The Year in Red Carpets: In 2019, Instagram Was an Award Show’s Best Friend – Vanity Fair

Because this year’s Met Gala topic, camp, was notoriously difficult to dress for, it inspired a few celebrities to go truly theatrical when they arrived on the carpet. Lady Gaga’s Brandon Maxwell-designed look had about four different elements that she revealed through a complicated strip tease. Billy Porter, in a bejeweled catsuit by the Blonds, was carried in on a litter. Katy Perry’s candelabra-inspired Moschino get-up was so large that she had to arrive at the museum in a U-Haul.

The night produced tons of meme-ready moments in a year where the goal was to have your look echo across the internet. Not every star went as extreme as that trio, but experimentation has become more expected as the audience for awards season looks has expanded. In that sense, the red carpet fully gave itself over to Instagram this year, and it led to some of the most memorable moments in years.

As early as the Golden Globes last January, it was clear that awards season had latched on to one of couture’s Spring 2019 trends: sequins, chiffon, and anything else that channeled prom queen. At the Globes, Julia Roberts paired a chiffon skirt with a pair of tailored trousers to give it an edge, while Kiki Layne kept it classic with a Dior dress worthy of Sleeping Beauty. By the Oscars, the trend was raging and two actors completely nailed it: Constance Wu’s electric yellow Versace gown was an experimental take on the form, while Laura Harrier’s sophisticated updo, coral lips, and pale blue Louis Vuitton gown with intricate embroidery made her look like royalty. The next trend to sweep womenswear made things a bit more serious. From Olivia Colman’s custom grey and forest green Prada and Angela Basset’s eye-catching pink Reem Acra at the Oscars to Zendaya’s stunning green Vera Wang Collection dress at the Emmys, lustrous, textured silk in jewel tones eventually swept the carpet and the runway.

Porter made history when he wore a gown to the Oscars in February, but his Brandon Maxwell look wasn’t the only way the gender binary was challenged this year. From jumpsuits to leisure suits to adapted Thom Browne separates, pants and trousers are no longer what women wear to make a statement. Now, they’re just another option on the slate for any woman looking to wow at an awards show.

Porter was undoubtedly the menswear champion of the year, but other celebrities responded after he threw down the gauntlet, including Lakeith Stanfield, whose looks were consistently surreal, Mahershala Ali, who rode his role as the face of Ermenegildo Zegna to the heights of menswear, and Timothée Chalamet, who tried every type of coat possible—to say nothing of the Louis Vuitton harness. On the other edge of the spectrum were men who wore simple, striking looks, like Frank Ocean, who wore a black Prada anorak at the Met Gala and Kit Harington, whose classic black Givenchy suit with wide satin lapels was a focal point of Emmys style.

Though the best looks of the year ran the gamut, from goth to princess to valet to classic Hollywood, they all seem to share a sense of experimentation—and virality. Because the age of social media has changed so much about the fashion industry, it’s easy to forget exactly how much of a breakthrough it represents for the red carpet.