Modern take on the power suit replaces princess gowns at the Oscars

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Between the ruffles and the thigh-high slits, the sequins and the classic glam silhouettes of the many dresses seen on the 92nd Academy Awards red carpet Sunday night, two design details seemed to have the biggest (quite literally) fashion moment: capes and sleeves.
Natalie Portman wore a black Dior Haute Couture cape to make a powerful statement, by embroidering the names of the female directors snubbed at this year’s ceremony on it.
Natalie Portman attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.
Natalie Portman attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/FilmMagic
Portman's cape included Scafaria (Lorene Scarfaria of "Hustlers"), Wang (Lulu Wang of "The Farewell") and Gerwig (Greta Gerwig of "Little Women").
Portman’s cape included Scafaria (Lorene Scarfaria of “Hustlers”), Wang (Lulu Wang of “The Farewell”) and Gerwig (Greta Gerwig of “Little Women”). Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Janelle Monae donned a gleaming hooded metallic Ralph Lauren custom gown, made with 168,000 Swarovski crystals (it took 600 hours to make), and was one of the best-dressed stars on the red carpet.
There was Brie Larson’s champagne-colored caped frock by Celine, which was made with over 120,000 sequins, 110,000 glass beads and 13,000 Swarovski crystals; and Maya Rudolph’s shimmering burnt-orange-sequined covered Valentino cape dress. Fatma Al Remaihi opted for a head-to-toe velvet number with a matching cape and turban.
The mantles — which made a comeback in the fall/winter 2019-2020 and pre-fall 2020 collections of Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Chanel and Burberry to name a few — added a theatrical oomph to the proceedings. Unlike their more formal sibling, the train, they also offered a wider range of movement, making them infinitely more interesting as sartorial additions to each ensemble. And they brought a medieval knight-meets-superhero style that added some imagination to an otherwise restrained red carpet landscape.
Exuberant sleeves, too, were prominent during the night. The trend is a continuation of what we saw at the Golden Globes in early January, where anyone from Cate Blanchett and Dakota Fanning to Kaitlyn Dever and Beyoncé showed up in exaggerated versions.
It also draws directly from the runways, as seen for fall/winter 2019-2020 at Isabel Marant, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga, all of which had overstated, voluminous shoulders and puffy sleeves.
America Ferrera attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.
America Ferrera attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty Images
At the Oscars, sleeves appeared in differ sizes and shapes: Margot Robbie opted for subtle ones, with cuff sleeves that were completely detached from her strapless navy Chanel dress; while Molly Sims and Rooney Mara wore pointy numbers, intricately embroidered for Sims, courtesy of Zuhair Murad Couture, and lacy for Mara, who rocked an almost goth, broody Alexander McQueen black gown. America Ferrera sported voluminous capped sleeves in custom Alberta Ferretti, as did Lucy Boynton in black-and-white Chanel.
Sandra Oh's nude pink gown.
Sandra Oh’s nude pink gown. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
The queen of the gargantuan puff, though, was Sandra Oh. Her shoulders were shrouded in dreamy layered tulle, part of an even dreamier Elie Saab ball gown.
Both trends gave edge to the celebs that wore them, all the more so as the Oscars are usually known for being a lot more conservative style-wise than other red carpet galas.
But they also served as shields of sorts — capes were invented to offer a layer of protection, after all — both in the way they took up space and enshrouded their wearer. To that end, they were arguably a power move from these Hollywood female stars, possibly to shift the red carpet discourse from “who’s the sexiest woman” to “who’s the most sartorially daring.” What made them really stand out though, is that they did not seemed at all concerned with beckoning the male gaze.
Top image: Janelle Monae on the red carpet.



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