It’s not that Cynthia Erivo hasn’t been to the Oscars before so, technically, it’s not her first Oscars. But it is her first Oscars as an Oscar nominee. Which is another level of special – to be invited to the show because you’ve been singled out for your performance alongside four other actors, recognised as the five standouts of the year. 

When it’s your first time as a nominee, then, and in this game, you never know when you’ll ever make the finals again, you’d want to bring it, right? You’d especially want to bring it if you’re actually a DOUBLE nominee, for acting and for songwriting. And when you’re performing the song that you wrote. So. Cynthia Erivo brought it. 

Her red carpet Versace was unmistakably Versace. This is a classic Versace bust line, we’ve been seeing it for years. And yet Cynthia made it feel fresh, like a whole new take on what was once a tired design. In part, it was the fullness of the skirt. In the past, Versace has sent this look out in a variety of shades of citrus fitting tight to the body. Seeing it billow voluminously from her waist was a really great start to the carpet, especially since a lot of the fashion this award season was kind of…underwhelming? And it can be the other way around, right? We start off strong at the Golden Globes and then by the time we get to the Oscars, where the red carpet can be a lot more conservative, all the good sh-t has been used up. 

I don’t know if it’s because the Oscars happened earlier this year or what but they served up a lot more style excitement than I was expecting, and Cynthia certainly contributed to that. This was the dress she’s been waiting for, timed for exactly the right moment. And she followed it up with another interesting choice for her performance. Of course without the extended collar coming up behind her neck to frame the back of her head, it would just be a pretty ordinary gold dress – that reminded me of Chris Tucker from The Fifth Element – but there are a lot of people who would have been scared off by that detail. Also, they wouldn’t have had the hair for that detail. Or the confidence to pull it off.