75 most memorable looks from 2021's socially distanced yet glitzy red carpet season

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Halle Berry is seen in her award show look for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards on 25 April 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lindsay Flores via Getty Images)
Halle Berry is seen in her award show look for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards on 25 April 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lindsay Flores via Getty Images)
  • Annual awards ceremonies hosted dual ceremonies this year, allowing both virtual and socially distanced attendance.
  • The cream of the crop of film and television attended from various corners of the world dressed in uncompromised designer gowns we imagine they would have on the actual red carpet during simpler times.
  • In case you missed any of the razzmatazz of the 2021 awards season - on what would have traditionally been 'The first Monday of May' (Met Gala) - we've rounded up our 75 favourite red carpet looks from 6 awards shows.

Okay, so red carpets made an officially unofficial comeback with their hybrid ceremonies this year. 

Annual awards ceremonies hosted dual ceremonies this year, allowing both virtual and socially distanced attendance. The cream of the crop of film and television attended from various lounge or garden corners of the world, but that did not stop them from showing up in uncompromised designer gowns. 

Proof, once again, that celebrity stylists are the real unsung heroes of the red carpet.

READ MORE: Meet the hairstylists behind the head-turning looks of Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Zozi Tunzi

But the red carpet is no longer accessorised with the gaudiness of the paparazzi's flashing cameras. So while awards ceremonies have been stripped down just a little, the A-listers who dazzle at these events have put on what glamorous amphitheatres have lost. 

As a precursor to the Oscars and other major film events, this year's Critics Choice Awards certainly set the standard in terms of styling, while the Golden Globes offered a new subdued approach to Hollywood glam. Of course, the Oscars completed 2021's awards season with a bang, fighting hard to fill the approaching void of the Met Gala that once marked the first Monday of May. 

Not to mention the fact that these awards ceremonies were studded (among other Hollywood long-standing heavyweights) with new stars who have stylists commissioned - and labels clamouring -  to establish them as breakout red carpet stars.

In 2020, this included the most notable likes of Kaitlyn Dever styled by Karla Welch in Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Dior; and Joey King in Iris Van Herpen. Both of whom also had standout Critics Choice Awards looks that year. 

This year, thanks to Netflix series Bridgerton's buzz, The Queen's Gambit high acclaim, the 'Diana season' of The Crown, and 2021 film Judas and the Black Messiah; Phoebe Dynevor, Anya Taylor-Joy, Emma Corrin, and Dominique Fishback were set to be the women to watch in designer gowns and accoutrements. 

READ MORE: GALLERY | A look at over 20 Met Gala showstoppers from the 2000s to celebrate the return of the Met

So behold - a bumper issue of the 75 (plus bonus looks) most memorable 2021 awards season red carpet looks. Consider it the Met Gala filler you never knew you needed. 

And remember; "most memorable" and "best" don't necessarily mean the same thing when it comes to the red carpet.

78th Annual Golden Globes

12 A-listers who impressed us the most (or even just a little):  

It looks like several A-listers went 'Black to Basics' for this occasion. Perhaps to mark the sombre era we're still in? Or maybe it's just a return to old Hollywood glam. 

Sarah Paulson

What's a Hollywood star to do when they injure themselves on the day of a big awards show? Well, if you're actress Sarah Paulson, apparently you get Prada to make you a custom cast that matches your custom gown.

Sarah couldn’t skip the ceremony because she was nominated for her role in the series Ratched. So she and her stylist Karla Welch, got Prada to create a cast – complete with a Prada logo – to complement her black custom gown by the Italian fashion house as well. 

Susan Kelechi Watson 

The 'This is Us' star pretty much stole the show in this Couture blue fringed Georges Hobeika dress. 

Cynthia Erivo 

The singer, actress and producer's Valentino gown honestly needs no caption. It speaks for itself. 

Viola Davis 

Styled by Elizabeth Stewart in Lavie by CK (Claude Kameni). 

Regina King 

In a custom Louis Vuitton gown by creative director, Nicolas Ghesquiere.

Nicole Kidman

Also in a black gown by Louis Vuitton that took over 400 hours to create. 

Anya Taylor-Joy

The 'Queen's Gambit' breakout star stunned in a scintillating green Dior Haute Couture gown, styled by the inimitable Law Roach.

Rosamund Pike

Still rocking her 'I Care A Lot' super bob haircut, the actress took home her award in the voluminous AW20 Meva dress by Molly Goddard. 

