The Tony Awards Make a Fashion Statement


James Corden, the host of the Tony Awards, in one of the tuxedos that he said Anna Wintour had chosen.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

“Everything I’m wearing tonight, she’s chosen” — so said James Corden, host of the 2016 Tony Awards, in a burgundy Burberry tuxedo on the red carpet. It was the first of four outfits, including a green crystal-encrusted Dolce & Gabbana number, that the comedian would model throughout the night.

The “she” was Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, who decided to give the theater awards a makeover last year with William Ivey Long, the costume designer and head of the American Theater Wing, to heighten the evening’s fashion content. Much brouhaha surrounded the result at the time, but while her involvement obviously continued this year, things appeared to have settled down a bit.


Bee Shaffer, left, and Anna Wintour at the Tony Awards on Sunday in New York.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

It was as if the two worlds — style and stage — finally found their mutual groove. One where the clothes were less costume than backdrop to the content; where they weren’t about marketing (this isn’t the Oscars, after all) or outrageous statement-making (it’s not the MTV Video Music Awards), but rather taking the high road. To each award show its own wardrobe identity.

In a night overshadowed by the tragedy of the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and marked by heartfelt statements — from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sonnet of thanks and love, to Cynthia Erivo’s call-out to her mother when she won for best leading actress and Frank Langella’s denouncement of hate — it was the right role for fashion to play.

Sure, a few designers were represented (Joseph Altuzarra; Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School and DKNY; Zac Posen), and some models were in attendance (Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede), but over all, the look could best be characterized as ponytail black tie: high elegance worn with a laid-back line. Or red carpet without the ad campaign stuffing.

There were exceptions, to be sure — Diane Lane’s vintage zebra-stripe dazzle camouflage jumpsuit, which made her look like she had taken a wrong turn on her way to the set of “Wild Kingdom”; Ms. Erivo’s all-in gold ruffle tiered side-cut-out extravaganza — but Renée Elise Goldsberry’s strapless buttercup Oscar de la Renta with jet embroidery, her hair up in an elastic band, pretty much encapsulated the tone.

After all, Oprah did the fancy ponytail look, too; so did Audra McDonald. And so did Mr. Miranda, whose show, “Hamilton,” was the big winner of the night.

Slide Show

Tonys Red Carpet 2016

CreditCharles Sykes/Invision, via Associated Press

Otherwise, the trends were red (Laura Michelle Kelly in Zac Posen, with a sort of bustle at the back; Jane Krakowski in sequined Michael Kors; Glenn Close; and an inexplicable red Santa Claus tux momentarily on Mr. Corden) and yellow (Lucy Liu in sparkling butter halter-neck Zuhair Murad, Danai Gurira in cool Rosie Assoulin with a peekaboo diamond cutout at the breastbone). Tuxedos in blues from midnight to dawn were omnipresent, as worn by Mark Strong and Josh Groban, among many others.

What else? Claire Danes debuted a black bias-cut satin slither hot off the racks of Narciso Rodriguez’s Resort collection, unveiled last week. There were select flowers, in the form of Laura Benanti’s lace Oscar de la Renta, and Sophie Okonedo’s off-the shoulder Zac Posen jacquard (shoulders were the erogenous zone of the night, also bared by Lupita Nyong’o in a mosaic Boss gown). Cate Blanchett and Michelle Williams went high runway in Louis Vuitton, the former in a black leather breastplate over a black and white lace and silk collage dress, the latter in long ruched white mousseline covered in micro paillettes, and Tavi Gevinson went high rockabilly and short hemline in Coach. The silver-fringe Alberta Ferretti flapper frock that Adrienne Warren chose had a noteworthy flare; ditto Akosua Busia’s head wrap.

One accessory, however, was ubiquitous on lapels and gowns alike: a twist of silver ribbon designed by Mr. Long, worn in solidarity with the victims of Orlando and a visual reminder that, as Mr. Manuel said, “nothing here is promised, not one day.”

It was the single most resonant fashion statement of the night.

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