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Hollywood’s Reopening Will Lead to High-Energy Fashion at the 2021 Emmys

Emmy Fashion Jurnee Smollett Kaley Cuoco
Smollett: Maria Jose Govea; Cuoco: courtesy of Oscar de la Renta; Erivo: Courtesy Terrell Mullin

At this year’s virtual Golden Globes, Kaley Cuoco channeled Cinderella in an Oscar de la Renta ball gown and Cynthia Erivo caught eyes in neon Valentino Couture. But at the very same show, Jason Sudeikis donned a tie-dyed hoodie and Jodie Foster accepted her award clad in Prada pajamas. The dichotomy continued at the SAG Awards: Daniel Kaluuya rocked Louis Vuitton pajamas, while Leslie Odom Jr. debuted a rainbow Berluti suit. Emma Corrin paired her Prada dress with combat boots, and Jurnee Smollett brought the glamour in a Zuhair Murad gown.

But as the world continued to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oscars instituted a “no Zoom” and “no jeans” rule, bringing everyone to Union Station in Los Angeles or other hubs around the world in person. Now all eyes are on what the Television Academy will plan for the 73rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards in September, and subsequently, what looks nominated talent’s stylists will put together for the show.

“We’ve seen a huge gamut, from people in sweatshirts and pajamas to big red-carpet gowns,” says Smollett’s stylist Alexandra Mandelkorn. While she noticed “fun, silky sets” and casual formalwear even pre-pandemic, she believes that now, “People are going to be excited about bringing full-on looks.”

With “Lovecraft Country” star Smollett, Mandelkorn’s been exploring masculine styling, from Bella Freud suiting to oversized men’s shirts. “Her character, Leti Lewis, is a strong, feminine personality and has a little tomboy energy, so we wanted to incorporate that,” she says.

Smollett’s emerald Alexandre Vauthier dress at the NAACP Image Awards nodded to her green costume in “this iconic scene where Leti takes a bat and starts smashing [cars].” They finished off winter kudos season with the dramatic Murad dress at SAG because their approach was, “Let’s bring some of that high-fashion fun’ because everyone needs it right now.”

Also showing a glamorous side to pantsuits, Tracee Ellis Ross wore a supersized Schiaparelli look to the Image Awards, Elle Fanning glittered in a Gucci set at the SAG ceremony and “The Flight Attendant’s” Cuoco chose a glitzy Dolce & Gabbana suit for the Critics’ Choice kudos.

“Kaley always gravitates to suiting, but I wanted to kick it up a level,” says Cuoco’s stylist Brad Goreski. “I loved the jewel-encrusted lapels.”

For the SAG Awards, Cuoco switched things up with a hot-pink Prabal Gurung dress. “Kaley wanted to have fun. That was her only direction,” says Goreski. “I wanted to show different sides of her style: She loves a princess gown, suiting and pink, so we did all of those.”

Goreski says the pandemic has positively impacted awards fashion: “Celebs have been more adventurous and there’s been more risk-taking.”

And that’s true for the men too: John Boyega wrapped a Louis Vuitton shawl around his Critics’ Choice look, and Jared Leto flaunted a lavender Gucci suit with a scarf for the SAG Awards. At the Oscars, Colman Domingo shocked in hot-pink Versace, LaKeith Stanfield sported a Saint Laurent jumpsuit and Odom wore a Brioni tux made of 24-karat gold thread.

Odom’s stylist Avo Yermagyan sought to make a statement with each awards look.

“I wanted to mirror what he was doing with his performances as they’ve all been so powerful, whether [the nomination] is for his role in ‘Hamilton’ or ‘One Night in Miami,’” he says.

Odom’s ruffle-collared Celine shirt at the Critics’ Choice Awards nodded to “Hamilton,” and they referenced the ‘60s-set “One Night in Miami” at the Globes with a wool Valentino suit. “Their haute couture collection was very gender-fluid, and I love that men are embracing that this year,” Yermagyan says. “We’ve been seeing bolder choices, brighter colors and a more confident side to
men’s dressing.”

Goreski is looking forward to more inventive fashion at the Emmys, and Mandelkorn expects people to go “all out.”

“I think we’re going to see gowns and colors and sparkles and jewels. This is the start of the Roaring Twenties,” she says. “The energy’s going to be really high and that’s going to be reflected in the clothes.”