Ready for the Red Carpet


With the Golden Globe Awards just past and the Academy Awards one month away, it's the time of year when red carpet fashions are on our mind. The red carpet as an arena for a celebrity viewing probably first emerged in the 1920s. Sid Grauman, Hollywood impresario and owner of Grauman's Chinese Theater, rolled out a red carpet at the 1922 premier of Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks. Serving as both a runway and barrier between stars and fans, the red carpet entrance soon became a sort of celebrity parade, offering film fans an opportunity to see their favorite celebrities acting as themselves. Though fashion was always an important component of the red carpet stroll, celebrities weren't necessarily dressed by top couturiers.

Today's red carpet is a sea of reporters, broadcasting celebrity interviews and fashion commentary to at-home viewers seated comfortably in their living rooms. Expected to don amazing gowns from top designers, talented film stars become runway models. Flawless style is expected, a chance for viewers to critique the latest red carpet fashions while simultaneously imagining themselves in those same gowns. 

In honor of this year's red carpet season and our upcoming exhibition of Hollywood costumes, today's post features a selection of dresses ready for the red carpet. What's your favorite look?


Tunic gownEvening dress
c. 1912
Museum Purchase

This layered tunic dress offers an early 20th century interpretation of ancient Greek and Roman draped garments. The Far and Middle East are also referenced through the gauzy layers and rich jewel tone of the black and blue textile. Tunic gowns were popular for both day and evening dress during this period, with evening gowns being used as a canvas to experiment with pairing various textiles and embellishments. Chiffon overlayers, like the spangled chiffon used on this gown, were popular for evening.

7711617Norman Norell for Bonwit Teller
c. 1968
Gift of Mrs. Alfred Bloomingdale

Created by Norman Norell, this demure evening dress of black wool crepe flirts with the eccentric fashions of the late 1960s. Understated elegance was a hallmark of Norell's aesthetic–his garments draw attention to the wearer. This gown features a satin sash for textural contrast and a playful scalloped hem for a kicky finish.

Though Norell garments were available off the rack, the quality of his workmanship was outstanding. Each Norell garment was completed by a single seamstress, not unlike the methods of the haute couture. Though prices were high, Norell's timeless aesthetic and the fine craftsmanship of his garments allowed his clients to wear his designs for years, if not decades.

HerreraCarolina Herrera
c. 1992
Gift of Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera's evening confection suggests a ballerina's tutu. A navy corset bodice contrasts with the fluffy layers of lavender tulle that comprise the skirt. The knotted overskirt suggests that the wearer picked up her skirt to run through a fountain or race down the red carpet. Herrera designs daywear, but she is partial to the glamour and mystique of evening wear. Her decorous evening gowns often appear on the red carpet. 



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