How the midlifers won on the Oscars red carpet and five other things you may have missed

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midlifers won on the Oscars red carpet
midlifers won on the Oscars red carpet

The first proper, in-person Oscars since the ‘p’-word proved that, when it comes to doing glamour, even the stars are struggling.

All bets were off, all rules torn up: men in women’s clothes (Jessie Buckley), women in men’s clothes (Timothée Chalamet); cleavage (Lily James and many, many more), nun’s necklines (Jamie Lee Curtis), explosions of colour (Kirsten Dunst), and lessons in monochrome (Penelope Cruz).

And that made it, for once, a genuinely useful series of style lessons.

Those who hit the style jackpot shone. Lupita Nyong’o looked both glamorous and modern in her gold and pink sequinned Prada gown, while her hair looked stunning. Mila Kunis, Nicole Kidman and Zoe Kravitz showcased the strongest trend of the night – pastels – while Jessica Chastain made the case for metallics. The midlifers – from Olivia Colman and Uma Thurman to Lee Curtis – showed that when you have poise and experience, you don’t need gimmicks to get people talking. And Sienna Miller and Zendaya had us ready to renew our gym membership. Never has a bare midriff looks so sophisticated.

It can be no accident that the white shirt was such a strong trend, as worn by Thurman and Kristen Stewart. A white shirt is androgenous, always contemporary and, worn right, sexy in the classiest of ways. It can be dressed up with a fishtail skirt a la Thurman, or teamed with shorts, as Stewart did. It’s the passepartout of fashion – perfect for those moments when the dress code has imploded.

Before we even get to Timothee Chalamet’s naked torso, more of which shortly, let’s discuss Lee Curtis’s abs.

Or rather let’s not. For while all and sundry bared theirs, with varying degrees of elegance, JLC opted for a cunningly designed shimmery tummy skimmer by Stella McCartney that flowed over her body like a wave of affection. The 63-year-old looked graceful, glowy and glamorous – the holy trinity of red carpet alliteration. And the reason she did so is in no small way because she is 63. Been there, worn the high cut Eighties leotard, not playing that game again.

Only a few weeks ago Lee Curtis posted a picture of herself in character as a tax auditor in forthcoming film Everything Everywhere All at Once, wearing an unflattering polo neck in a bilious mustard shade that emphasised a large stomach that the actress insists was not prosthetic. Whatever. The picture went viral. Lots of publicity for the film and Lee Curtis gets to go to the Oscars without having to wear the kind of stunt outfit others actors resort to when they want to shine a light on The Work.

Whether it was Spanx, Skims or squats, Lee Curtis looked fabulous and has obviously learned a thing or three about working the carpet. Ditto Olivia Colman, 48, in another fluid sparkly column that let her beautiful smokey eye make up and slightly back combed hair do all the heavy lifting. She’s never looked better or – as far as the Oscars allows – more effortless.

Can we count Nicole Kidman as a midlifer? Her birth certificate says so even if the 54-year-old defies earth years. Her exploding Armani cocktail stick has split the jury. The lilac colour is perfect on her – a similar shade to Sharon Stone’s 1998 Vera Wang skirt, it is soft and light reflecting – and it’s a commendable display of risk taking that somehow stays the right side of classy.

Uma Thurman, Rita Moreno and Youn Yuh-jung - Getty Images
Uma Thurman, Rita Moreno and Youn Yuh-jung - Getty Images

Meanwhile Uma Thurman, somehow personified Old Hollywood Glamour even if, at 51, she was not even a twinkle in anyone’s eye when OHG was first around. She did all this without glitter or trimming; when you’re naturally elegant and self assured, all you need – as 90-year-old Rita Moreno and 87-year-old Dame Judi Dench also prove – is some impeccably-cut monochrome.

And the winner for hottest trend is... soft pastels and bold metallics

Zendaya, Lupita Nyong’o and Nicole Kidman - Getty Images
Zendaya, Lupita Nyong’o and Nicole Kidman - Getty Images

Oscar statuette dressing is popular for a reason – namely that high shine means high impact. The Academy Award Lupita Nyong’o won for 12 Years A Slave must be sitting in her dressing room, because her Prada gown was clearly inspired by it. Custom-made with burnished gold sequins, it was also embellished with the palest of amethyst and topaz crystals. Her make-up and accessories were also top notch: gold leaf-pressed eyeshadow and even a pair of matching gold glasses which were whipped out when Nyong’o presented an award.

