OK none of these women are actually dressed like nuns, but let’s go with it. First, Alicia Vikander (who, to me, has very low energy on the red carpet) and Jennifer Connelly, who I was semi-excited about seeing. Both are in Louis Vuitton and both designs clearly had a nun mood-board. It’s the features around the shoulders I’m most interested in – Google tells me that part of a nun’s habit, the white fabric around the shoulders, is called a guimpe. (If I’m wrong, you can yell at me – clearly 7 years of catechism is not helping me tonight.)
Let’s start with Alicia – I think what interesting here is that it’s giving me Sister Audrey Hepburn vibes. (Audrey played a sister in The Nun’s Story, but wore a full habit because it was 1959.) With the long black gloves, headband and strapless column gown, it feels a little Old Hollywood. But what turns it around from a retro look is the cape. The buttons, the upturned collar, the layered fabric– it’s certainly a play on a traditional guimpe. The black and white aesthetic is rescued from looking too costume-y because of the textures (which Louis Vuitton does well); the matte black leather gloves, crisp white leather cape and printed dress build on one another. Monochromatic, but just busy enough.
Jennifer Connelly’s also incorporates the guimpe, but the black and white doesn’t completely work with the silver (there’s a lot of pairing of those three colours tonight). It’s almost pattern-blocked, but not quite. Instead, the two elements up top (the black and white shoulders in a ribbed fabric and the silver torso) and the patterned skirt look like two dresses that were sewn together at the last minute (or maybe it’s actually a two piece, I can’t quite tell?). It would have been a much cooler and more interesting look if they stuck with the geometric pattern through the torso, and nixed silver above the waist. I think the silver part of the top was supposed to draw the two halves together in an attempt to avoid a pattern clash. They should have embraced it. What absolutely needs to go is the chain belt – it’s so unnecessary.
For Rooney Mara, I’m trying to unpack what the cape means. This gown was part of the Givenchy Spring 2018 collection, so it’s been seen before. There were several gowns in that collection that would have fit well with the theme, and many were done in black and white (colours she has favoured in the past). Beyond her options in the studio, Givenchy would have surely made her a gown – she is the new face of the brand, and this is a major event.
Was the blue gown chosen to evoke the Virgin Mary, who is often depicted surrounded by a halo of light and dressed in blue? Did she sense that the carpet would be awash in black and white and want to stand out, without dressing in a costume? Her hair and makeup choices work very well with the overall theme, too – the severe part in her hair and minimalist makeup, combined with the modesty of the gown, feel austere to the edge of repression, very Catholic. Part of what makes me eye-roll Rooney as a celebrity is her aloofness and detachment, even while at an event packed with her peers; that’s also what makes the whole look greater than the sum of its parts.