Sideboob, underboob, the double thigh-to-waist slit and the “naked dress” — there was a point last year when the only possible sartorial avenue left open to the red carpet crowd was full nudity. When Instagram relaxed its policy on nipples in October, the sight of starkers starlets signing autographs in the buff seemed a foregone conclusion — the threat of being thrown off the social media platform had been the only thing holding them back.
However, at Sunday night’s Golden Globes in Los Angeles, something was different; the women were wearing dresses. And not just sheer lace in the shape of dresses, but opaque-even-under-bright-lights, nothing-to-see-here dresses. The sort that could be worn with a normal pair-of-pants-shaped pair of pants rather than the (for want of a better description) plastic nether-stirrup that Kendall Jenner had to endure for those abdomen-high slits.
That isn’t to say it was a staid parade, simply that the bodily hollows more usually known only to your partner and acupuncturist remained under wraps — although plenty of stars chose to highlight them in more subtly suggestive ways.
Jennifer Lawrence’s scarlet Dior couture gown featured a cropped bib over low-key cut-outs at waist height, positioned just at the flattering sweet spot before ribs give way to stomach proper, a site unchanged by the consumption of lunch or dinner.
Lady Gaga’s bespoke black velvet Versace might have come with exaggerated hips worthy of a Fritz Lang fembot, but it concealed more than it revealed. Brie Larson’s glittering golden halterneck by Calvin Klein was no lower at the back than the average bikini, while the front view showed but a thin slice of upper waist — seemingly the celebrity erogenous zone du jour. (The money slot? The primetime rib?)
Red carpet dressing in 2015 was all about blowing one’s own trumpet, but in 2016 clearly it’s enough simply to intimate that one has a trumpet worth blowing.
It was the rising stars who proved the rule most symbolically; Saoirse Ronan and Alicia Vikander arrived in virginal white — Grecian-draped by Saint Laurent and apron-front Louis Vuitton respectively. They were the most modern-looking of the lot, testament to the timeless elegance of a woman wearing a dress that she can walk in and that you can’t see her bum through. Special mention in this category also goes to Julianne Moore in floor-length midnight blue sequins by Tom Ford (maximum fashion points for long sleeves too).
Even the normally naked candidates toed the line. Katy Perry was in very tight, very low-cut Pepto-Bismol pink Prada (practically a burka compared with her quotidian), while Jennifer Lopez concealed her most famous asset beneath a mustard Giambattista Valli wrapped skirt and matching cape, although one leg repeatedly made a bid for autonomy, Angelina Jolie-style.
The comedian Amy Schumer, for all that she might be queen of the gross-out as well as of the deliberately inappropriate pelmet skirt, surprised onlookers in a monochrome gown so modest it bordered on monastic — in fact, her habit-esque gown even had a pocket for her rosary (and her cigarettes).
She was one of a number of stars who put their faith in the power of optical illusion, the red carpet being the ultimate destination for the sort of magic-eye fashion trickery that shaves a few inches off waists and bums by making perspective work hard. The most famous example was Kate Winslet’s silhouette-whittling Stella McCartney gown of several years ago, but Schumer’s Prabal Gurung had the same effect, as did the spray of sequins cascading down one side of Amy Adams’s tomato-red Versace number and Winslet’s cobalt blue cross-front (this time by Ralph Lauren). Not, of course, that any of them needed much help in the first place.
On to the directional outliers. Amber Heard’s pretty pink gown with its rosebud-adorned neckline will get the fashion vote by dint of being from the label of the moment, Gucci, and he-who-can-do-no-wrong, the designer Alessandro Michele. Elsewhere, Rooney Mara in Alexander McQueen resembled a porcelain doll engaged in an elegant stand-off with a sea anemone. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s lino print Marc Jacobs was half Josephine Baker, half Princess Margaret, and an early candidate for the most 2016 dress of 2016 gong, given we’re awaiting TV series about both these women this year.
However, Cate Blanchett scoops dress of the night for her Givenchy gown, which looked as if it had been spun from sugar and fringed with unicorn mane. Speaking of which, Emilia Clarke could have come straight from the Game of Thrones set in her caped Valentino.
Any quibbles concerned modernity rather than problems of taste. Kirsten Dunst was undeniably glamorous in a black Valentino gown, but the amount of chest on show (not cleavage exactly, but a solar plexus landing strip that could work as a third-runway solution) felt a little passé. Likewise, Kate Hudson’s abs game was strong in a putty-pink sequinned Michael Kors skirt and bandeau top, but the acreage of flesh was unnecessarily retro. Still, not many people’s stomachs look like that in early January — perhaps she simply had to share it with us.
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