New Red Carpet Trends Emerge at Screen Actor’s Guild Awards

It was goodbye to lingire and hello to ballgowns as dressing adult returned at Sunday night’s all-actor awards show…what a relief

Before we get into the trends at 2023’s Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, can I just say what trends I’m grateful we didn’t see? Some call in “lingerie” but I call it underwear.

For well over a year now, award show red carpets were filled with sheer dresses so sheer they left little to the imagination. Sure, it was a backlash against two years of sweatpants, but luckily, finally, designers and stylists are coming to their senses. New York and Italy’s fall 2023 collections, shown in the last couple of weeks, presented clothes that actually covered the body: classic, wearable, more flattering—more dignified, more, well, grown up!

Were the looks—it’s unfair to just say “gowns” since there were suits and mini dresses—at this weekend’s SAG Awards at The Fairmont Hotel less exposing after many of the fall shows? Or is it that actresses and stylists got tired of feeling embarrassingly naked on a stage? Either way, we’re grateful.

Trends we did see include the return of the ballgown, though a somewhat less gussied-up version. There was a throwback to stately flattering black gowns that showed off the gravitas of the Screen Actors Guild. Strong 1950s-style red lips on the ladies after years of 1990s neutral lipstick. Simple narrow chokers, mostly non-frivolous diamonds. And we saw a retro return to Angelina Jolie’s Oscars 2012 leg cleavage, with a number of ladies vamping it up, jutting one toned leg out from a high-slit dress (Aubrey Plaza, Julia Garner).

Eddie Redmayne in Saint Laurent

Men were mostly toned down in tuxes with or without bow ties. But there were also burgundy tuxes or white dinner jackets (Taron Egerton), turtlenecks, and many eschewing bow ties.

For women, it was a return to formality. For men, it was the exact opposite: a return to a bit of non-formality, less peacocking. Austin Butler’s burgundy Gucci suit was a stand-out. Eugene Levy’s turtleneck under his tux jacket fit right into the last week’s Wall Street Journal’s prediction on the turtleneck/tux movement. Paul Mercal’s sheer embroidered shirt jacket over navy was sort of punk: risky and cool. It was from British designer Simone Rocha’s brand-new men’s line. Also risky: daring dashing Eddie Redmayne in a white poofy Saint Laurent blouse-shirt and black trousers. Saint Laurent seems to be making a real statement with flowy menswear this season: Remember Donald Glover’s loose robe look at the Golden Globes? Is it the Harry Styles effect? Along with the male skirt, there is now the male blouse, the male robe—reminds me of Ancient Rome, where men were men and togas were masculine.

My favorite look of the night was probably its weirdest. Call me crazy, but I love a transformation. Actors who break out of their norm and startle with reinventions is what always capture me. Julia Garner in Gucci added the shock of absolutely pin-straight bangs and pink eyeshadow. While her hair and makeup were subdued, her Gucci gown—a reddish bronze slinky bra top with deep v-neck, off-the-shoulder sleeves, leg cleavage (nod to Angelina), and a bodice and half sleeves made of beaded net. The contrast of the metallic and the beaded net was sharp—almost dissonant. Garner pulled that old styling trick: strong point of view gown, subtle hair and makeup. Works every time. It also proves that Gucci’s red carpet presence after the exit of Creative Director Alessandro Michele hasn’t and won’t likely disappear.

Julia Garner in Gucci at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

Gucci also created Jessica Chastain’s gown in the color of the season: fuchsia, which wrapped over her waist, topping a ballgown skirt. It was one piece, with no ruffles, beads or fluff—this portends to what the Oscars in two weeks will look like: a much more 1950s silhouette-influenced array of gowns, as we’ve started to see turn up this awards season.  I could have lived without Chastain’s giant earrings and Belle du Jour hair, though.

Also pretty in Pepto pink: Zendaya. The actor is a consistent stunner on any red carpet and didn’t disappoint this time. She donned two different pink gowns during the course of the night: a strapless Giambattista Valli satin gown with a mermaid skirt made of cascading rosettes, and on stage,bshe showed up in a satin Armani dress with an inset black bra. Look,bZendaya can wear anything.

Zendaya in Valentino Haute Couture

More in the fuchsia crew – the color Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino has made as prominent as Valentino red – Ariana DeBose in a fuchsia Prabal Gurung pantsuit and Stephanie Hsu in one of the several Carolina Herrera ballgowns that made the SAGS resemble a New York Upper East Side charity ball.

