Back to black (and white): Baftas style sticks to dressing-up classics

Lauren Cochrane
·3-min read
<span>Composite: Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Composite: Rex/Shutterstock

The world is now becoming used to award shows where the action – and the style – is divided between presenters in a venue and nominees beamed in from home, or perhaps a hotel room. The Baftas were the latest and had both the determined glamour and some of the at-home basics that are now expected. Chloé Zhao is becoming a favourite of those who fall into the more low-key style category. To receive her best director and best film awards for Nomadland, she wore a plaid shirt and what looked like dungarees.

Chlo&#xe9; Zhao wins best director, wearing plaid.
Chloé Zhao wins best director, wearing plaid. Photograph: Bafta/AFP/Getty Images

There was some of the dressing-up more typically found on the red carpet. Cynthia Erivo is gaining a reputation for pushing the envelope at awards ceremonies. After neon green and platforms at the Golden Globes, she was resplendent in diamante Louis Vuitton. Anna Kendrick wore metallic, with waterfall hair. Priyanka Chopra Jonas wore an embroidered jacket by Spanish brand Pertegaz. Andra Day, who recently starred as Billie Holiday, was zesty in Versace green. Bukky Bakray, who won the Rising Star award for her breakout role in Rocks, was elegant in a strapless caramel dress and topknot.

Cynthia Erivo sparkles in Louis Vuitton.
Cynthia Erivo sparkles in Louis Vuitton. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

But the top line here was the return of the classics of formalwear. Despite the thinking that black was a no-go in the digital era of fashion – with brights winning on most Instagram feeds – it was popular here. It could be read as an expression of mourning for Prince Philip, and it also recalled the #metoo blackout at the 2018 Golden Globes. But ultimately it worked – as it always does – as a no-brainer to be relied on. When it comes to dressing up, black still stands for a relatively safe chic.

Sophie Cookson in a classic black dress.
Sophie Cookson in a classic black dress. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Women including Felicity Jones, Phoebe Dynevor, Sophie Cookson and Rose Byrne wore black. Byrne’s cropped jacket with midriff was bold. Youn Yuh-Jung, who won best supporting actress for her role in Minari, wore a high-necked black dress. Clara Amfo wore a black dress and trousers for the red carpet. Corinne Bailey Rae, for her performance with Leslie Odom Jr, wore a black dress covered with metallic pink flowers. Rising Star nominee Morfydd Clark went for Marilyn Monroe-ish glamour in a black halter neck.

Emerald Fennell, in white, with chocolate Bafta.
Emerald Fennell, in white, with chocolate Bafta. Photograph: Bafta/EPA

White was also big. Kosar Ali, who starred in Rocks, wore layers of Alexander McQueen white tulle. Winners Daniel Kaluuya and Emerald Fennell both wore white. Their outfits formed blank canvases doing their darnedest against showbiz incidentals that threatened to upstage them, including Kaluuya’s carousel of pipes and the grand piano behind Fennell, or the chocolate Bafta in her hand.

Leslie Odom Jr in an op art Versace suit.
Leslie Odom Jr in an op art Versace suit. Photograph: Austin Hargrave/Getty Images

Menswear had moments of experimentation among the usual tuxes. Tahar Rahim and Odom Jr brought some colour to proceedings – Rahim in sky-blue Louis Vuitton, Odom in Versace op-art prints. Kingsley Ben-Adir, meanwhile, went for a poloneck under a jacket, by Dior, accessorised with mustard velvet cushions on his sofa.

Overall, Bafta style reflected wider attitudes to dressing now. Some are keen to dress up to the nines as soon as the moment allows. A lot are opting for the classics. And there are a few – such as Zhao – who can be admired for knowing what they like to wear and sticking with it, even when accepting multiple awards from film academies.