Whether snubbing female directors or people of colour, this year’s Golden Globes did not represent culture at its most progressive. On first glance, the red carpet also appeared to have regressed. Two years after Hollywood’s women wore black in solidarity with abuse survivors – and on the eve of Harvey Weinstein’s trial – there was not so much as a visible Time’s Up pin.
It was cheering, then, that the biggest fashion trend of the night could not have less to do with the male gaze. It was Big Sleeve Energy, a power move straight from the Tudor court.
Giant sleeves were a winning look for Olivia Colman, who channelled Henry VIII in red Emilia Wickstead. Cate Blanchett wore buttercup-pleated balloon sleeves by Mary Katrantzou, while Zoey Deutch wore a Fendi jumpsuit with air-filled yolk-yellow poet sleeves. Dakota Fanning’s versions were waterwings recreated in lilac tulle.
Such gargantuan puffs of fabric, also worn by actors such as Bel Powley and Kaitlyn Dever, probably made air-kissing a little challenging. But the sleeves were more than buffers. If the bodies beneath the dresses tended, predictably, towards the skinny Hollywood ideal, these outfits at least ensured their wearers took up space.
In a virtuoso power move that made everyone else look basic, Beyoncé turned up late and missed the red carpet. She wore gold shoulder explosions so huge and cushiony that Twitter users wondered whether she could have napped on them, which may have come in handy during Joaquin Phoenix’s speech.
Often, they were paired with voluminous dresses, as in the case of Jodie Comer’s green sleeves, which were quite Anne of Cleves. The silhouette of the actor’s forest-coloured satin number, by Mary Katrantzou, drew comparisons both to Baby Yoda and the pink bath bomb of a frock that made her Killing Eve character, psychopath Villannelle, a fashion plate.
There were other cheering trends on the carpet. Pockets – an aspect of clothing with an unexpected feminist history – were present, with Margot Robbie and Ana de Armas proudly thrusting their hands into theirs.
Sideboob was notably absent. There was the odd bit of visible underwear, but it was presented in interesting ways. Gwyneth Paltrow wore a see-through gown whose voluminous shape and unusual colour – the same shade as a cacao smoothie, appropriately enough for wellness’s supreme leader – did not seek to be obviously sexy. Charlize Theron looked like a superhero in a one-shouldered Dior gown – the same bright green as the jacket of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments – with a boned black corset top beneath and a billowing black cape.
Jennifer Lopez knows how to win on the internet using fashion. See, for example, her canonical move of self-reference on the Versace catwalk last September – and her Valentino gown, with its oversized gold and green bow, appeared to be conceived with memes in mind. (A Twitter user compared her to Jude the Apostle.)
Billy Porter – who challenged gender stereotypes last awards season by wearing a tuxedo with a huge bell skirt – wore a white tuxedo with a long feathered train carried behind him by a stylist-cum-bridesmaid. Many others seemed inspired by his gown-cedo. Women including Glenn Close, in navy-blue Armani Privé, Cynthia Erivo, in shimmering Thom Browne, and Awkwafina – the first Asian-American woman to win a Golden Globe award for best actress – wore tuxedo/blazer/dress hybrids.
Michelle Williams’s powerful pro-choice speech was complemented by her quirky Louis Vuitton gown, in the very Van Gogh, hopeful and spring-like colour combination of orange and blue. The outfit also had significant commercial purpose, being paired with Tiffany jewellery. Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH agreed a deal in November to buy Tiffany – so clearly the red carpet industrial complex is still in full swing.
Sadly, almost entirely missing from Golden Globes proceedings was any hint of sustainable fashion. After the British Fashion Awards in December, at which a heartening number of attendees wore rented or vintage gowns, similar progress could have been expected in Hollywood – particularly on a night overshadowed by the impact of the climate crisis. Even Ricky Gervais was moved to a microsecond of sincerity, asking the audience to “please donate to Australia”. The ceremony had switched to vegan food, but this was hardly seismic stuff. So far, only Phoebe Waller-Bridge has talked about repurposing her outfit, pledging to auction her tweed Ralph & Russo suit to raise money for Australian fire relief.
Given the red carpet’s huge cultural influence it would be brilliant to see progress on sustainability later this awards season, but I won’t hold my breath. After all, it’s called capitalism, Brenda, look it up.