Credit: Francois Durand/Getty Images

    Cannes red carpet: I miss the fashion drama before Me Too

    17 May 2019

    Remember the old days of the celebrity fashion circuit? The flash-in-the-pan scandals: the worst dressed lists, the clothes that gave old and uptight religious types heart attacks, the daring ingenues who donned suits instead of ball gowns – or, if you were Björk – swans instead of dresses.

    Celebrity outfit choices were always creating some kind of stir; political or… otherwise. And nowhere did these ostentatious, headline-grabbing happenings play out with more high drama than on the red carpet at Cannes.

    Alas, this year we’re three days in to the film festival and the biggest stories so far have been about how lovely Elton John’s vanilla-looking biopic is, and how Elle Fanning’s the youngest ever Palme d’Or juror. Oh and she wore a really pretty pink blush suit for the press conference. Snore.

    In fact the last time anyone was actually shocked by a Cannes outfit was three years ago when Bella Hadid wore what would be described (in less high brow circles) as a ‘barely there’ dress which ‘left little to the imagination.’ I remember the occasion well because I was doing a stint on the fashion desk of a national newspaper.

    Bella Hadid at The Cannes film festival, 2016. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Image

    My editor demanded I stop what I was doing and get an article online pronto, featuring no less than: a gallery displaying the dress from every angle appropriate for publication, quasi-intellectual commentary on the challenges of going commando on the red carpet – and enough relevant SEO terms to ensure maximum traffic when pervy old men put ‘Bella Hadid no pants’ into Google.

    But that was 2016. Me Too wasn’t even a twinkle in Harvey Weinstein’s eye and no one seemed to care about equal pay, or at least – they weren’t getting much air time talking about it.

    How things have changed. So far, the biggest news is that there isn’t any news from the Riviera’s annual celebrity showground. Not a single glimpse of drama on La Croissette. Even the battles against the event’s strict dress codes appear to have been won.

    So no more young starlets going barefoot to a premier, no more grand dames wearing beautifully tailored suits, putting a finger up to the rigid clothing requirements demanded of women by the largely male organisers of the festival.

    Even the political protests are subdued; the only revolutionaries so far are the local taxi drivers who brought Nice airport to a standstill over controversial new laws about vehicle checks or something rather banal.

    Much unlike 2018, when eighty-two women – amongst them actors, filmmakers and producers – marched arm in arm down the red carpet demanding equality and “a safe workplace” in the film industry. It was just seven months after the Weinstein story broke and tensions were high.

    But this year, in this post Me Too period, it’s the fashion editors who are having the real struggles.

    Historically, Cannes would find them – like me ala Bella Hadid-gate – furiously scrambling around trying to be the first magazine to publish pictures of celebrities on the red carpet. Fresh faced interns would be trawling through Getty looking for the ‘best/most shocking/worst’ (depending on the standards of the media outlet) pictures of the current celebrity darling.

    And all over the country we’d be sat at our desks; tired, sipping coffee and constantly refreshing the Daily Mail’s coverage of Cannes, waiting for something exciting to happen, like an actor’s big toe pouring over the end of her stilletto, or a hint of nipple beneath a sheer dress. Oh the innocence of pre-Brexit, pre-fake news, pre-Me Too life.

    And so, as the conversation around what women wear has changed (largely for the better, I’ll begrudgingly admit) fashion editors have been forced to sack off ‘worst dressed lists’ and galleries filled with side boob in favour of overly-eager op eds about the politics of the red carpet critique and how celebrity fashion has ‘grown up’ in a post me-too era.

    But fortunately, that hasn’t stopped this year’s Cannes attendees wearing big, colourful ensembles with plenty of thigh splits and enormous trains and plunging necklines.

    And thank god – for a moment it looked as though things had got so serious that men and women would start parading down the red carpet wearing all in one beige boiler suits so as to negate any gender differences.

    Ezra Miller at the Paris premier of Fantastic Beasts, credit: Getty

    Quite the opposite. If the likes of Ezra Miller are anything to go (who wore a dramatic, billowing dress complete with a cape, a hood, gloves and a dark red lip to the latest Fantastic Beasts premier). The extravagant look was designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli, and is just one example of the Modern Man; freeing themselves of the tyrannous reign of the plain black suit.

    And actually, why not let men have a go at promoting films in the way women have always done? Women are still paid less for the same work and have to flaunt themselves (and what the Daily Mail still describes as ‘their assets’) in order to promote their work. In 2017, Kirsten Dunst wore no less than 28 custom outfits over 12 days. It sure ain’t easy.

    So come on chaps, step up; put on something different and take some of the load off. And please – give the fashion editors something interesting to write about again.