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  • Writer's pictureFashion and Retail Association

The Evolution of the Red Carpet Throughout History

By: Alex Germain

At today’s award shows and ceremonies, the red carpet is a ubiquitous presence, where we get to see our favorite stars show us their best looks and talk to the press. But while the red carpet seems like it’s always been there, its development has seen it transform from a practical way to guide the stars to their seats to an event in itself, with stars showing off their personal style and creating moments which can elevate them to the next level. Here’s a brief history of the red carpet, and the fashion stars brought to it.

Timothee Chalamet in Louis Vuitton at the 2022 Oscars

Red carpets entered the entertainment industry first in 1922, at the premiere of Robin Hood at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, where a red carpet was laid out for stars to walk on as they entered the theatre. Reporters lined the red carpet as they did today, but the carpet was there for practical reasons, as the stars had to walk from their cars to the entrance of the theater and they needed to clear a path. The red carpet would not appear at the Oscars for a few decades, with the first appearance at the Academy Awards being in 1961.

When the Oscars first introduced the red carpet in 1961, the show was not broadcast in color, but the carpet was still a success. This was a time before paparazzi and celebrity culture, where the only glimpses you got of the stars was on the big or small screen, so families jumped at the opportunity to see their favorite stars in public. In 1966, the Oscars broadcast for the first time in color, bringing the red carpet to life on screen. After this, the red carpet became a standard at events, showing up at events from the Met Gala to Cannes Film Festival.

At the beginning of the red carpet’s introduction, the fashion was reserved, with most celebrities using a stylist to inform their choices, often going for more conservative suits and dresses. As time wore on, celebrities began to express themselves more on the red carpet, with one notable example being Barbara Streisand’s see-through pant suit at the Oscars in 1969. After this, celebrities got more and more expressive in their outfit choices, with the 1990s and 2000s being a particular high point for red carpet fashion. This decade saw outfits such as Bjork’s swan dress, JLo’s Valentino dress, and Geena Davis’s Ruth Meyers corset pushing the boundaries of red carpet fashion and self-expression.

Bjork in Marjan Pejoski at the 73rd Academy Awards

Today, the red carpet is still an area of self-expression for many celebrities, with the Met Gala particularly being an event which stars use to express their own personal style and make a statement. Looks such as Rihanna’s Comme Des Garcons dress at the 2017 Met Gala, Lady Gaga’s 4 outfit changes at the 2019 Met Gala, and Billy Porter’s boundary pushing red carpet looks show how fashion on the red carpet is still used today to make a statement and help stars stand out in an increasingly saturated world.

Rihanna in Comme Des Garçons at the 2017 Met Gala

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