Angela Bassett

Ageing backwards and breathing life into this Dolce & Gabbana look, styled by Jennifer Austin.

Jamie Lee Curtis

This shade of yellow on Jamie Lee Curtis is what made her a standout attendee in Alex Perry at the Golden Globes. 

Emma Corrin 

‘The Crown’ star mimicked her character, Princess Diana, in a black Miu Miu gown with a ruffled collar.  

Elle Fanning

A dream personified in a serene sky blue Gucci gown by Alessandro Michele.

2021 Critics Choice Awards

15 looks that made us believe in red carpet fashion again: 

But first, special mention to the breakout red carpet stars; Bridgerton's Pheobe Dynevor made her mark with a black Louis Vuitton knee-length dress, Anya Taylor-Joy was decked out in jewel-toned Dior haute couture, and Dominique sparkled in Reem Acra styled by Madison Guest.    

critics choice
Actress Dominique Fishback gets ready for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 07, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)  

Valentino

Malcolm & Marie's Zendaya inspired a bout of euphoria in us with this look styled by Law Roach.  

Miu Miu

Miuccia Prada's less complicated label Miu Miu, gave us two of the best coats seen at the US presidential inauguration earlier this year, as well as Emma Corrin's striking Golden Globes dress.

READ MORE: The coordinated coats worn at the Biden inauguration were sentimental displays of fashion 'politics'   

At the Critics Choice, the Italian brand continued to stamp itself as the simpler yet still noteworthy version of Prada. 

H.E.R  

Amanda Seyfried 

UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Amanda Seyfried poses fo

Amanda Seyfried poses for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 7, 2021. (Photo via Getty Images) 

Prada

For implicit sentiments of sophistication, Miuccia has Prada in more complex cuts.

Andra Day 

UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Andra Day poses for the
Andra Day poses for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 7, 2021. (Photo by Myriam Santos via Getty Images) 

Maria Bakalova   

Dior Haute couture

Jason Bolden and Law Roach are just two of the celebrity stylists who are responsible for Dior's red carpet credits this awards season.

Yara Shahidi 

Anya Taylor-Joy 

Gillian Anderson 

Regina King in Versace 

UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Amanda Seyfried poses fo
UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Amanda Seyfried poses fo
Regina King poses for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Wayman and Micah via Getty Images) 

Emerald Fennel in Richard Quinn

Sitting pretty in the quintessential 'work from home' red carpet ensemble. 

UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Amanda Seyfried poses fo
Emerald Fennell poses at the Ham Yard Hotel for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 7, 2021 in London England. (Photo by Colomba Giacomini via Getty Images) 

Jurnee Smollett in Louis Vuitton 

Nicolas Ghesquiere is evidently no one-trick pony; having given us Pheobe Dynevor's slick, black gown and Jurnee Smollett's silver suit in the same night.

The Lovecraft Country star dared to rebel from the typical film awards dress code, and stepped 'out' in a look we'd usually expect at a music awards show.  

Viola Davis in Greta Constantine

Playfully regal in the Bayview gown from Greta Constantine Spring 2021 collection. 

Emma Corrin in Schiaparelli Haute Couture

Jewels, yes. But not the Crown jewels this time around.

The actress who played Princess Diana on The Crown has an affinity for outlandish neckline detail, and for this awards show, it was Schiaparelli who did the honours.  

63rd Annual Grammy Awards

11 music acts that walked the red carpet in looks worth buzzing about (whether loudly or softly) on the "most fun" red carpet of the awards season:

All images: Getty 

Megan Thee Stallion 

It was a big night for Megan, musically. So we guess, her red carpet look didn't have to outshine her history-making win as the first black woman to win Best New Artist. The choice of orange for this Dolce & Gabbana gown has our nod. 

Ah yes, and the Chopard jewellery.   

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

Beyoncé 

Beyoncé made history as the woman with the most Grammy Awards, and she did it in a leather mini by Schiaparelli. The look was complete with matching leather gloves adorned with gold tips creating the illusion of nails.    

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

Dua Lipa

So it turns out that Dua Lipa's incredible Versace gown was an ode to an icon; Mariah Carey's butterfly top worn circa her 'Heartbreaker' era.   

UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Amanda Seyfried poses fo

HAIM 

In Prada.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Noah Cyrus att

Chloe x Halle

The hitmaking duo may have been snubbed for their awards, but they rightfully took their seats on best-dressed lists for their Louis Vuitton dresses and Tiffany & Co jewels. 

