Getty Images; Chung and Zendaya courtesy of Eco AgeInstagram
Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
Some of the most talked-about red carpet looks of recent months bear little resemblance to what we might have seen in the pre-lockdown days. There was Regina King making a powerful statement by wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt to accept her Emmy for Best Actress from her couch. Julia Garner and Rachel Brosnahan wearing pajamas (albeit very luxe ones) to the virtual Emmys. Even the landscape looks different—the usual sea of black-clad publicists is replaced by a few close friends and family members sprawled in the living room.
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Even though fashion, in all its forms, is decidedly more casual right now, that doesn’t mean that red carpet attire has become synonymous with loungewear—even though much of the action is taking place on the couch. What’s happening instead is a shift towards what Lorenzo Marquez of Tom and Lorenzo calls “low-key elegance.” Co-creator Tom Fitzgerald concurs. “Right now, the general tone of celebrity style seems to be hovering around ‘dressy casual.’ The kind of looks a star might wear to make a talk show appearance rather than the kinds of looks they’d wear on a red carpet,” he says. “Celebrities like to pretend that promotional work like red carpets and public appearances are a pain, but most stars don’t become stars without a healthy need for attention now and then. There was no way they were all going to stay home in their sweats and yoga pants for most of the year.”
But the line between relatable and glamorous is a tricky one to walk, particularly right now. When much of your audience is experiencing mass unemployment and struggling with grief and economic pain, how do you dress to impress without alienating them?
One way of squaring that circle is to recycle your greatest hits. At the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, where the focus is on sustainability, vintage looks dominated the virtual red carpet. Zendaya was in archival Versace from 1996 (which also happens to…