Historically, fashion has often been used to make a statement. There are even times when fashion is the result of a socio-political statement as well. Of course, whether we are conscious of the message sent across is a different discourse altogether. But starting this awards season, celebrities have been using the red carpet as a platform for making political and social statements. It began with Meryl Streep calling out to the entertainment fraternity to wear black at the Golden Globes event to show solidarity against sexual harassment, after the Harvey Weinstein scandal shook everyone.
So far, we’ve seen black, the pin, the white rose, and now there’s the possibility of several celebrities sporting the orange pin to show their support of gun control, in the wake of the February 14 shooting in Florida.
A Sea of Black
This year, the red carpet season started with a sea of black, with men and women from across the industry wearing the colour black – of course, giving it their own snazzy twist because one shouldn’t sacrifice fashion – along with the Time’s Up pin to fight sexual harassment in the workplace. “We’re here for the Time’s Up movement. Octavia (Spencer) is my date — girl power! We stand in solidarity against any abuse of power,” Jessica Chastain, nominated for Molly’s Game and wearing a black velvet gown with a silver sequinned back, said in a televised interview with NBC on the red carpet.
Though the red carpets season started off on a strong political note, it might not end in the same tenor if buzz ahead of the Oscars is anything to go by. Many have been pushing to keep politics separate from the entertainment gala that is to celebrate the best in cinematic achievement. Host Jimmy Kimmel initially even said in an interview with ABC that he would not mention the Me Too or Time’s Up movements because he believes it’s not the time or place for “reliving people’s sexual assaults.” Nevertheless, he later ‘confirmed’ to Variety that he would address Me Too.
But that is not surprising. The Oscars has been used as a platform for members of the entertainment industry to make social-politico-cultural comments previously as well. Be it the war against terror or unequal wages to the election of Donald Trump as US President and racism, these topics have been touched upon in the past through speeches, but not as much sartorially. Though last year, many did wear the blue ribbon in support of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
While black has been the colour of the season, Time’s Up pins have also been equally visible. During the Grammy Awards, it was the white rose as an accessory that was used by members of the music industry to show unity for the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. Kate Middleton’s choice of green at the BAFTAs raised a lot ire amid the masses, though it was later reasoned that as a member of the Royal Family, she could not have made a political statement in that fashion. Even so, many chose to read the black belt as subtle symbolism.
Not Just an Awards-Show Movement
Time’s Up activists, though, have said that they will be ‘standing down’ at the Academy Awards red carpet because the movement should not just be associated with award shows, and thus overshadowing the main event. “We are not an awards show protest group… So we stand down this time. It’s really important that you know that Time’s Up is not about the red carpet. And those women you saw on the red carpet representing Time’s Up [at the Globes] are now off the red carpet working their butts off being activists,” film-maker Ava DuVernay, one of the leaders of the organisation, told CNN.
This is why fashion experts expect the last red carpet of the season to be a tad more elaborate, adventurous and colourful than the previous ones. Though, Vogue’s Style Editor Edward Barsamian did say in a pre-show podcast with the magazine’s Culture Editor Alessandra Codinha that the Vanity Fair After-Party is where one should expect the actual style statements this year – opulent, graceful, feathers and sequins, et al.
Yet Another Cause
But even though the Time’s Up leaders have not asked the film fraternity to take just a red carpet stand, another movement is gaining momentum – that of gun control in the US. According to People magazine, many will be sporting an orange pin to show their support for the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, representative of the ‘Wear Orange to Prevent Gun Violence’ stand.
This follows the heart-breaking shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives. George and Amal Clooney have already donated to the cause in the names of their twins, and so has Oprah Winfrey.
With the Oscar’s being the last red carpet event of the awards season, there’s no denying that fashion will be used to make a statement. After all, celebrity – entertainment – global stage all make for a convincing means to make a point. But as many have raised concerns, it is the work thereafter that will define the efficacity of this sartorial stand.