Where did the fashion coverage on the red carpet go at this year’s Academy Awards?

If you are a fashion lover or were just plain curious about a beautiful dress a star was wearing, well too bad. You were out of luck at the 2019 Oscars. A head-to-toe shot of your favorite celeb on the red carpet was as rare as Jimmy Fallon cleavage.

On digital sites like WWD, Refinery29 and The Cut, there were yards of information about who was wearing what. However, ABC chose a strategy that diminished the importance of fashion which strikes me as a bad idea. Not only was it less entertaining, but it suggests style is a superfluous frivolity of women, a long-running trope in the canons of sexism.

The omission comes on the heels of celebrities’ move last year to wear black and refuse to answer questions about fashion. At that time, that decision, meant to bring attention to new and revolting revelations about abuses and unequal treatment suffered by women at that hands of men in Hollywood, was bold and timely. Actors wanted to ensure that the issue remained in focus and was not brushed under the rug. And so to avoid that, no one asked about style and no one talked about it.

Concurrently, reports surfaced that The Academy began charging outlets to cover the awards and increased the price charged to ABC, its exclusive media partner for the awards ceremony. ABC has never done a memorable job of capturing the red carpet, that distinction belongs to E! But with Joan Rivers gone and no real successor to her, the fashion light has dimmed on that. Then this year E! was forced to cover less as ABC covered more expanding its pre-show coverage. ABC’s hosts, Billy Porter, Elaine Welteroth and Ashley Graham – are all style savvy but they were clearly following some mandate NOT to ask about the style and instead ask about the work – directing and acting.

Oh the big snooze of it all. And by the way, getting ready for an awards show is part of the job too. Frustration really set in when Regina King, an early arrival, swooped onto the red carpet in her white thigh-high gown. No one asked who designed her dress. Oscar de la Renta! Beautiful!!!

JLo arrived in what I now am told online was Versace with that adoring accessory on her arm – Alex Rodriguez.

Was Charlize Theron going to wear Dior? Again? She arrived but if you were watching ABC, you never knew it was Dior. Again.

Didn’t you want to know who designed that pink cotton candy dress that wisped around Kacey Musgraves’ face; just so you would never order the same thing.

The general news media has long held a grudge against fashion coverage. For years, style was relegated to what was shadily called “the ladies pages.” If it was about women and women were interested in it, it couldn’t possibly be important. Newspapers and newsmagazines parsimoniously gave space to fashion, beauty, home and cooking because they drove advertising. Could ABC harbor a similar, misplaced bias?

With the #MeToo and Hollywood-powered #TimesUp movements, women should more than ever be encouraged to wear what they want and express interest in whatever they please. Just because you’re serious about Louis Vuitton doesn’t follow that you’re not serious about sexual harassment. Men routinely change subjects on a dime – sports and social issues, sports and the stock market – and no one has a problem with it. Right there at the Oscars, was Sam Jackson on stage, no less, telling Knicks super fan Spike Lee about a team development. It didn’t take not one whit away from the seriously woke speech Lee gave minutes later when he accepted his Oscar.

It was hipsters-wearing Gloria Steinem and her cohort of funky feminists who pointed out AND demonstrated that a woman can be intellectually and socially conscious and interested in style all at the same time. It’s called being agile and multi-faceted.

Besides, how hypocritical was it to give passing coverage to fashion when one of the evening’s biggest advertisers promoted style ? Every time I returned from a water break, there was Walmart selling clothes and accessories via some of Hollywood’s top stylists – Elizabeth Stewart, Ashley Weston, Ilaria Urbanati, Tara Swennen, Michael Fisher and Jeanne Yang. These are the very stylists who actually put celebrities in those dresses and tuxes on the red carpet.

In an online report, an E! executive noted that E! had cultivated a strong millennial audience with its red carpet coverage. In the last decade, fashion has become a pillar of pop culture, as strong and defining as music was for baby boomers. Perhaps the ABC executives have not kept up with this development. While the network risks a disaffected audience, viewers of all ages miss being more informed and entertained.

And what about the stars? Will they fulfill their written and unwritten contracts with fashion houses if they can’t say who they are wearing? Just asking.

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