The Oscars red carpet is one of the most important events of the year when it comes to celebrity image-making. It’s a night when Hollywood’s biggest celebrities know the world is watching them, and so they take the opportunity to tell us who they are and who they want to be. Not through their interviews, necessarily, which tend to be pretty pat, but through their clothes.
It’s a high-pressure night, so the outfits are usually pretty staid from a fashion point of view: There are a lot of pretty, bland gowns and blank, unremarkable suits. But from an image-making point of view, it gets pretty fascinating: Any major celebrity worth their Oscar ticket uses the red carpet to tell us exactly how they want us to think about them. So here are the most interesting image-building moments on this year’s red carpet.
This is a coronation year for comedic actress Tiffany Haddish, who became a bona fide star in the wake of her scene-stealing turn in Girls Trip. She’s taking her victory lap here and accepting the plaudits that are her due, so her headpiece and regal embroidery are not out of place at all. The entire outfit, she’s said, is a tribute to her late father, who was from Eritrea.
Rita Moreno, now on Netflix’s One Day at a Time, is wearing the gown she wore to accept her Oscar for West Side Story in 1962. You can see that she’s ditched the 1962 high neck for a strapless sweetheart neckline and an elaborate collar, and she’s added a chic little turban, but otherwise, it’s a pretty timeless look.
The subtext here is that Moreno herself is timeless. She’s telling us that she is an icon, a Hollywood institution as essential and chic and elegant tonight as she was in 1962 — and personally, I’m not about to argue with her.
Rodriguez has one of her biggest movie roles to date in Annihilation, which came out at the end of February. Here, we’re witnessing the premiere of Gina Rodriguez, movie star, as opposed to Gina Rodriguez, star of the critically beloved but little-watched Jane the Virgin. And Gina Rodriguez the movie star is as glam and sparkly as a glass of champagne. This is classic, old-fashioned glamour, and it’s perfectly suited to her sparkling presence.
This is not a cutting-edge dress, but it is a big statement dress, and you can see that Sorvino chose it strategically. Look at that long, unignorable train: It encourages landscape photos rather than portrait framing, and that means better placement for her in spreads.
Sorvino won an Oscar in 1996 for Mighty Aphrodite, but she largely disappeared afterward for no clear reason. She’s also one of the women who’ve said they were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, and since that accusation went public, multiple filmmakers have said that in the 1990s, Weinstein told them not to hire Sorvino.
“Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying,” Sorvino wrote on Twitter after the news broke. “There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure.”
So this is a bit of a reintroduction for Mira Sorvino after her long absence from the public eye, an absence that we now have reason to believe may have been organized by Weinstein. And she’s dressed to make an impact. This is a “you assholes forgot about me for 20 years and you’re not going to be able to do it again” dress.