It has been a handful of years since the red carpets of the world have sent us into a sartorial ennui. A gown is a gown is a just-that.
Cinderellas have no space in our new feminist world. Beauty is a spectrum of shades and sizes. And fashion belongs to a world far removed from real lives and true stories.
As if, our obsession with watching beautiful people is here to stay. What celebrities wear when they play dress-up is the biggest money-spinner for the multiple billions of dollars that fashion and beauty companies control. The red carpet is the world’s greatest fashion show, a mammoth cultural chronicler. Yes, even BBC’s blue-eyed Matthew Amroliwala will discuss what Rihanna wore at last month’s Met Ball.
All eyes are trained on celebrity dressing once again. Whether Rihanna wears a bare-all sheer dress or a sweeping canary bathrobe that memes sometimes call pizza and other times an omelette, she leads the powder-puff pack. In its 30-odd years of existence, the red carpet has seen no one quite like Rihanna.
The red carpet is a game celebrities play with the public — this is where they say the most without uttering a word. When Ranbir Kapoor gives an interview about his marriage to Katrina Kaif, the lady makes her debut in Cannes in pillar-box-red Elie Saab.
Sonam Kapoor is an event-dressing veteran. She pulls off the best gowns (from Dior to Viktor & Rolf), the trendiest Indian wear (Anamika Khanna’s cape sari to Abu-Sandeep’s young-and-relevant-again sari-dress). She wears jewels that only she can — nose rings and ear cuffs. Her long mane is always impeccable, whether she makes a chignon or a faux bob or just lets it cascade in carefully calculated curls.
Sonam Kapoor uses her rad-carpet stature to its maximum. She’s been Instagramming her every look from the time she stepped out of her Juhu home — her Anand Bhushan jacket at the airport, her First Class seat, her Fendi travel bag, her Dandelion Dreams pyjamas in bed. Just when you thought you had seen enough, she steps out in a cerulean Ralph & Russo couture gown and makes you believe in fairy-tales all over again.
The red carpet is even more relevant today than it has ever been. Female actors have realised that a pretty frock and an army of stylists isn’t enough. The red carpet is where they bring their politics into the spotlight, whether it is equal pay for female actors or the #AskHerMore campaign, where they want to use their looks to further their causes.
This is probably why one of the biggest star at Cannes is the spouse of an actor. The beautiful Amal Clooney — with her lustrous locks, skinny frame and demure demeanour — wins simply for being a human rights lawyer with head-turning good looks.
In an interview to Vogue India last month, Christiane Amanpour, among the most famous war reporters in the world, recalls her time in Sarajevo. When the electricity would be restored, the women of the city would run to beauty parlours. Looking good, she says, was a kind of resistance too.
In times of war, strife, earthquakes and air crashes, beauty says it has a purpose too.