Noah Cyrus

Noah Cyrus gave people something to talk about with this Schiaparelli gown that inspired several memes on social media. This couture gown also sparks memories of Cardi B's Thierry Mugler look from the 2019 Grammys. 

Her stylist, Brett Nelson, told InStyle that he "wanted something that felt very original and iconic for her."

"I wanted to do something that felt a little bit more art-based. She's a cool little art kid, so I want to show that," Brett said.  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

Lizzo 

Also styled by Brett Nelson; in a ruched mint green Balmain dress, Stuart Weitzman sandals, and Bvlgari jewels. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

Jhené Aiko 

In Monsoori reminiscent of both Rihanna's 2015 Giambattista Valli gown, and Ariana's 2020 look.  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Noah Cyrus att

Billie Eilish 

Would it be a Billie red carpet moment if the ‘Bad Guy’ singer didn’t match her nails to the rest of her look? Billie Eilish in head-to-toe Gucci, including a bucket hat, mask, and mani all in the same motif.  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Noah Cyrus att

Doja Cat

In Roberto Cavalli.

Deep, plunging neckline and hints of green? We see a subtle homage to J.Lo's green Versace gown. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

Taylor Swift 

Taylor Swift scooped her Grammy in a mini Oscar de la Renta dress.  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

Ingrid Andress 

When Jurnee Smollet attended the Critics Choice Awards in a silver Louis Vuitton suit mentioned above - sans a top underneath the blazer - we said this getup was a music-awards-ready look. 

Well, Ingrid made a stunning case for this sentiment. Complete with a Chopard neckpiece in lieu of a top. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Doja Cat atten

READ MORE: Sundays at the polo: 12 looks with pockets full of sunshine to consider for champagne brunches

2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards  

This year, it was the men of Hollywood who really brought their A-game to the ritzy ceremony. But for now, we'll zoom in only on eight of the finest actresses who attended the dual ceremony.

Michaela Coel

With a well-deserved nomination for Outstanding Performance By a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series, the British star dressed the part in this Eledzine gown and Wild Moon headpiece.   

Kerry Washington 

Kerry's custom ETRO mermaid look - and stacked Bulgari jewels - was arguably the best-styled at-home shoot of the evening. 

Jurnee Smollett 

It was good to see that Zuhair Murad is still making red carpet headturners. We loved this fuchsia gown and its equal parts legs-and-décolleté reveal. 

Emma Corrin 

With this Prada look, the actress we now affectionately know as 'Princess Diana' is officially this awards season's red carpet darling. 

Cynthia Erivo 

She hasn't missed one beat since red carpets went virtual. This time, it was thanks to Alexander McQueen.  

Viola Davis 

In Louis Vuitton. We don't often see Louis Vuitton do brights on the red carpet, but this shade of green is as flattering as ever on Viola.

Nicole Kidman 

Ethereal is the word, and Armani Privé is the designer that defined it on Nicole Kidman. 

Nicola Coughlan 

Bridgerton's Penelope did always wear the more eye-catching dresses in the show's first season, so it's hardly surprising that her custom Christian Siriano gown was on SAG Awards best-dressed lists.

READ MORE: Bridgerton - in defence of ‘inaccurate’ costumes in period dramas

2021 BAFTA Awards

Ah, British film royalty! 

More than fit-to-form gowns, the prevailing trend of the evening appeared to be remarkable jewels. These were the 14 stars who wowed us: 

Images: Getty

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Phoebe Dynevor and Cynthia Erivo all in Louis Vuitton.    

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: Actress Wunmi
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: Actress Wunmi
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 11: Emerald Fennell

Dominique Fishback in Georges Hobeika 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 11: Actress Dominique Fis

Emerald Fennell in Roland Mouret

Emerald was the winner of the best original screenplay and outstanding British film for "Promising Young Woman".  

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 11: Emerald Fennell

Celeste in Dilara Findikoglu

The singer performed "Hear My Voice" from Best Film nominee "The Trial of the Chicago 7".   

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 11: Emerald Fennell

Niamh Algar in red Valentino

Nominated for best actress in a supporting role for "Calm With Horses" was captured in Cape Town in her award show look.  

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 11: Emerald Fennell

Wunmi Mosaku in Alberta Ferretti

Nominated for best actress in a leading role for "His House".  

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 11: Emerald Fennell

Kosar Ali in Alexander McQueen

Nominee for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in "Rocks", Kosar Ali, was all decked out in Alexander McQueen - wearing a cropped tailored jacket in ivory wool silk and a shredded dress in layers of ivory tulle with a brooch embellished headscarf and antique gold and silver metal jewellery.   

