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‘Downsizing’ Star Hong Chau on Some of Her Most Memorable Red Carpet Looks

Hong Chau, who received Golden Globe and SAG Award noms for portraying a Vietnamese refugee in “Downsizing,” is still thinking about Alexander Payne’s film. “Payne makes films that reward repeat viewing — that will outlive him, you, me and our worrisome times,” she says. The actress, previously a regular on HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and “Treme,” also values individualism in fashion. “I appreciate people who sway to the beat of their own tambourine, like Iris Apfel and Helena Bonham Carter,” she says. “I’m never concerned about being first or on trend. I only want to feel like my most rad ‘me.’”

“This No. 21 dress [right photo] had been in my closet for about a year, waiting for the right occasion,” says Chau. She got just the opportunity when the “Inherent Vice” ensemble — including co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin, and director Paul Thomas Anderson — received the Robert Altman honor at the Independent Spirit Awards. Chau had purchased this dress secondhand for “about $100,” and snagged the red kitten pumps from Dillard’s in New Orleans while in high school. “This dress needed zero alterations and combined everything I love: a happy berry color, floral, metallic and not-gonna-wrinkle-in-the-long-car-ride brocade,” she says. “The red graphic stripe makes the dress. I felt rad!”

While it’s exciting to have your film in a festival, Chau notes, “It’s on a whole other rock star plane when that sprawling masterwork film is chosen for the opening night gala at the Venice Film Festival, with the president of Italy in attendance.” The heart, floral and bird motif on this beaded Elie Saab gown [middle] reminded her of Nordic designs on sweaters. “A portion of ‘Downsizing’ takes place in Norway, so this was my sartorial nod to Norse mythology,” she says. The event, however, proved to be her “biggest, baddest red-carpet challenge.” “After a full day of press, I had only 30 minutes to dunk my feet in a bucket of ice, while getting hair and makeup,” she says. “With my gown weighing 30 pounds and [with] six-inch platform heels, I had to get in and out of several small water taxis, because they don’t use cars in Venice.” She was officially broken in: “I felt like I could wear, walk, talk in anything, anywhere, after that.”

The Saab dress remained on Chau’s mind come Globes time. “After we got the all-black memo, I joked with my stylist Erica Cloud, ‘How about I just re-wear my black gown from Venice?” she recalls. Her stylist failed to see the humor in this. Instead, Chau wore a “simple yet chic” custom gown from Stella McCartney, which she picked from sketches. “The delicate straps and deep V were the design elements that sealed the deal for me,” she says of the black velvet and lace number. “Stella has been a champion for equality and makes sustainability a part of her business model,” Chau says. “This was a perfect marriage of fashion, film, actor and event.”

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