stewart, in bespoke Chanel, channeled Fosse in satin booty shorts, an open tuxedo shirt, and a few honking hunks of gemstones in place of a tie. Timothée Chalamet went topless under his big-shouldered, double-breasted jacket, which traded clean cuffs for a sequined lace overlay. In Valentino Haute Couture, Zendaya wore an uber-cropped satin shirt that still managed to eke out a shirttail hem. Guess they ran out of fabric on Dune?