(c) 2015, The Washington Post.
(c) 2015, The Washington Post.
In the midst of a Golden Globes red carpet that overflowed with floor-length gowns in shades of sunny yellow, dusty rose and robin's-egg blue, two people stood out: a singer and a spouse.
The vocalist Lorde wore a tuxedo. Begone sparkles, hand-sewn paillettes and buffed cleavage! And Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer recently married to George, wore a black Dior gown, elbow-length white gloves and a "Je Suis Charlie" button on her clutch.
Lorde's custom black tuxedo was created by designer Narciso Rodriguez. The trousers flowed loosely and the oversize blazer, with its strong shoulder, was open to reveal a cropped black top with a low — but not revealing — neckline. Seemingly a million carats of Neil Lane diamonds sparkled around her neck. And her dark hair was slicked back. She resembled her goth-loving self, only more glamorous and sleek. Mostly, she looked like an individual with a point of view, rather than a dress-up doll who chose a gown from Column A and a suite of jewels from Column B.
The ensemble was sophisticated and grown-up. Some might argue that it was too mature for a woman who has yet to celebrate her 21st birthday. But it was refreshing to see a young woman willing to go on the record to define sex appeal and beauty in a way that did not involve revealing decolletage.
In the past few weeks, several design houses have revealed advertising campaigns that have focused on older women — that is those who are over age 30. Julia Roberts stars in ads for Givenchy, and Joan Didion is the centerpiece of Celine's marketing campaign. Fashion may not be reshaping itself to cater to a more mature demographic, but it is suggesting that there is a compelling confidence to be found on that distant horizon.
Lorde wore a look that aspires toward a kind of personal swagger that comes after wading through a decade or two of insecurity and self-criticism. She was an interesting counterpoint to the women on the red carpet who are more than twice her age and showing twice as much skin.
Jennifer Lopez wore a Zuhair Murad gown that was a bit like a shiny-gray superhero-caped costume. The neckline plunged low and required a dancer's perfect posture, which Lopez possesses. She wore it well, but it also looked like a rather exhausting aesthetic choice.
Jessica Chastain wore a bronze, starburst-pleated Versace gown that was essentially a frame to draw the eye directly to the curve of her breasts. So often, celebrity profiles are quick to point out that an of-a-certain-age actress has a great figure or a tight jawline. The message is that they should be applauded for being so well preserved — for still looking like the starlet they once were.
Lorde's choice suggests that clutching on to youth isn't all that it is believed to be.
Amal Clooney, whose appearance was anticipated as the arrival of a kind of fashion supernova, noted that she had styled her Dior gown to express her solidarity with the French. This was, of course, her husband's night; he received a Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. And so her gesture was an awkward remark delivered in the midst of a brief flurry of light banter.
She must have known that it would be virtually impossible to say anything intelligent and thoughtful about the terror that has unfolded in France. Attempting to do so within the context of discussing couture is treacherous. But she risked it.
And by taking that risk, it seemed that she was being herself. She was willing to make the jarring remark during an interview with E! Entertainment's Ryan Seacrest. Many years ago, the late great Joan Rivers — queen of red-carpet interrogations — noted that she was once criticized for not asking more thoughtful questions of celebrities. Her response was essentially: Do you want me to ask some starlet about how she would promote world peace?
Amal Clooney is no starlet. And as much as observers joke wryly about her education and accomplishments and how her gravitas far outweighs that of her husband, one can see the pressure on her to consistently up her fashion game, to dazzle and to entertain.
On the Globes' red carpet, she refused. Her remark may have made eyes roll. But she did not seem to care.