In the First Red Carpet of a Difficult Year, a Story of Relentless Optimism and a Woman's Right to Choose

What pink, yellow, and unshaven armpits mean for the rest of awards season.

Smile, People, Trousers, Collar, Social group, Coat, Outerwear, Happy, Formal wear, Dress shirt,
(Image credit: Getty, design by Betsy Farrell)

In times of war or depression, we can always count on the movies to give us a song and a dance to forget our troubles. With the fashion at Sunday's Golden Globes, Hollywood continued that tradition of escapism but delivered a performance that was both about maintaining an illusion of happiness and actively protesting the harsh reality we might soon face.

Petal, Flower, Flowering plant, Art, Lavender, Creative arts, Peach, Floral design, Daisy family, Illustration,

(Image credit: Getty)

You might have expected a somber affair, maybe a shroud here or there, but even one of the darkest dresses of the nightTeresa Palmer in plush Armani—was midnight blue. (Whereas Amy Adams' anthracite Tom Ford actually sparkled.) And amongst lashings of Easter Sunday lilac, the colors of the night were cheery yellow and pink, which together, perhaps reflects millennials taking pale, "girly" shades and severing them from their historical associations of gender. But there was still a sense of gravity, even though the gowns were maybe only a bit more extravagant than usual—you got the feeling the attendees knew the public needed that old Hollywood razzle-dazzle to twinkle harder than ever before, like a star does before it dies. This was a crowd putting on its bravest face.

But then—then you had a suit, worn by Evan Rachel Wood to show girls they aren't limited to skirts, a decision she explicitly announced to Ryan Seacrest. You had Lola Kirke's unshaven underarms and a "F*ck Paul Ryan" pin affixed to the bodice of her floral Andrew Gn. (Truly groundbreaking.) You had Chrissy Metz, who, in a turn of events, passed on two gowns, when before, she might have had none to pick from. And you had Transparent actress Trace Lysette, who underscored the evening's theme of freedom just by being a young woman thrilled to wear emerald Charbel Zoe to her first Globes. In the fashion itself, and in the words some wearers used to explain their meanings, you can see so many half-steps of choice: femininity presented as Jill Soloway in a Gucci pajama suit or Sofia Vergara in a lacy, busty Zuhair Murad.

[pullquote align='C']"The public needed that old Hollywood razzle-dazzle to twinkle harder than ever before, like a star does before it dies."[/pullquote]

It was a night of women in pretty, soft dresses saying sharp words—women who know that the right clothes can magnify their own power. But the sharpest of them all wore a relatively plain gown to deliver a speech that would have gone down as the most elegant character assassination in history, if it weren't completely true. Donald Trump, Meryl Streep said, her grieving-hoarse voice gaining clarity, lacks humanity.

It might not be fashion, exactly, that he will take away with his indecency. But it is liberty and the pursuit of happiness—unalienable rights our clothes can sometimes symbolize—that are in danger. As Streep said, these are the things we must protect. This is why we fight.

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Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.