The politics of red-carpet repeating

Cate Blanchett wears the same dress twice. Here’s why it’s important…but shouldn’t be
The politics of red-carpet repeating

Cate Blanchett revived an Armani Privé gown from 2014 for Cannes Film Festival

Picture the scene: you’re a two-time Oscar-winner, you’ve just been named head juror at Cannes Film Festival, and you have the world’s most coveted designers on speed dial. What’s your next move? For Cate Blanchett, it was as simple as fishing the black lace Armani Privé gown she wore at the Golden Globes in 2014 out from the back of her wardrobe to wear at the opening ceremony. Cate protests, "From couture to T-shirts, landfill is full of garments that have been unnecessarily discarded. Particularly in today's climate, it seems wilful and ridiculous that such garments are not cherished and reworn for a lifetime."

Cate wore this Armani Privé for the first time at the Golden Globes in 2014

Taking to the red carpet alongside Kristen Stewart and Jane Fonda in silent protest at the lack of female directors at the festival and speaking out against gender inequality in the film industry, it was perhaps a move to make sure her fashion choices didn’t overshadow this important message. “It just feels like the industry has the same conversation every year,” she sighed in 2014, the same year she debuted the Armani Privé gown. “It just has to shift.”

Another conversation we shouldn’t be having in 2018 is celebrating – or shaming – a woman for wearing the same dress twice. Previously the preserve of Hollywood royalty, the power of social media has made the struggle very real for the rest of us. Yet at the same time fashion is preaching sustainability, purchasing with passion and purpose, eschewing one-season wonders for pieces with a past, present and future, and buying less and choosing well, why is repeating an outfit still worthy of comment?

Grazia Editor in Chief Alison Tay in her favourite dress. Yes, that's still a thing

I’ve always believed in buying emotionally – that clothes have memories, can tell your stories, conjure up old ghosts of past relationships, and capture moments when you’ve never felt more alive. I have a favourite dress – the RIXO London Lucy ruffled floral-print silk crepe de chine midi dress – that I coveted after spotting it in Grazia, purchased after seeing it on my long-time style icon Erin O’Connor, and wore with pride at The Ritz Paris, at a dinner at Ninive in Dubai to launch Net-a-Porter’s Ramadan edit, and again all with different accessories in the company of influencers celebrating the success of Beauty Pop. Was I photographed? Yes. Should it matter? No. And as Editor in Chief of an international fashion magazine, I’d like to think of it as leading from the front to demystify the red-carpet collusion that’s become rife in our realities.

Changing up accessories and hair and make-up will put a new spin on a treasured style

And if all else fails, we could always just be more like Cate and accessorise our looks with a pragmatic dose of couldn’t care less. "Of course you want people to go see the films that you make; of course you want them to enjoy them. But I'm not out there saying, 'Do they like the way I look? Do they like that look on the red carpet?' It’s pathetic, the whole thing about people worrying about what other people are going to think. You have to say, 'This is what I'm doing right now.'"

Photos: Getty Images, Ajith Narendra, Hyku D Photography