Red Carpet is Changing; Beginning of the End for Red Carpet

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For now, the red carpet has survived, but its future depends on its willingness to adapt to changing times. Stylists, for whom it remains a lucrative enterprise, are wary of boycotts but recognise its need to change. “Of course it’s important,” says Elizabeth Saltzman, who dresses Saoirse Ronan and Gwyneth Paltrow. “But maybe it’s important in a different way. Maybe now we can use the red carpet to show people as they really are. Does it matter? Only as much as we all want it to. Is it the most important business? Well, it’s my business so it’s damn well important to me. I think there’s so much we can do with the red carpet, so let’s do it instead of giving up on it.” Will next season’s red carpet heed Saltzman’s words? We can only wait and see.

”I am heartened by the progress we’ve seen,” says Jennifer Siebel Newsom, founder of The Representation Project, whose #AskHerMore slogan has been gaining ground on the red carpet since its inception in 2014. “We’re hearing more questions asked of women beyond what they’re wearing, but that said, one important next step is amplifying other critical conversations like those raised by Time’s Up. We want to work alongside like-minded organisations with missions towards equal, diverse and gender-balanced representation in Hollywood and beyond.”

Crazy Red Carpet Moment

Who are you wearing?” That has been the perennial question on the red carpet for the past two decades, as reporters asked stars about their dresses, beauty routines and exercise regimes. But at the 2018 Golden Globes, the phrase rang hollow. Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the launch of Time’s Up, more than 300 women in Hollywood had announced their intention to wear black to raise awareness for gender inequality. In response, E! Entertainment, the US network that has long been the home of red carpet reporting, announced they would be changing their signature question to “Why are you wearing black?”. When Ryan Seacrest posed this to Meryl Streep, who was attending with the activist Ai-jen Poo, she replied, “We feel emboldened in this moment to stand together in a thick black line dividing then from now.” Streep was presaging a new era for women in Hollywood, but also the beginning of the end for the red carpet as we know it.

Red carpets have a long and illustrious history. The earliest reference to one can be found in ancient Greece, with Aeschylus’s 458 BC play Agamemnonshowing a red carpet being rolled out for the eponymous king upon his return from the Trojan war. His wife Clytemnestra says, “step down from your chariot, and let not your foot, my lord, touch the earth.” He responds, “I am a mortal, a man; I cannot trample upon these tinted splendours without fear thrown in my path.” Even then, the red carpet was hallowed ground – it had the power to elevate mere mortals into deities.

During the Renaissance, red carpets were reserved for throne rooms due to the high cost of scarlet cochineal dyes. One was used in 1821 to welcome US president James Monroe ashore in South Carolina, while in 1902, the New York Central Railroad used them to direct passengers onto their 20th Century Limited train. It wasn’t until 1922, at the premiere of Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood, that movie stars first walked the red carpet. The Oscars adopted them in 1961, the ceremony was first televised in 1964, and thus the red carpet parade as we recognise it today was born.

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