Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow wore a red velvet suit?

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Written by Rosalind Jana, CNN

Digging through the archives of pop culture history, “Remember When?” is a CNN Style series offering a nostalgic take on the celebrity outfits that defined their era.

Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow showed up to the MTV Video Music Awards wearing a luxurious red velvet suit over an unbuttoned blue shirt, her blonde hair tucked behind her ears?

It was 1996 and the Paltrow star was on the rise. That same year, the 23-year-old appeared in “Emma,” playing the indiscreet protagonist of Jane Austen with vim (The New York Times described her as “resplendent … sliding through the film with elegance and a patrician spirit which thinks of the young Katharine Hepburn “). Over the next few years, she went on to star in big box office hits including “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Shakespeare in Love”, the latter of which won her numerous awards including the 1999 Oscar. the best actress. .

Over the next two decades, the pale pink Ralph Lauren dress she wore to accept her Oscar drew many inches of column. But it wasn’t until recently that her red velvet suit received the same attention.

Gwyneth Paltrow pictured in her red velvet Gucci suit. Credit: Kevin.Mazur / INACTIVE / WireImage / Getty Images

A return to hedonism

This costume – sultry, tactile, ruby ​​red – was from Gucci’s 1996 Fall / Winter show. Designed by Tom Ford, who joined the Italian brand in 1990, it was first worn with a velvet scarf by Florida model Trish Goff.

Like many family businesses that have become luxury juggernauts, Gucci began its life in the 1920s as a leather goods company. She first sold saddles and equestrian accessories before focusing on luggage and eventually handbags. By the time Ford came on board, however, it was on the verge of financial ruin.

Former Bergdorf Goodman president Dawn Mello had been tasked with turning the tide of the brand. But it was his Texas-born recruit who would spearhead the label’s renaissance.

Initially responsible for dealing with women’s ready-to-wear, Ford was appointed creative director in 1994 following the departure of Mello. With total control of the brand, he ushered in a new look for the heritage brand: a form-fitting, sensual and unabashedly provocative look.

Tom Ford is applauded as he paraded on a runway in 2003. At the time, Ford was the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

Tom Ford is applauded as he paraded on a runway in 2003. At the time, Ford was the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Credit: Michel Dufour / French Select / WireImage / Getty Images

Ford, who had trained as an architect and later cut his teeth at Perry Ellis, would hold the most senior position at Gucci until 2004. He drew much of his hedonistic inspiration from the world of the Halston era. from Studio 54, putting its models in jewel silk. velvet blouses and flares. He highlighted the erotic potential of the clothes – something he continued to push through a series of infamous Gucci campaigns (including a 2003 ad featuring a model with the brand’s “G” logo shaved off. in his pubic hair).

For the fashion world, her tenure was a breath of fresh air.

“More than any other designer, Tom Ford will go down in history as the man responsible for the clothing of the last years of the 20th century,” British critic Susannah Frankel observed in the Independent newspaper in 1999. “The super consciously. sleek, sexy and edgy super-glamor that the Gucci brand has come to mean as the perfect fodder for the turn of the millennium. “

Revisiting the costume

With the fashion of the era on a revival, social media is now revisiting the look of some of its most glamorous flag bearers – from a shimmering mane Julia Roberts to Liz Hurley in this Versace dress.
It’s a time when Instagram accounts like @tomfordforgucci flourished. Delving into the visual history of Ford’s tenures at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, which he led from 1999 to 2004, the return account showcased his fashion editorials and runway looks to a new audience hungry for daring sensuality. .
Paltrow is one of a lineup of starlets whose fresh-faced party photos and ’90s red carpet appearances are now flooding social media. And as a result, his red VMA suit is now an increasingly coveted item, with one recently sold on luxury resale site 1stDibs for over $ 8,000.

To celebrate Gucci’s 100th anniversary in April, the brand’s current creative director, Alessandro Michele, even sent a near-perfect replica of the costume to the catwalk, though he replaced the original velvet scarf with a leather and silver body chain.

A model wears a revised version of Gwyneth Paltrow's red velvet suit to the Gucci 'Aria' 2021 show.

A model wears a revised version of Gwyneth Paltrow’s red velvet suit to the Gucci ‘Aria’ 2021 show. Credit: Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images for Gucci

It’s tempting to try to diagnose the reasons for the renewed interest in fashion at the time – and the women who wore it. Perhaps she epitomizes what we now see as a time of innocence – a decade before 9/11, largely before the internet which seems distant from ours, but just close enough that it isn’t. fully slipped into the realms of history.

Or maybe we have a lingering feeling that design was more exciting or daring in the past, especially in the wake of a pandemic that interfered with our understanding of time and style. (Ford’s sharp seam and “razor-sharp glamor” are all the more appealing after a year of wearing sweatpants.)

But whatever the reasons, Paltrow’s costume demonstrates that anything fashionable can be revived and put back in the spotlight. After all, it was Ford who plundered the ’70s to create something new for the’ 90s in the first place.



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