Did an All-Black Dress Code at the Golden Globes Achieve Its Goal?

By now, the unofficial all-black dress code of this year’s Golden Globes has been discussed ad nauseam. There were many proponents, propping up the message of the Time’s Up initiative to combat sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. But there were also a few detractors, arguing that the dress code was superficial, distracting and even a bit hypocritical in an environment that has allowed stars to profit handsomely from fashion endorsements.

Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd75th Annual Golden Globe Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Jan 2018
Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd on the Golden Globes red carpet.
CREDIT: Lauren/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

When it came down to it, what the red carpet delivered last night in the name of fashion was essentially more of the same. Sure, everyone (almost everyone) was wearing black, and there was less brand name checking than in previous years (though with social medi, it is now possible for an actress to get her fashion credits to the masses indirectly, through a stylist or editorial outlets, FN included). But there were still elaborate ballgowns and gigantic diamonds. There were still impossibly high heels for actresses to balance on while navigating the carpet, and likely a tedious pre-show prep regimen.

Tarana Burke, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Jessica Chastain, Amy Poehler, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman, Ai-jen Poo, Saru Jayaraman. Tarana Burke, from top left, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Jessica Chastain, Amy Poehler, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, and from bottom left, Natalie Portman, Ai-jen Poo, and Saru Jayaraman arrive at the InStyle and Warner Bros. Golden Globes afterparty at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - InStyle and Warner Bros. Afterparty, Beverly Hills, USA - 07 Jan 2018
Tarana Burke, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Jessica Chastain, Amy Poehler, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman, Ai-jen Poo, Saru Jayaraman. Tarana Burke, from top left, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Jessica Chastain, Amy Poehler, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, and from bottom left, Natalie Portman, Ai-jen Poo, and Saru Jayaraman at the InStyle and Warner Bros. Golden Globes afterparty.
CREDIT: Piz/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Yesterday, ahead of the event, The New York Times published a guest column by Amber Tamblyn in which the actress recalled having a panic attack after an awards show dress fitting. “Women have always had to carry the burden of molding the shapes and sizes of our bodies to the trends and tastes of others, at any cost. We are assigned a look. We don’t get to choose,” wrote Tamblyn. “Prepping for award shows can be a weeklong marathon in dread, resulting in a one-time portrayal of improbable beauty.” Last night, those improbable beauty ideals were still there; they were just done in the same palette.

It was surprising to see only a few suits on women last night, a uniform that might have made a more cohesive sartorial statement. Claire Foy and Kyra Sedgwick both wore them and looked powerful and self-possessed. And time was certainly not up for high-heeled pumps, despite the many examples of comfortable and chic shoes that have shown up on recent runways in the form of flats, kitten heels and block heels. Constrained, aching feet seem to be diametrically opposed to the evening’s message of empowerment.

Mariah Carey, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Billie Jean King. Mariah Carey, from left, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, and Billie Jean King arrive at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals, Beverly Hills, USA - 07 Jan 2018
Mariah Carey joins America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Billie Jean King. Mariah Carey, from left, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, and Billie Jean King on the red carpet.
CREDIT: Str/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

But making a social statement on the red carpet will always be tricky. The space has essentially become fashion’s biggest and most visible runway and a form of visual escapism for many viewers. The Globes have also carried a notoriously fun, celebratory spirit, and the absence of any glamour would have felt bleak, even defeating. Perhaps Time’s Up can pay a visit to the Oscars, since the awards show has already acquired a reputation for being stuffy and serious.

Regardless of the fashion, the message was still delivered loud and clear —and that was the point, after all. There was a convivial, sisterhoodlike feeling on the red carpet, with women joining one another in photos, laughing and smiling genuinely and celebrating wins without reservation or modesty (just look at the faces of the cast of “Big Little Lies” in the press room after the awards). Oprah gave an inspiring speech upon accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award, once again stirring up murmurs of encouragement for a 2020 presidential run. In presenting the award for best director, Natalie Portman called out the fact that only men were nominated, and later on, Barbra Streisand expanded on that observation by explaining to the audience that no women have been given the director award since 1984, when she won for “Yentl.” “That was 34 years ago,” said Streisand while on stage. “Folks, time’s up!”

Oprah Winfrey - Cecil B. DeMille Award75th Annual Golden Globe Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Jan 2018
Oprah Winfrey in the press room with her Cecil B. DeMille Award.
CREDIT: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

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