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Elegy for the red carpet

Jessica Chastain at Cannes.

Jessica Chastain at Cannes.

All you have to do is peruse photos from last month’s Cannes Film Festival to know that the red carpet is dead.

The first indication? Two of film’s loveliest actresses — Marion Cotillard and Jessica Chastain — arrived looking like novitiates of some unknown monastic order. White gowns, long sleeves, modest necklines. Handsome, yes, but hardly the glittering finery Cannes is known for.

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Meanwhile, at the premiere of her movie, “The Bling Ring,” Emma Watson wore a sleepy black and white gown about as memorable as Hermione’s robe at Hogwarts. And Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence slipped into black and white Dior for one Cannes appearance, but really, who can recall which film she was promoting?

That may be the point. Blame an anxious film industry where even a small sartorial misstep can threaten a PR rollout or a star’s likability. (Anne Hathaway, we’re looking at you.) No one — not actors, not stylists, not designers, and certainly not producers — wants to do anything that might jeopardize a movie’s buzz or opening weekend gross. End up on some snarky worst-dressed lists and a starlet is suddenly being noticed for all the wrong reasons.

And so style watchers around the world are left with a parade of stars in perfectly elegant, perfectly forgettable frocks. We can only hope the films make a bigger impression.

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at

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