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5 Red Carpet Looks that Drop my Jaw Every Time (and 5 Looks that Make me Gag)

It’s award show season! Between the Guild Awards and Oscars in March, the Grammys in April and the Emmys in June, there will be countless red carpet looks for us to judge while wearing sweatpants and a free shirt from college welcome week. 

To get into the spirit of the season, I’ve composed a list of five things that drop my jaw every time I see them on the red carpet and five things that make me want to take scissors to the fabric whenever they walk down the carpet.

Things that I love to see on the red carpet

1. elaborate trains

What better way to make an entrance than to have your dress take up the entire red carpet? Trains can be a beautiful continuation of the dress with such intricate details. Whether they’re light and floaty (think Zendaya at the “Spiderman: Homecoming” premiere) or heavy and momentous, trains are an amazing addition to a dress, especially on the Met stairs. Some of my favorites have been from the queens of the Met Gala, Rihanna in Guo Pei at the 2015 Met Gala and Blake Lively in Versace at the 2018 Met Gala. 

2. Vintage Looks

Vintage looks, not just vintage-inspired, are some of the most exciting looks on the red carpet. While it is fun to see new designs every season, the materials, travel and everything else that goes into creating these looks can take a toll on the environment. Vintage outfits may require alterations, but at least they aren’t made of new expensive or unsustainable material. As well, it’s interesting to see how style from years ago can still be relevant and exciting. Some of my favorite vintage looks are Zendaya wearing a dress from Versace’s 1996 fall and winter collection at the 2020 Green Carpet Fashion Awards and Natalie Portman in a 1954 Christian Dior dress at the 2012 Oscars.    

3. shimmery gowns

You simply can not get more glamorous than a long, sparkly, shimmery gown. These dresses are always an immediate stand-out. They look fabulous in any color,any silhouette and on anyone. They can look elegant and refined, like Jessica Chastain’s Armani Privé dress at the 2013 Oscars, or be more trendy and fun, like Dua Lipa’s butterfly Versace dress at the 2021 Grammys. The other great thing about these bright dresses is that they are strong statements, and the hair and makeup can be more natural, making the look very sophisticated. Some of my favorite shimmery dresses on the red carpet are Adwoa Aboah in 2004 Tom Ford for Gucci at the GQ Men of the Year Awards and Rihanna in Adam Selman at the 2014 CFDAs. 

4. bold monochromatic looks

Similar to the shimmery gowns mentioned before, bold monochrome looks work so well on the red carpet because of their simplicity. They can be done in men’s and women’s wear, look good in more simple or intricate looks and are overall very versatile. Looks with two or three bold colors can be just as glamorous (see Taylor Swift’s 2016 Grammys look), but much more than that can get a bit unstable. Some of my favorite bright monochrome looks have been Colman Domingo’s Versace suit at the 2021 Oscars and Zendaya’s Valentino dress at the 2021 Oscars.

5. lady gaga

Is there any celebrity who has as many iconic red carpet looks as Lady Gaga? From her meat dress at the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards and sky-high wig at the 2010 Brit Awards, to her sophisticatedly structured black dress and gloves at the 2019 Oscars and her fabulous purple dress with flowy sleeves at the House of Gucci press tour, Gaga has never disappointed. She always wears a look perfect for the event, but never loses her sense of style and individuality. Two of her most memorable looks have been her arrival at the 2011 Grammys in an alien pod (which she later emerged from during her “Born This Way” performance) and her gorgeous entrance dress at the 2019 Met Gala, as well as the three other looks she wore while co-hosting.

Things that I Hate to see on the Red Carpet

1. floral

While floral looks amazing for brunch, it looks a little out of place on the red carpet and has, frankly, been overdone. Floral usually has very bright and sometimes clashing colors that look awkward on the red carpet. As well, floral can start to look confusing or even wrinkled and rumpled when it is tailored. It certainly makes a statement, but is better when used sparsely, such as in Jennifer Lawrence’s Christian Dior gown at the Venice Film Festival. Some looks that I think especially highlight how busy and unflattering floral can be on the red carpet are Rachel McAdams’ Lanvin gown at the 2016 Golden Globes and Camila Cabello’s dress from Ralph and Russo Couture at the L’Oréal Paris Women Of Worth Awards.

2. extreme cutouts

Cutouts have been rising in popularity in red carpet fashion and in everyday wear for the past few years. They are certainly a great way to make a statement and to elevate a simple piece. Zoe Kravitz’s dress for the Batman premiere, for example, shows how cutouts can completely change a look but still be simple and classy. However, having too many cutouts on a dress can start to look trashy and take a look from the red carpet to the club. Little Black Dresses (LBDs) with barely any fabric are incredibly trendy this year, and not only do they look tacky, but they’re getting old. Some of my least favorites of this dress have been Kate Hudson’s Monet dress at the Venice Film Festival and Ashanti’s Michael Costello dress at the 2021 VMAs.

3. white pantsuits

There is nothing inherently wrong with a white pantsuit, except for the fact that it’s incredibly overdone. Name any celebrity and I can almost guarantee you that they’ve worn a white pantsuit to a red carpet event before. Any time I see one on the red carpet now, I practically fall asleep. For the most part, these pantsuits are quite glamorous and beautifully tailored. But I did find one white pantsuit that deserves to be on every worst-dressed list: Charli XCX’s Moschino pantsuit from the 2015 Grammy’s that looked like it was inspired by the rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland.”

4. gigantic bows

Bows in the back or on the sleeve of a dress can be a classy detail, but huge bows in the front of dresses look the opposite. The bows can overpower the dress and make it look childish, like a prom dress or even like a Christmas gift. Sometimes it’s fun to have a campy red carpet look, but most of these dresses would be much better without the atrocious bow.

Some of the worst of these bows are Rachel Brosnahan wearing Erdem at the 2019 Baftas and Jennifer Lopez in Valentino at the 2020 Golden Globes.

5. casual menswear

It is a well known fact that men are not expected to bring glitz and glamour to the red carpet. They typically show up in black or white suits with their hair combed back, and yet, some men still find a way to go even more casual than that. Perhaps they don’t wear a tie, perhaps their suit is fitted terribly, perhaps they even wear jeans. If these men are on the carpet, they have the resources to get fabulous outfits. Lil Nas X, Michael B. Jordan, Timothée Chalamet and Billy Porter are all examples of men who bring it on the red carpet, even if they are just wearing a suit. This year, we can only hope that other men follow their example. Until then, we can look in disgust at perhaps the most casual menswear look in red carpet history: John Travolta in jeans at the 2010 Oscars. 

Here’s to red carpet season and judging outfits that we can only dream of having enough money to wear! Just because we aren’t invited doesn’t mean we don’t get gossip about the people who were.

Meredith is a sophomore at SLU and is excited to write for HerCampus! She enjoys reading, writing, cooking and watching reality tv and dreams about moving to the West Coast to work a for non-profit organization.
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