Viola Davis in Valentino

The other color trend of the night: lemon yellow gowns. Recent EGOT Viola Davis always seems to genuflect strong color always: Her Valentino long-sleeved ballgownesque (call it “black tie fit n’ flare) gown was a standout, as were Danielle Deadwyler’s Louis Vuitton long-sleeved dress (with yellow trim), Claire Foy’s Prada with a deep V-neck, and Angela Bassett’s wild Giambattista Valli Haute Couture tulle mermaid gown. Bassett dressed like a winner but didn’t win. Maybe she’ll make up for it at the Oscars. Michelle Yeoh combined a simple strapless black column by Schiaparelli Couture with a full-length strip of what looked like yellow tinsel, or even yellowing grass. It was a simple dress that spoke volumes for the newly minted SAG winner.

Michelle Yeoh in Schiaperelli couture

Black columns and ballgowns really heralded a more stately red carpet phase. Jennifer Coolidge, most loyal to a clingy black gown, did her best Brigitte Bardot with cleavage revealed in a tight long sleeved deep-necked Saint Laurent gown. Somehow, her Belle du Jour big hair seemed more natural to her va-va-voom vibe. Cate Blanchett in Giorgio Armani Prive’s black lace was uncharacteristically low-key. Perhaps purposefully: Blanchett’s been re-wearing many of her red carpet hits lately, in a show of environmental consciousness. Michelle Williams’ somber-but-stately navy Dior ballgown could have been on the cover of Vogue circa the late 1940s.

Cate Blanchett in Giorgio Armani Prive’

The rounded or curved bustier bodice, reminiscent of seashells, was a new way to do strapless and very art deco. Quinta Brunson’s black sheath with white seashell bodice by Jean-Louis Sebaji made her resemble Botticelli’s Venus coming out of her shell. Amy Poehler’s stark black Roland Mouret also featured a dramatically rounded bodice.

Quinta Brunson in Jean-Louis Sebaji

Beaded/brocaded/lacy columns gowns are not a staple of awards shows. Rooney Mara (in Alexander McQueen) and Ana de Armas (in beaded and bowed Louis Vuitton) both donned thin column dresses with tons of lace and/or bead detail.

Ana de Armas in Louis Vuitton

Jewelry trend of the night the jewelry trend addicts: the simple diamond choker. A few earrings stood out: that string of small diamonds on Danielle Deadwyler, Zendaya, and Cara Delavigne changed the earring and bracelet game.

Danielle Deadwyler in Louis Vuitton

One head-turning consistency: red lips. And pin straight hair worn loosely or in a ballerina bun stood out as a rejection of all those beachy waves we’ve grown sick of over a decade of barrel-rounded blowouts. Kerry Condon and a normally short-haired Elizabeth Debecki (in DIor bronze) wore 1960’s style long hair.

As for the lips: Emily Blunt’s red lip of choice was screaming red/orange, matching lips with nails. It seemed a little over the top with her red/orange floral skintight Oscar de la Renta –  trying too hard, which Blunt doesn’t need to do. Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Haley Lu Richardson, Danielle Deadwyler, Quinta Brunson, Cara Delavigne also ushered in the return of the fire engine lip. And this fall, you might be wearing it too.

Emily Blunt in Oscar de la Renta

Red is never dead, it seems, when it comes to the red carpet. What seemed modern about Jamie Lee Curtis’s Romana Keveza dress (with the most cleavage of the evening) was that she paired it with wire-rim glasses.

Jamie Lee Curtis in Romona Keveza

A look straight off the runway and reserved for younger ladies: the mini in the front, long train in the back look. Amanda Seyfried’s cheeky green Prada mini had a rectangular train almost like a strip of fabric. Jenna Ortega’s strapless black Versace was, well, the smokin’ hot number of the night. Wednesday Addams would approve. Not sure she could dance in it, though.

Amanda Seyfried in Prada

But let’s face it, the real star of the night was Zendaya’s newish wavy bob haircut. No doubt a lot of long locks have hit the floor in hair salons across the world as a result of it. While it was its red carpet debut, the look smacked on 1950s smoky sirens slithering across the screen, Lauren Bacall as an example.

Zendaya’s new bob is a throwback to Old Hollywood

While this awards show was a return to traditional dignity, and not nearly as much cleavage as we’ve seen in a while, there was a fair amount of leg cleavage. Jenna Ortega showed off some – so, surprisingly, did Cate Blanchett. You can’t keep a good vixen down.

Speaking of which: what’s an awards show without a wardrobe malfunction? Aubrey Plaza was on stage notably tugging on her bronze Michael Kors gown which was fully cutout at the abdomen. Well, if you don’t want side boob exposure don’t wear a dress that barely covers your boobs.

Aubrey Plaza in Michael Kors

And if you really want to talk retro trends – EMO crying when you win is back. See: Michelle Yeoh and Brendan Fraser. As long as those sniffles don’t ruin your shirt or makeup, cry us a river.

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