Renée Zellweger and Maria Bakalova both in Armani Privé  

Felicity Jones in Valentino 

Bukky Bakray in custom Prada

Ashley Madekwe in Louis Vuitton 

READ MORE: Oscars 2021 | 5 experts on the wins, the words, the wearable art and a big year for women

93rd Academy Awards - Oscars 

Commentary by Harriette Richards for The Conversation

The intimate Oscars ceremony (with only 170 VIP guests at LA’s Union Station) meant a reduced red carpet. However, attendees made up for the lack of numbers by bringing colour, glamour and scale in what they wore.

The dress code asked for “a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational”. After spending 2020 in our most comfortable garments, this return to in-person awards called for spectacle.  

The majority of guests followed the directive. 

Perhaps the strongest trend was volume: in skirts, sleeves and bows. Maria Bakalova’s white tulle Louis Vuitton seemed directly related to Bjork’s iconic swan dress of 20 years ago, as did Laura Dern’s marabou feather Oscar de la Renta.  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Viola Davis
Maria Bakalova attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images) 
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig


Laura Dern attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images) 

Regina King was resplendent in a custom Louis Vuitton powder-blue butterfly dress, with huge, bejewelled winged shoulders. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig
Regina King attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards in Louis Vuitton. (Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images) 

Sleeves were also exaggerated in Angela Bassett’s red Alberta Ferretti gown. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig
Angela Bassett attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images) 

Carey Mulligan’s gold Valentino two-piece and Amanda Seyfried’s red tulle Armani Privé came with skirts made for social distancing.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig
Carey Mulligan attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images) 
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: (EDITORIAL U
Amanda Seyfried attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Sayles/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images) 

The most aspirational?

Surely Zendaya in a canary yellow, Cher-inspired strapless Valentino with over US$6 million (about R85 million) of yellow Bulgari diamonds. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig
Zendaya attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images) 

And the most inspirational? 

73-year old Youn Yuh-jung making history as the first Korean woman to win an Academy Award for acting, wearing a navy gown by Egyptian designer Marmar Halim with Chopard jewels. Perfect. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig
Yuh-Jung Youn, winner of Best Actress in a Supporting Role for "Minari," poses in the press room during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images) 

In addition to these eight looks, these were our top 7 looks of the most elegant evening of awards season: 

All images: Getty

Viola Davis in Alexander McQueen

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Carey Mullig

Halle Berry in Dolce & Gabbana  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Robin Burgess

Andra Day looking like an Oscar in custom Vera Wang 

UNSPECIFIED â?? MARCH 7: Amanda Seyfried poses fo

Robin Burgess 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Robin Burgess

Reese Witherspoon in red Christian Dior 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Robin Burgess

Dana Murray in Christopher John Rogers 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Robin Burgess

Celeste Waite in custom Gucci 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA â?? APRIL 25: Celeste Wait

Bonus looks 

Novi Brown stunned in this blush gown by The Ivy Showroom at the NAACP Image Awards

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Marsai Martin
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Marsai Martin
Actress Novi Brown gets ready for the 52nd NAACP Image Awards on March 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The 52nd NAACP Image Awards ceremony airs on March 27, 2021. (Photo by Malcolm Cook/Novi Brown via Getty Images) 

Regina King in a custom Oscar de la Renta gown for the NAACP Image Awards.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Actress/direct
Actress/director Regina King gets ready for the 52nd NAACP Image Awards on March 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by James Anthony via Getty Images) 

Janelle Monae in Lanvin. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Marsai Martin
Janelle Monae attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/FilmMagic) 

Marsai Martin in Christian Siriano at the NAACP Image Awards  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Marsai Martin
Marsai Martin gets ready for the 52nd NAACP Image Awards Virtual Experience on March 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The week-long virtual experience kicked off on March 22. (Photo by Jennifer Johnson via Getty Images) 

Follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Sign up to W24's newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
From the Grammys to the NAACP Image Awards to the Oscars; who was your overall best-dressed celebrity of the 2021 awards season?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Regina King
15% - 13 votes
Zendaya
44% - 39 votes
Anya Taylor-Joy
8% - 7 votes
Emma Corrin
2% - 2 votes
Angela Bassett
15% - 13 votes
Viola Davis
13% - 12 votes
Jurnee Smollett
1% - 1 votes
Cynthia Erivo
2% - 2 votes
Vote