The Golden Globes’ 500 Shades of Black: Did It Work?

“Tonight is about women wearing the pants, so I chose to literally wear the pants,” said Alison Brie of her outfit — a strapless princess ball gown atop a pair of cigarette pants — and she wasn’t the only one. Women wearing the trousers was one of the major trends of the night, literally and metaphorically.


Debra Messing, Claire Foy and Alison Brie.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Debra Messing, who used her moment on the red carpet being interviewed by Giuliana Rancic of E! to call out the network for a pay gap between male and female anchors, was also wearing a long tunic over trousers; ditto Christina Hendricks. Claire Foy, of “The Crown,” went full-on tuxedo (so did Kyra Sedgwick), and Susan Sarandon wore her black suit with a white shirt and a ponytail. Tracee Ellis Ross added satin joggers to her one-shouldered satin gown and turban.

Indeed, asymmetry (symbolism here, folks?) was another major theme, as seen on Emma Stone, Greta Gerwig and Reese Witherspoon. Also the addition of sparkles and surprises: Dakota Johnson’s burst of diamanté on her tulle bustle; Mary J. Blige’s gauntlet/sleeve of rhinestones on one arm; the sprinkling of shine across the tops of Michelle Williams and her date, Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, refracting the light.

If black seemed, initially, to be a restrictive dress code (and certainly men complain about it all the time), the reality was that the Beverly Hilton was full of individual interpretations of what, exactly, it could mean (which should show the complainers that they just need to think a little more creatively about their options).

There were portrait necklines that framed shoulders (Oprah, Meryl Streep) and sheer fabrics that veiled skin (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Halle Berry). Cutouts that played peekaboo with what lay beneath (Sharon Stone) and slits for a lot of leg (Zoë Kravitz). And armoring, of the most alluring kind: Saoirse Ronan’s hints of crystal chain mail, and the power shoulders of Isabelle Huppert and Gal Gadot.

There was femininity, gloried in and defined multiple ways via dress.

The usual brands were of course responsible for the dresses — Gucci, Saint Laurent, Versace, Dior, Miu Miu, Chanel, etc., etc. — and they sent out the usual news releases. Calvin Klein and Tiffany wisely topped theirs by first noting their support for Time’s Up, and only then releasing the details of the outfits, but they were in the minority. (Other houses: take note.) There was no real name-checking on the red carpet, however, a fact that actually served to let everyone enjoy the clothes as much as the women who were wearing them seemed to, without the niggling suggestion that it was all about marketing.

It’s a lesson worth absorbing, as was the success of the shade solidarity itself. There was a lot of talk Sunday night about a new order in Hollywood; women seizing the day and their rights. That includes the right to remake the red-carpet experience. Here’s hoping it continues — through this awards season, and the next.

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