Between #MeToo and #TimesUp, the red carpet has seen an unprecedented change. But does it make a tangible difference?

Awards season is well underway. Having kicked off 2018 with the Golden Globes, the red-carpet tone has now been set and there’s a lot to expect from the festivities to come. Between the Globes and the Grammys and oh-so-many hashtags – #MeToo, #TimesUp and last year’s #AskHerMore; each campaign seeking, in its own way, gender equality – we’ve seen a social-media-enforced power shift. Red-carpet fashion is transcending, but by no means abandoning, the commercial contracts and brand-to-talent relationships that have long ruled, and it’s a delight to observe.

At the Golden Globes, women arrived in pairs, hundreds dressed entirely in black. Eight of those most visible on the red carpet – Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Emma Stone, Emma Watson, Michele Williams – brought a fellow activist as their guest. Both statements were part of an initiative led by Time’s Up, an organisation funding legal defence to women across the world.

Angela Bassett taking the ‘royal attire’ dress code at the Black Panther premiere seriously

These women stood in groups for their photocalls, in solidarity – their symbolic sombre uniforms effused strength and solidarity, overshadowing the usual markers of award-ceremony success: physical perfection. The most memorable appearances of the night belonged instead to those who spoke loudest: Natalie Portman went off autocue when presenting the award for Best Director, adding: “And here are the all-male nominees.” While Oprah Winfrey’s speech, praising the women who came forward against Harvey Weinstein, landed her with a standing ovation. Back outside with the paparazzi, even E! had flipped the script from the usual “Who are you wearing?” to “Why are you wearing black?”, proving that even the biggest culprits of objectification were capable of asking her more. Though it’s worth noting that their outmoded Glambot still hovered nearby at all times, recording in slow-mo the twirls, sparkles and spins of each politically charged ensemble.

Some people missed the point, of course. In the run-up, Justin Timberlake posted a selfie with his wife, actress Jessica Biel, captioned: “Here we come!! And DAMN, my wife is hot! #TIMESUP #whywewearblack.” A bit off the mark. While E! cut sharply from its interview with #MeToo founder Tarana Burke to slow-mo gaze up and down Dakota Johnson’s sparkling black velvet Gucci gown. There’s no doubt that old habits will die hard.

All of this texture and nuance upped the stakes for future ceremonies, begging more of these IRL public happenings in an age where online public stands have become the new norm. It was only a matter of time before we began asking more from these live events containing so many megastars under one physical roof.

Yara Shahidi in regal Etro

And so it was at the Grammys, too. A subtler uniform came by way of white roses, worn by guests and performers as a symbol of “hope, peace, sympathy and resistance” according to the email campaign that instigated the gesture. Performances got political as well. Janelle Monáe introduced a performance by Kesha, proudly exclaiming: “To those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: #TimesUp. We say Time’s Up for pay inequality, discrimination or harassment of any kind, and the abuse of power.” Hillary Clinton then narrated an extract from the best-selling Trump takedown, Fire and Fury.

Janelle Monáe in Christian Siriano

At the Hollywood premiere for Marvel movie Black Panther, the red carpet – or in this case, the purple one – offered an apt celebration of what marks an overdue shift in Hollywood diversity. The film, with its predominantly black cast playing Afrofuturist aristocracy, prompted a dress code on the night demanding “royal attire.” It did not disappoint: Lupita Nyong’o wore a purple Versace gown with a jewelled harness; Yara Shahidi wore an ethereal Etro tunic dress; Janelle Monáe a puffed Christian Siriano gown with golden crown. It was a jubilant play on the red-carpet parade, a celebration of the changing face of both Hollywood and culture.  

So what do the Oscars hold? How will the Academy reflect the “elephant not in the room” as presenter Seth Myers described Harvey Weinstein on the night of the Golden Globes? Of all the award ceremonies, Weinstein and his company Miramax are, after all, most deeply entwined with the Oscars circuit. Could a small gesture like the Grammys’ white rose really be enough? Can adopting a colour code really change the world? It’s a complex conversation and the rules aren’t written yet – but it’s one we’ve got to have. Why not start at the entrance?

Photos: Getty Images