The 2022 Oscars fashion blurs the lines of masculinity and femininity

The 94th Academy Awards red carpet diverged from expectations as gender norms were redefined.

by Jessica Sun Li | 3/31/22 2:05am

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by Jane Huang / The Dartmouth Staff

Hundreds of celebrities walked the red carpet at the 94th annual Academy Awards on Sunday for the first relatively normal version of the award ceremony since the outbreak of COVID-19. Now more than ever, it seemed like the artists felt freer to express themselves: They were unapologetic in dressing in unique and interesting ways, even blurring the lines of masculinity and femininity. The Oscars highlighted the ambiguity and freedom of fashion under the watchful eye of the public, reflecting a modern acceptance of clothing’s gender fluidity. From fresh takes on the classic “awards ceremony” dress to the experimental and risky, this year’s best dressed at the Oscars were truly some to remember.

Though only 15 years old, Demi Singleton has already made her mark in the entertainment world as both a phenomenal actress, playing Serena Williams in “King Richard,” and as a fashion icon. Singleton donned a strapless lilac dress from Miu Miu. This relatively simple silhouette was elevated by the intricate beading around the bust and upper torso. It’s beautiful on its own, but it’s especially perfect on Singleton as the playful purple color and floral embellishments juxtapose the structured silhouette of the dress. The innocent feeling of the dress emphasizes the youthful femininity of its wearer, presenting her not as an item to be sexualized, but an actress to be revered. 

Megan Thee Stallion also brought something new to the typical gown. Designed by Gaurav Gupta, the muted blue strapless dress was beautifully textured with sequins striped up and down. The skirt splayed out in equally textured waves before flowing like water into the rest of the train. The cutout on the torso of the dress was placed at exactly the right spot, complementing her body perfectly, and the leg slit was at a tasteful height. Upon donning the dress, she became the epitome of femininity by seizing her sensuality on the typically conservative red carpet. Known for her anthems of passion, desire and lust, Megan Thee Stallion brought her renowned sex appeal to the Oscars in a chic and stylish way.

The silhouette of “Dune” makeup artist Eva von Bahr’s ball gown was nothing shocking, but the gown itself certainly was. The painting “Madonna del Prato'' by Raphael, a Renaissance artist, covered the entirety of the conservative dress, from the short-sleeved bodice to the huge skirt. The true star of the show, though, was the handbag that von Bahr paired with her outfit: a bag that resembled a bust of Michaelangelo’s statue of David. The marble statue represented the strength and fortitude of Florence, chronicling a tale of David’s wit overcoming Goliath’s strength. The bag’s addition to von Bahr’s flamboyant look added a nuanced touch of masculinity as she carried Michelangelo's depiction of the perfect man in hard chiseled marble, contrasted with Raphael’s painting of tender motherhood between the Virgin Mary and Christ. 

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Kristen Stewart opted to completely challenge the idea of what a woman’s Oscars outfit should be. Forgoing the traditional dress in favor of shorts, Stewart wore custom Chanel: a white chiffon button-down shirt under a black suit jacket and alongside a pair of ultra-short shorts. Chanel also loaned Stewart a million-dollar necklace, which she wore peeking out through her completely unbuttoned shirt. Although the length of her shorts could be considered scandalous, fashion is not necessarily about what’s considered appropriate; it’s about expression, identity and innovation. Stewart looked elegant without fulfilling the expectations of how a woman should dress, but most importantly, she looked truly like herself.

Zendaya similarly took on the risk of mixing the masculine and the feminine, wearing a cropped button-down top with a long silver sequined skirt, both from Valentino. The harsher structure of the more masculine satin top was balanced perfectly by the softness of the skirt’s flowing train. What really tied the look all together, though, was her jewelry. Silver Bvlgari Serpenti Viper coil bracelets trailed up both of her arms and they were paired with the matching necklace. In the end, the uniqueness of the stark contrasts within her look made Zendaya look effortlessly cool.

Zendaya’s “Dune” costar Timothée Chalamet was equally expressive on the red carpet with his fashion choices. He was bare-chested, only dressed in a black sequined suit jacket and high-waisted black trousers from the Louis Vuitton womenswear collection. A silver Cartier necklace sat against his sternum and he wore black boots for a clean line from his pants to his shoes. In an event that typically features a lot of the same when it comes to men’s fashion — usually a frankly unexciting black tuxedo — it was intriguing to see Chalamet experiment with his clothing, unafraid to blur gender boundaries in clothing in a public forum.

In the same vein of challenging the standard for menswear on the red carpet, “Power of the Dog” actor Kodi Smit-McPhee showed up in a pastel blue tuxedo from Bottega Veneta with a matching blue dress shirt. His shoes, also from Bottega Veneta, balanced out the rest of the outfit. The bright white woven texture stood out against the rest of the blue satin, and it prevented the look from appearing overwhelming. A unique take on the typically boring menswear seen at the Oscars, the pastel shade of the tuxedo added a feminine touch to the look despite its traditional fit.

At the end of the day, being the best dressed at the Oscars is not just about looking the most elegant or the most put together; it’s about giving the “wow” factor. It’s about giving the audience something new, something they’ve never seen before, but it’s also about showing personality and identity. People are the most fashionable when they are dressed unapologetically and unabashedly true to themselves as they reject the previous constraints of gender. The fashion at this year’s Oscars is hopefully an indication of a continued path towards an emphasis on individuality and the freedom of expression, both on the red carpet and in daily life.

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