How Hollywood's Post-Election Mood Is Remaking the Red Carpet: "More Armor, Not Frilly-Fluffy"

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; Samir Hussein/WireImage
Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman

For the Globes, politically disappointed image makers either are overcompensating with 'La La Land' Technicolor tones or going for "fierce armor" to reflect a fight-ready mentality.

The nastiest election in recent memory may be history, but many Hollywood image makers still are feeling the blues. Stylist Karla Welch says that this awards season, she and Golden Globe-nominated client Sarah Paulson are "going severe" to reflect the Democratic Party's current mood, while Welch and Elizabeth Stewart, both fervent Hillary Clinton supporters, are making plans to attend, in between A-list fittings, the Million Woman March on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. And Jeanne Yang, who dresses Globe presenter Diego Luna, as well as Robert Downey Jr., Scott Eastwood and Vin Diesel, is still so angry post-election that she's toying with running for public office herself.

So as the town gears up for awards season and faces a presidential inauguration, how will the state of the red carpet reflect the state of the union? "I don't ever want to see another princess dress, I can tell you that," declares Welch, who styled Critics' Choice winner (for The People v. O.J. Simpson) Paulson in a Vera Wang spring 2017 densely pearl-encrusted T-shirt with wool peplum and tulle skirt, and will dress Paulson and Loving's Ruth Negga for the Globes. "We're going to battle, and the arts is all we have. I want fierce — modern armor, not frilly-fluffy. Maybe a bit of black, texture or long sleeves. Unapologetic."

Nola Singer, who works with Moonlight's Globe nominee Naomie Harris, agrees: "I do feel the influence of the pantsuit and menswear — not just because we had a female presidential candidate but also because actresses like Emmy Rossum are demanding equal pay. I want to take more risks on the red carpet, which could mean blending the gender gap." Adds stylist Penny Lovell, who is working with Globe attendees Taylor Schilling, nominated for Orange Is the New Black in previous years, as well as Rose Byrne and Kristen Wiig: "Another nod toward a feminist stance is the power-shoulder trend we saw on the runway at Balenciaga and Saint Laurent. That can be flattering on a pantsuit or a gown," she notes. "The bonus sum of all this might make for more powerful and less girly dressing."

It's men, not women, who will be the new peacocks, suggests Yang. She predicts colorful tuxedos with stylistic flourishes on the Globes red carpet. "It's the only way to be noticed. If you aren't going to be noticed, what's the point?" Yang is all for clients wearing their views on their sleeves — or their lapels. "I love the idea of a safety pin," says the stylist of the statement-making accessory that the likes of Olivia Wilde and Patrick Stewart have been sporting on social media to protest the election and which she hopes will migrate to the red carpet. "A lot of people are very distressed and upset … but at the same time, I've never heard people more engaged."

Cristina Ehrlich, who is dressing eight-time Globe nominee Julia Louis-Dreyfus in addition to Laura Dern, Anna Kendrick, Priyanka Chopra and Brie Larson for the awards show, senses a more escapist mood: "Vibrant, upbeat, happy dresses," she says. "There's enough heaviness as it is." Stylist Jennifer Rade, who works with Angelina Jolie, calls it the "La La Land effect," referring to the possibility of a multitude of Technicolor tones.

Regardless of what hue or 'tude wins the popular vote, and perhaps in response to 2016's November surprise, red-carpet fashion may be experiencing an all-usual-bets-are-off push overall. It's time to celebrate risk-taking, says Ehrlich, whether that's giving new American talent a chance, such as independent designers Christian Siriano and Jonathan Cohen, or mixing in lower-priced pieces, such as the $90 Steve Madden "Shanna" heels Natalie Portman has been wearing on the Jackie press tour. Jessica Paster, who for the SAG Awards is dressing Emily Blunt and Emmy-nominated Ellie Kemper, singles out Monse as a strong contender. Ehrlich agrees: "They have a sense of humor about their clothes," which is much needed in these times, says the stylist, adding, "It's a great moment to get away from the whole snobbery thing in fashion."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.