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Sustainability Meets Couture: The History of Vintage on the Red Carpet

The Golden Globes were this past Tuesday, January 10, and understanding the current commentary regarding ethicality, many were glad to see a couple celebrities wearing vintage ensembles. While the cultural attitude towards fashion is shifting towards sustainability—given the social and environmental concerns of fast fashion—celebrities have long been criticized for the eccentric nature of red-carpet couture. Oftentimes, A-list events are just as focused on promoting designers as they are on celebrities. By dressing a popular personality, brands make exorbitant profits. For instance, Valentino dressed 2001 Oscar winner Julia Roberts in 2001, resulting in $25 million dollars in sales. 


These profits substantiate the relationship between the red-carpet and designer fashion, which involves harmful materials, trend cycling, and factory or shipping malpractice. The talented individuals are models for those watching the events, now with social media, practically everyone with Instagram is bypassing celebrities' designer looks. Stars who continue these business transactions with designers allow the brands to withhold sustainable practices. In other words, these elaborate events incentivize public participation in fast fashion. Rather than continuing the reputation for extortion and unethicality, celebrities can and have previously utilized their platform to support environmentally conscious red-carpet choices.  


Even before the climate crisis was generally understood, vintage designs accompanied the runway. Championed by Rita Watnick, the clothing store Lily et Cie has styled celebrities in archive designer looks since the 1990s. Memorably, Demi Moore was the first to be dressed in an archived Gianni Versace lilac gown from the late 1940s during the 1992 Oscars. Not only is the dress uniquely embellished with flower silhouettes across the bust, but the lilac gown is cemented as an unforgettable Oscar look. Plus, it was vintage! Proving runway gowns' timeless elegance should be reworn and celebrated past their debut. Image may contain Human Person Fashion Premiere Demi Moore Red Carpet Red Carpet Premiere Suit Coat and Clothing


Similarly, Winona Ryder’s 1994 Oscars flapper-style slip dress was sourced from the inaugural vintage curator, Watnick. Again and again, she has styled celebrities like Jenifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, and Kim Kardashian in past designs. Watnick herself claims that “LILY et Cie is singularly responsible for the red-carpet phenomenon”, referring to the popularization of vintage on the carpet. These looks were named “best dressed” over and over again because they were “unique and original.” Celebrities wearing vintage pieces for high-profile events are consistently described with these rarely used adjectives.


 An example recently, Kim Kardashian’s look at the 2022 Gilded Glamour Met Gala. Making fashion history, the star modeled Marylin Monroe’s 1962 diamond-gilded form-fitting dress. Originally worn by Monroe during President John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday performance at Madison Square Garden, Kardashian’s historic revamp of the Jean-Louis dress illustrated the dress as an artifact, not just a piece of clothing. Once again highlighting the powerful and artistic craft of archived fashion. Kim Kardashian wears Marilyn Monroe's dress to Met Gala 2022

Likewise, Bella Hadid, a fashion icon, supermodel, and famed for her vintage wardrobe, impressed the red-carpet during the 2022 Cannes film festival. First, on the carpet in a Versace 1987 custom dress designed by none other than the beloved Gianni Versace. The strapless dress wrapped elegantly around Hadid’s slim figure, revealing a layered ruffle across the waist, shifting from a glossy to velvet material. Luckily, the dress was upheaved from the archives, otherwise the world would have never been blessed with such a beautiful and one-of-a-kind Versace original. The next day, Hadid stepped out again. This time for the Chopard Loves Cinema Gala Dinner at Hotel Martinez in vintage Chanel. Pulling from past decades, the dress detail puffed sleeves, matched by the dress's skirt. Along with several other archived pieces, Hadid stunned the annual festival in all vintage Couture.Bella Hadid

Jen Statsky attends the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 10, 2023 in...

Following the vintage trend, three popular stars were decorated in timeless apparel for the 2023 Golden Globes. First off, Laverne Cox, actress in Orange is the New Black, made headlines in vintage Jean Paul Gaultier. The plunging gown’s draping silhouette is perfectly accentuated by gold accents, adding an old-new take on Hollywood glam. Megan Stalter, American comedian, stunned by archived Versace. Resembling a Versace staple, the dress crisscrosses across the top and splits off at the ends. Stalter revamped a past-season dress to uphold a current brand signature. Last, Jen Statsky, writer and comedian for popular shows like The Good Place and Parks and recreation, brought a classical look to vintage with a silver bedazzled draped dress. Both elegant and classic, she sparkled in archived Maison Martin Margiela. Megan Stalter attends the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 10, 2023 ...Red carpet rounds: Laverne Cox, 50, served as co-host for this year's Live From E!: Golden Globes while working the red carpet for the 80th Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton

While the Golden Globes were the latest event to show off vintage designers, they will surely not be the last. As vintage clothing becomes a practical solution to sustainability, we will hopefully see more and more celebrities overtake the spotlight in fabulous archived designs.

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