How Oscars Fashion Proves Celebrities Are Woke AF

 by Oliver Jones

From Jane Fonda's Vietnam stance to Emma Stone's support for Planned Parenthood, here's a look back at some of the most memorable political and social statements made through Oscars' red carpet fashion.


From wearing black at the Golden Globes in support of anti-sexual harassment movement Time's Up to the blue American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ribbons sported at the 2017 Oscars ceremony, celebrities are speaking up through fashion. There is a long tradition of celebs making political and social sartorial choices on the red carpet — a predilection that often earns the ire of fashion commentators.

No matter the Fashion Police's stance on ribbons, headdresses and pantsuits, these celebrities' fashions have oftentimes reflected the real world in ways people didn't want to acknowledge: And we expect no less at this Sunday's Academy Awards. In preparation, here are some of the most memorable Oscars fashions that did all the talking.

1. 2017: ACLU Blue

For the first Oscars ceremony since the election of President Donald Trump, everyone wondered: What was the red-carpet protest going to look like? It turns out that one of the boldest statements was also one of the quieter ones. Celebrities including Busy Philipps, Emma Stone, Ruth Negga and Lin-Manuel Miranda (alongside his mother, Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda) all wore blue ribbons in support of the ACLU, a nonprofit organization that fights to preserve citizens' Constitution-guaranteed liberties. "I think the past few weeks have proven that the ACLU is fighting really important fights on behalf of our democracy," Miranda told CBS. "I'm happy to support them tonight."

2. 2017: Ava Protests the Ban

President Trump's travel ban, which banned incoming travel from eight countries (six of them predominantly Muslim), was already a month old but as divisive as ever. It was of particular concern to many 2017 Oscars fans that the ban would prevent Iranian director and nominee Asghar Farhadi from entering the country. (Farhadi ended up boycotting the event in protest.) Subtly speaking out against the ban, director and Best Documentary nominee Ava DuVernay wore a design created by Mohammed Ashi, a Saudi Arabian designer based in Lebanon — both Muslim-majority countries. She tweeted that her choice was intentional: "An act of solidarity." In the end, the clearest statement against the ill-fated ban was a largely unplanned one: That night, Mahershala Ali, who won Best Supporting Actor for "Moonlight_,"_ became the first Oscar-winning Muslim actor.

3. 2017: Emma and Dakota Stand for Planned Parenthood

Emma Stone's 2017 intricately beaded Givenchy gown evoked the golden age glitz, and her timeless glamour was matched with an equally timely message. Below her left dress strap the actress wore a small golden Planned Parenthood pin, showing her quiet but unwavering support for the women's health and reproductive rights organization. Presenter Dakota Johnson also wore the symbol on the corner of her Gucci clutch. However subtle, their statement could not have been more urgent — legislation to block Planned Parenthood affiliates from getting federal family-planning money was being proposed (and later passed).

4. 2016: Body Positive Moments Abound

As the body positivity movement became more prominent, actresses began to come forward with their struggles to find designers who will outfit them for red-carpet events. The most vocal has been Leslie Jones, who tweeted about her frustrating experience. Project Runway alum Christian Siriano stepped up to the plate, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I like showcasing my work on all these different types of women because my customer is all types of women." While many larger fashion houses are still hesitant to clothe full-figured women on the red carpet, the space is wide open for emerging designers like Siriano and the Los Angeles-based Tadashi Shoji to create beautiful designs for the diverse bodies of the Oscars — like award winners Octavia Spencer and Mo'Nique.

5. 2013: Helen's Frugal Find

The recession had been over for a while by the time Helen Hunt, a nominee for Supporting Actress for "The Sessions_,"_ shocked red-carpet watchers everywhere by donning an H&M gown for her big night. But for Americans still adjusting to a new reality, Helen Hunt's mass retailer-created dress may have felt like a relatable choice. After all, a typical Oscar dress can run many millions of dollars. Estimated cost of Hunt's blue frock? A comparatively down-to-earth $650.

6. 1992: AIDS Ribbons Start a Trend

When Hollywood icons and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" co-stars Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor wore red AIDS awareness ribbons to the 1992 Oscars, it was a striking and resonant moment. Stars had first worn the ribbons the previous year at the 1991 Tony Awards, the same year the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus created the ribbon. Though they eventually became ubiquitous, the ribbons were one of the first signs that Hollywood was acknowledging the devastating impact HIV/AIDS was having on the film industry and the world. Since then, ribbons continue to be worn to raise awareness of everything from breast cancer (pink), to depression (green). In 1993 Denzel Washington wore a purple ribbon to recognize urban violence, and in 2015 "Selma" star David Oyelowo affixed a multicolored ribbon for Ebola awareness.

7. 1986: Cher Is Barely There

When the fashion icon wore revealing Bob Mackie designs to the 1986 and 1988 ceremonies, co-presenters — and, later, advertisers — were quaking in their boots. "Coca-Cola wanted to see it before they would allow me to come tonight," she said of her 1988 look. While it may have been scandalous then, the dress is now considered a high-water mark not only in the use of sheer fabric, but also as case study of a woman sticking to her guns while everyone around her was losing their minds. Said Cher backstage after picking up her statuette that night for "Moonstruck," "People were so weirded out about this dress, but I thought it was quite appropriate for the evening."

8. 1978 - Present: Diane Does Diane

While many starlets dream of following in the glamorous footsteps of Rita Hayworth, one (and only one) actress seems to take her fashion cues from the likes of Charlie Chaplin. Since accepting her 1978 statue for her role in "Anne Hall" in a soft suit jacket and scarf ensemble put together by Ruth Morley (who had created her signature look in the film_),_ Keaton joyfully defied her critics. By following her own kooky muse, Keaton paved the way for actresses— think "The Crown_'_s" Claire Foy at this year's Golden Globes— who prefer suits to gowns. And don't expect Keaton to ever stop. "I still feel really comfortable in pants and a jacket," she told People in 2013. "I don't feel comfortable in a skirt."

9. 1972: Jane's Somber Pantsuit

At the 1972 ceremony, Hollywood legend Jane Fonda made waves when she chose to wear a somber, heavily buttoned Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit to the Academy Awards as a statement against the war in Vietnam. Fonda considered refusing the award as a symbolic protest to the war, but decided against it. The actress (who will present at this year's ceremony) also wanted to make an anti-war speech during her acceptance, but her father (actor Henry Fonda) convinced her against it. Instead, her clothes did the talking. "It was not a time for showy dresses," she told the New York Times in 2016. "It was a time for seriousness."

What Do YOU Think?

Will you be watching the Oscars on Sunday? How much does a star's outfit impact your feelings about them or about an issue? What are your favorite Oscars outfits of all time? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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