The look was clearly worth its weight in gold as Amelia Warner wore a similarly gilded dress with pastel applique flowers to support her husband, Jamie Dornan, while Alana Haim in silver Louis Vuitton was no runner-up. Throughout the night, it was often the metallic gowns that hit the high notes. Amid some unnecessarily clumpy platforms and unnecessarily low necklines, the women who opted for Olympic medal shades let the fabrics do the work – and thereby chose the best cuts and silhouettes.

Olivia Colman drew my eye to her shimmering pleated Dior gown. With its high neck, long sleeves and heavy pleats, it is a design that could have swamped her – instead it lit up her face and made her look classy, stylish and a long way from Sophie in Peep Show. As did Zendaya in a Valentino cropped silky shirt and shimmering silver skirt that nodded to Sharon Stone’s iconic 1998 Oscars outfit.

If metallic shades dominated half the red carpet, then sweet sherbet shades were the other major winners. Lily James wore baby pink Versace, Jessie Buckley opted for pale peach Erdem and Zoe Kravitz wore a Saint Laurent dress that looked like a blend of strawberry and vanilla ice cream with a bow instead of a cherry on top.

A few actresses even mixed soft shades with bold metals – one was Nicole Kidman in dove-grey Emporio Armani with a sprinkle of gold on her train. The mixing medal, however, goes to Jessica Chastain in a bronze corseted Gucci dress that turned into pale lilac at the waist. Melissa Twigg

The classy take on the midriff

Emilia Jones, sienna miller - Getty Images
Emilia Jones, sienna miller - Getty Images

In an Oscars season that was more of a flesh-fest than usual, it was left to a rather unexpected part of the anatomy to provide a modern take on red carpet glamour: the midriff.

Until last night, nobody would have been forgiven for thinking that the “classy midriff” is the ultimate oxymoron. Surely it’s a trend that belongs on the catwalk, in the nightclub or is best consigned to the annals of recent history along with the rest of Y2K’s worst looks? Not in the hands – or rather, abs – of Zendaya. The 25-year-old actress, best known for playing Roo in the HBO mega-hit Euphoria, looked impeccable on the red carpet, dressed in a cropped silk blouse and silver sequinned skirt by Valentino Couture. Despite the ultra-cropped proportions of the shirt, the flash of midriff was spared from looking trashy by the skirt, whose high waist ensured the upper midriff remained the focal point.

The Euphoria actress wore a cropped silk blouse and silver sequinned skirt by Valentino Couture that gave a nod to Sharon Stone’s iconic 1998 Oscars outfit - David Swanson/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The Euphoria actress wore a cropped silk blouse and silver sequinned skirt by Valentino Couture that gave a nod to Sharon Stone’s iconic 1998 Oscars outfit - David Swanson/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A similar tactic was employed by the British actress Emilia Jones, 20, who showed a slice of midriff in a beaded Louis Vuitton gown. And while she wasn’t at the Oscars themselves, Sienna Miller, 40, also embraced the bare midriff trend at an after-party hosted by Vanity Fair, dressed in a vintage gown with a cream satin skirt and jewelled bodice.

What can we learn from this? That midriffs are the new cleavage? That thigh slits have looked old hat ever since #Angelina’sLeg trended in 2012? That we need to up the stomach crunches? Take from it what you will, but one thing is for sure: whether on the red carpet or on the street, the bare midriff trend isn’t receding any time soon. Laura Craik

Why Timothee Chalamet is the new Cher

cher timothee chalamet - Getty Images
cher timothee chalamet - Getty Images

Every generation needs a Cher – a rulebreaker who doesn’t take it all too seriously and who underscores their anarchic nose-thumbing with hefty reservoirs of talent. With his chest-baring turn on the Oscars red carpet on Sunday, Chalamet proved conclusively that he’s a more than worthy successor to the Cher role.

What’s new is that whereas Cher somehow always seemed to be upending the Rules of Good Taste from outside Hollywood’s golden circle, Chalament is its ultimate darling, embodying all the credentials that town craves in an actor – a poetic looking, sexually enigmatic, serious actor who can do blockbusters and arthouse, while appealing to boomers and Gen Z.

