Friday, December 2, 2022
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Everybody wore black

So did I, not that anyone noticed, but it’s important for us women to stand together, you know, but unlike the gorgeously gowned women at the Golden Globes, I was avoiding the potholes—in flats—on the way to the office.  Unlike me, the ladies at the Globes were gliding along a red carpet—in their heels.  The thing we have in common, though, is that nobody is asking who we are wearing, that is, who designed our frocks.  For public consumption, I will admit that I am wearing nobody’s clothes but my own; neither designer nor stylist had a hand in my self-presentation today.  As for Meryl Streep and the other stars boldly walking the red carpet with her, this year, the fashion police are markedly absent this year; the emphasis is on the woman, not the clothes, not the hair, not the make-up, not the accessories, which is as it should be.

In years past, female nominees and guests would be accosted on the red carpet by fashion police and interrogated as to their style choices.  They would then be made to pose for their fashion mug shots, one frontal such that if the gown is slit up the thigh, the wearer must throw out one waxed leg to better showcase the shoe, most likely lent, and the other dorsal, with her looking back over her shoulder. Jewels will most likely be on loan, too, and if earrings are part of the borrowed suite, the hair must be up, not down, so that they can be clearly seen.  Designers usually lend clothes to stars and part of the quid pro quo is that in exchange for the one-evening use, the star must mention the designers name correctly and distinctly, at least three times is my estimate, to anyone who asks.  In loans of big zonking jewels, the lucky borrower will be trailed by a gaggle of bodyguards hanging discreetly in the back, but their job is not to protect the girl:  their job is to protect the jewels and to ensure that they are returned to lender at the end of the night, as there have been reports of actresses who have treated the loans as gifts and refused to send back the borrowed bling.

In other words, the red carpet has been reduced to nothing more than a commercial transaction.  In exchange for free use of clothes for the celebrity, the designer gets free publicity by way of mentions and photos in major outlets everywhere in the world.  That’s the modus operandi which the fashion police do not file in their reports. Instead, at the end of the show, they powwow on such angles as the color story of the evening, the predominant silhouette, the proportions, preparatory to deciding who was best-dressed, and even more crucial, who was worst.

Not this year.  The color story of the evening was black, as I mentioned a while back, not because black is slimming or mourning becomes most actresses.  The women came in black—a neutral, by the way, and not a color—to signify their solidarity against sexual harassment and gender inequality.  Last year, the casting couch was placed under the spotlight and the careers of some of the most powerful players in Hollywood crashed in the hailstorm of revelations. The most prominent scalp claimed belonged to Harvey Weinstein who was accused by victim after victim, including actresses of such acclaim as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, of unwanted sexual advances and rape.  If the actress refused, her career would be destroyed through negative word-of-mouth coming from Weinstein.

Hollywood can sometimes take itself too seriously when it uses awards shows as platforms to tout pet causes.  Politics is usually fair game, as is the environment, AIDS and gun control are some other issues that come to mind.  Just like everybody else, celebrities are entitled to their opinions and may express them freely, but the issue Sunday night when the awards were handed out united women, and quite a number of
men, too.  The Globes dress code prescribes formal wear for the attendees, which means tuxedos for men, but this time, some chose to substitute the standard white dress shirt for black as a show of sartorial support.  The evening could have been a recreation of Cecil Beaton’s famous staging of Royal Ascot in My Fair Lady, such was the predominance of (predominantly) white (actors) and black.

Clothes are a visual language, so if the intent of the women of Hollywood was to boldly announce their refusal to put up with sexism and exploitation in the industry, they succeeded.  It’s a powerful use of fashion, one not to project glamour or fantasy, but to express dissent.  We did it once, too, when we took to wearing yellow to signify opposition to Ferdinand Marcos. A tide of yellow swept away the dictatorship and not since then has any hue played a symbolic part in current events.

Too bad we will never witness such activism here.  Awards shows in this jurisdiction are all about show and they try mighty hard to replicate the red carpet Hollywood experience, but what emerges is a simulacrum and not a very good one.  Simply put, there is no substance to the form.  One hears things, and I bet the casting couch is as pernicious a practice here as it is elsewhere, but we have yet to see a brave soul stand up and say, Me Too. G

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