Since the dark shadings of “The Sopranos” first transformed our televisions, cultural observers have agreed that what’s on there is as good as what used to be grandly known as the cinema. But has TV’s ceremonial clothing kept pace?
Dizzyingly so, in the case of the 2014 Emmys red carpet, which was a full-on gallop toward the finish line of Twitter feeds, Facebook “selfie stations” and blog-a-logs, where spectators waited to identify who wore what and decide if it meant anything, anything at all.
There were no trends; there was only trending.
“Hang on to your laptops and mobile devices!” squealed Will Marfuggi, a correspondent on E!’s live-streaming preshow. Was that the faintest echo of Bette Davis’s famous line from “All About Eve”?
Regardless, in the realm of fashion, it was a bumpy night.
Orange was thankfully not the new black, though Kerry Washington, the first African-American nominated for best actress in a drama since Cicely Tyson in 1995, boldly paid homage to that Netflix show, she said, with a strapless, glitter-trimmed Prada gown whose high slit showed a black miniskirt underneath. “These are New York Knicks colors,” she told NBC’s Shaun Robinson (Halloween also came to mind), adding that she had started the day watching funeral services for Michael Brown, the teenager shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri.
One of her fellow nominees, Claire Danes of “Homeland,” went redder, though less hot tomato than cool bell pepper — a sleeveless Givenchy number with lace cutouts, a belt and what appeared to be a necklace of twigs.
For va-va-va-voom, viewers can count on Sofia Vergara, who didn’t disappoint in a strapless white Roberto Cavalli this year, though she was arguably out-voomed by Laverne Cox, the first openly transgender nominee in Emmy history, for “Orange Is the New Black.” She wore a custom white Marc Bouwer goddess gown with trains trailing from the shoulder in a manner that recalled the work of the late-20th-century designer Luis Estévez.
Stars of period pieces, understandably eager to break character, are often the most sophisticated at an awards ceremony, especially if they aren’t nominated and feel they can take a risk. In a Rosie Assoulin frock of blue, green and white, Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” looked like an exceptionally harmonious and modern flower arrangement. Jessica Paré of “Mad Men” was the picture of old-time glamour in a black Lanvin dress with a beaded bodice and a skirt, also petal-like. (Her colleague January Jones was slightly stiffer, in a red Prabal Gurung gown with fabric that evoked somewhat overwrought wallpaper.)
Among the men, whose new grooming standard generally continues to reflect the shower-sandal model set by Silicon Valley, Matthew McConaughey was a standout in a blue tuxedo worn with a black shirt and shoes. “Those are outstanding,” ABC’s Billy Bush remarked.
Bush was less smooth with Taylor Schilling of “Orange.”
“I would imagine there’s some tape going on with the dress?” he asked of her safe Zuhair Murad beige halter, referring to a cleavage-securing tool.
But Schilling was unfazed. “You know the game,” she said.
If all this is indeed a game, both Sarah Silverman (in plunging black Marni) and Lena Dunham (in Giambattista Valli) are, more convincingly than Charlie Sheen, winning. In her pink ensemble, with Peter Pan shirt and ombré skirt, worn with a platinum-blond bob, Dunham might have been paying homage, unconsciously or not, to the “Family Ties” star Tina Yothers, who wore a tutu to the Emmys almost 30 years ago. But she was surely having more fun than we were, toggling, dazed, among our many screens.