Clothes have played a key part in his positioning. When he first entered the pony ring in 2012, aged 12, with a role in Homeland on his CV, it was in the classically geeky US teen combo of neckties and dark shirts – which were rapidly ditched. Next came Statement-Casual stripy turtlenecks that emphasised his extreme boy-waif slenderness. By the time he starred in cult Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s hit Call Me By Your Name in 2017, he had already dipped a toe into more bracing sartorial waters mixing puffa jackets with floral pants. After the coming-of-age drama’s success, he was welcomed into the citadels of high fashion.

Alexander McQueen, Haiker Ackermann, Gucci Berlutti, paint-battered pieces by the artist Ruby Sterling and, on Sunday, a black tux suit by Louis Vuitton – from blockbuster names to the more recherché, they all want to be seen on Chalamet. Not just a walking billboard, he’s developed several distinguishing style tics that have had serious cut through with younger dressers, including meticulously tucking jogging pants into his socks, wearing leg-elongating pointy ankle boots with almost everything that he isn’t wearing stompy boots with, adopting the French tuck and a fair few sequins and metallics. And he’s still only 26. It’s going to be fascinating watching him evolve over the coming decades. Lisa Armstrong

Couples who dress together stay together

jamie dornan kristen stewart kirsten dunst
jamie dornan kristen stewart kirsten dunst

This year’s Oscars proved that when it comes to showing your mutual adoration for one another, there are more subtle ways to do it than by leaning in on the red carpet for a big fat snog. While it was heartening to see Kristen Stewart and her fiancée, Dylan Meyer, enjoying a kiss, of more interest to style-watchers was the way in which their outfits complimented each other. Chanel may have struggled to make Kristen’s shorts look red carpet appropriate, but their monochrome pairing was impactful. While Kristen wore her white Chanel shirt unbuttoned down to the navel, Dylan took the opposite approach, wearing hers buttoned at the collar but open over her midriff. A subtler approach to unified dressing came from Maggie Gyllenhaal and her partner, Peter Sarsgaard, with Peter echoing the bold gold Schaparelli motifs on his wife’s black gown by wearing a gold brooch on the lapel of his black suit.

Mostly, though, the men seemed content to let their wives and girlfriends shine. Jesse Plemons’ all-black suit and shirt combination served to make Kirsten Dunst’s vintage red Christian Lacroix gown look all the brighter, while Jamie Dornan’s ultra-conservative tux and bow tie offset Amelia Warner’s gold sequin column dress to perfection. Benedict Cumberbatch took the same Old Hollywood approach, allowing Sophie Hunter’s Grecian-style gown to be the focus.

By contrast, there was no blending into the background for Taika Waititi, whose pale pink suit and pale grey dickie bow – chosen to perfectly match his coiffed hair – was a masterclass in pastel understatement that echoed the main womenswear trend of the night, even if he was only at the Vanity Fair afterparty. It had nothing in common with partner Rita Ora’s bejewelled black Miss Sohee column gown, which looked as though it hailed from a different era. Yet the looks worked well together.

There was definitely no blending into the background for Will Smith, who would have had to go some to upstage wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s dramatic ruched emerald green gown, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and Glenn Martens. But slapping one of the hosts will do that. Laura Craik

The New Hollywood face

Billie Eilish Sofia Vergara - Getty Images
Billie Eilish Sofia Vergara - Getty Images

Until a few years ago, a classic Hollywood beauty look was reassuringly simple: a layer of powdery, mattifying foundation, a glossy winged black eyeliner and a slick of red lipstick. It is one of the most enduringly iconic beauty looks of all time, donned by everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn to Kate Winslet and Nicole Kidman.

In recent years, the rule book has been completely thrown out of the window. The much-favoured look is now a palette of smokey browns, pinks and mauves, which are altogether more flattering for all women, not just the blue-eyed and blonde-haired. Think smouldering eyes, long fluttery lashes, piles of bronzer and a pinky-nude lipstick and you’ll find yourself firmly in New Hollywood beauty territory.

The change is largely down to the British make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury, who has become the go-to beautifier for Hollywood’s elite. At Sunday night’s Oscars she prettified Penelope Cruz and Olivia Coleman, as well as having an army of Charlotte Tilbury-trained make-up artists booked for other celebrities including Billie Eilish, Sofia Vergara and Oscar-winner Jessica Chastain.

Tilbury is best friends with Kate Moss, names lipsticks after Sienna Miller and is the founder of a best-selling eponymous make-up range which launched in 2013 and is already valued at over a billion dollars. Less than 10 years later, the 49-year-old is a household name, determining beauty looks not only on the red carpet but as a result influencing the make-up we all want to wear. Sonia Haria

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