LADY Talks: Red Carpet Glory Days

By Laura McLaws Helms

Since the mid-1990s—when fashion houses began to realize the branding and marketing opportunities of dressing celebrities for the red carpet—there has been a steady decline in true personality and uniqueness at award ceremonies and premieres. Even in the studio era, when every aspect of an actress’ aesthetic was carefully orchestrated by a team of costume designers and Svengalis, it was generally accepted that each actress had her own identity and characteristics (however cultivated and disparate from her own). Following the break-up of the studio system, actresses chose and purchased their own clothes for events. While some became friends with designers who helped them, for the most part they were on their own. Through their choices their personalities were able to come to the fore—revealing through their enjoyment or rejection of glamour much more about themselves then immediately obvious. 

Every year I tune in to all of the awards shows, hoping to see a quirk—an ounce—of uniqueness, of playfulness, of personality. Instead it seems as though the fear of getting on the worst dressed list has bred several generations of actresses that are too safe. The gowns are interchangeable, the hairstyles boring, the faces overly done. In honor of the Golden Globes this weekend, this slideshow is a celebration of how it used to be—over-the-top glamour, overwrought ruffles, piled on makeup, as well as slouchy coolness and minimal shifts. Taken from over 60 years of premieres and award shows, this is where the red carpet equals joy (and a lot of Raquel Welch).