Bold statements — and looks — on the Oscars red carpet

Mary J. Blige attended the 90th Annual Academy Awards.
Mary J. Blige attended the 90th Annual Academy Awards. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

The sartorial choices were nearly as bold as the political statements at the 90th Academy Awards. Jennifer Garner donned electric blue chiffon, Viola Davis opted for shocking pink, Meryl Streep was unusually chic in chile pepper red, and Ashley Judd wore deep purple. Judd, who came to the Oscars with Mira Sorvino, was one of the first women to speak out against sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein last fall, followed shortly after by Sorvino. On the red carpet they spoke of activism, not designer names. Even actresses who opted to forgo color stood out in white, such as Jane Fonda, Laura Dern, and Mary J. Blige.

Adam Rippon arrived at the Oscars.
Adam Rippon arrived at the Oscars. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Adam Rippon While Ryan Seacrest was busy hawking his Macy’s clothing line, Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon sauntered onto the red carpet to show how brave and fun fashion can be when it’s not sold at the mall. Channeling gay leather daddy icon Tom of Finland, America’s newest skating sweetheart showed his naughty side in a tuxedo with strappy, peak-a-boo shoulders and a leather harness with leather bow tie. Love it or hate it, Rippon’s tux showed that menswear can also be risqué and fun.

Allison Williams.
Allison Williams. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Allison Williams The girl formerly known as Marnie ran the risk of looking like a Victorian ghost in a dusty curtain by sporting a barely-blush gown that started at the shoulders as sheer, moved down the décolletage and bodice growing in texture with sequins and then melting effortlessly into subtle pleats. Her styling hinted nicely toward the past without looking like a costume. The gauzy gown helped soften the image of the villainous character she played in “Get Out.”


Allison Janney Somehow Janney made wearing a snug-fitting red carpet gown with a plunging neckline look smooth and effortless. She could be the only actress in recent years to arrive at the Oscars sporting statement sleeves. When was the last time floor-length sleeves looked this sexy? It’s Halston-meets-Chanel, dressy enough for the carpet, dramatic enough to work on a dance floor while spinning to Donna Summer.


Daniel Kaluuya All eyes were on the star of “Get Out,” and he used the spotlight wisely. He eschewed traditional tux colors – black, white, midnight blue, and even emerald green. Instead he dove into a Crayola couture closet and arrived in a copper-caramel jacket. It was a look as refreshing as his role in Jordan Peele’s Oscar nominated film. With few exceptions, red carpet tuxedos tend to take a back seat to the gowns. Thankfully, Kaluuya opted to ride shotgun in his striking choice.

Daniel Kaluuya.
Daniel Kaluuya.(ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Tiffany Haddish At first glance it looked as if Haddish was headed to an Orange County Renaissance fair. But the regal ensemble was not medieval, it was a tribute to her father and her Eritrean heritage. Although the dress and jacket with gold trim felt a bit costume-y for the carpet, it was hard to find fault with someone who represented her country with such exuberance through fashion.

Tiffany Haddish.
Tiffany Haddish. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Viola Davis Somehow Michael Kors created a dress/time machine for Oscar winner Viola Davis because she looked a good 10 years younger strutting into the ceremony in a custom bubblegum pink crepe gown with head-to-toe beading. The hair and large hoop earrings also helped keep the “How to Get Away with Murder” actress looking playfully refined for the evening. Not getting nominated for an Oscar agrees with her (Davis has won once and been nominated twice more.) This is the most carefree Davis has ever looked on the carpet.


Viola Davis.
Viola Davis. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Salma Hayek Picture, if you will, a banquet hall chandelier crashing down upon a table covered with a ruffled purple table cloth. Now, open your eyes and behold Salma Hayek, who somehow managed to arrive at the ceremony looking like a ruffled tablecloth topped with a chandelier. Every year I feel as if there is one actress who put her Oscar gown on in the dark, and then left the house without looking in a mirror. Sadly, this year it was Hayek.

Salma Hayek.
Salma Hayek.(Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Sally Hawkins In the groundbreaking “The Shape of Water,” Hawkins is the ideal doleful ingénue, albeit dressed as a janitor in a laboratory. An Oscar night Cinderella-style makeover from on-screen frump to award-ready fabulous would have made for a thrilling red carpet moment. Instead, Hawkins arrived in a flat, awkwardly fitting ombre gown that resembled something her character would have dusted with rather than a frock for an Oscar-nominated actress.

Octavia Spencer (left) and Sally Hawkins.
Octavia Spencer (left) and Sally Hawkins. (MIKE NELSON/EPA/Shutterstock)

Helen Mirren She could arrive at the Oscars wearing a gown strung together from paper bags and bottle caps and Mirren would still project an air of perfection. Mirren, who was set to present the Best Actor Award with Jane Fonda, wore a figure-hugging long-sleeved navy sheath. Along with her winning look, she also provided one of the best red carpet moments as she took a hit of tequila before facing photographers. All that strutting and posing can make a lady thirsty.


Helen Mirren.
Helen Mirren.(Matt Sayles/A.M.P.A.S via Getty Images)

Lupita Nyong’o It was the ideal dress for an interstellar beauty pageant. Lupita Nyong’o’s gold lame gown came with its own militant sash sewn into it. Unfortunately that sash overwhelmed what should have been a shimmering dream dress. It was an oddly proportioned, single-shoulder frock with a slit up the leg that climbed a bit higher than necessary. Strangely, the entire looked came together the moment Nyong’o put on a pair of dark-rimmed glasses.

Lupita Nyong'o.
Lupita Nyong'o.(Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Kelly Ripa Back in the 1980s, talk show host Ripa was a young, big-haired high school student who danced on a bad “American Bandstand” knock-off called “Dance Party USA.” She’s now one of the most powerful women on television. So why was Ripa at the Oscars dressed as if she was going to a “Dance Party USA” reunion? Her neon bustle did not belong on a black gown. Actually, it didn’t belong on any dress.

Zoe Deutch The 23-year old Deutch elicited the first “ugh, I’m so old” moment of the Oscars

red carpet for this reporter. Deutch, whose credits include “The Disaster Artist,” “Before I Fall,” and Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” video, is the daughter of ’80 sweetheart Lea Thompson. Yep, the Lea Thompson who starred in “Back to the Future” trilogy. Deutch looked smashing in a tiered, beaded silver gown for Hollywood’s big night. Now, excuse me while I go look for a flux capacitor.

Eiza Gonzalez There’s no doubt that hitting the red carpet early has its benefits. Wear an eye-catching gown and the media can’t help but notice. Eiza Gonzalez, costar of 2017’s “Baby Driver,” played it just right, donning a Minion-yellow frock that definitely stood out from the crowd.


Eiza Gonzalez.
Eiza Gonzalez.(Christopher Polk/Getty Images))

Emma Stone Going low key on the red carpet can be a risk, especially at the Oscars. But Emma Stone managed to nail casual glam, with black cigarette pants, a plunging burgundy satin blazer, and a fuchsia obi belt. Who could blame her for choosing a simple, loose style Sunday night? At last year’s Academy Awards, Stone took home the Best Actress Oscar for “La La Land” and was on stage for the infamous envelope fiasco. She deserved an unruffled evening.

Jennifer Garner She won. Oh, what’s that you say? Jennifer Garner wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award this year? Don’t care. She still won.

Jennifer Garner.
Jennifer Garner.(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Hayley Kaufman of the Globe staff contributed. Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther .