The worst thing Lainey and I ever did where our analyses of awards show fashion year-over-year is concerned was to introduce the concept of lifetime achievement/ retirement. Because once we did it for Zendaya – a decision we stand behind – it became obvious that we would run into the same problems, eventually… like, not last night, because we’re all tired, but at some point we are going to have to deal with the problem of Rihanna. 


Because this woman is next level

First of all, when I said Rihanna was my best dressed, Lainey and I were talking about two completely different outfits. She couldn’t stop gushing about this one, which apparently was clearly chocolate in person, but didn’t come off quite so rich on TV: 

(Easter Egg – circa 1:31 the publicist tries to reach in and drag Rihanna out of there, but she is very much not interested in finishing her conversation with Lainey’s etalk colleague Tyrone until she is all the way ready, thank you.) 


Lainey called it a harness, but I actually think it looks more comfortable than that, even. Why aren’t we all wearing leather halters tailored precisely to our bodies with semi-sheer mesh? Look at those cut-outs on the sides of the hips! 

Rihanna attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards
Rihanna attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California

It’s especially dramatic in contrast to Rihanna’s first appearance on the carpet yesterday, which was …slightly different (but frankly, even if she’d walked the carpet like this, she would have killed it. It’s truly not fair): 

Still, my ‘best dressed’ was another outfit altogether, when Rihanna performed “Lift Me Up”, a nominee for best song, but truly, per Danai Gurira’s introduction, a tribute to Chadwick Boseman. It still feels prayerful every time she sings it. 


And this was the outfit that truly struck me. 

Rihanna performs onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards
Rihanna performs onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California

Rihanna’s vocal performances, rare as they are, are unique in that they’re for herself, first and foremost – you can see in the below clip that she’s often singing with eyes closed, it’s coming from inside her, and so I loved that she was somewhere inside this outfit. Somewhere, draped in black and sheer and diamonds (and pants!) , she was in there – but you don’t have to worry about specifically where, because every time you look, there’s a new angle to process and marvel at …yet you’re still not thinking about the outfit as much as you are Rihanna the woman, incredible in her own right. 

I kept thinking about this performance, and what it meant, as Ruth E. Carter accepted her award for Costume Design – making her the only Black woman to win two Oscars. 


Her outfit was so simple, but incredible – that joyous, succulent yellow in her dress and sleeves (which I far preferred to all the elbow-length gloves, you know everyone was ripping those off when they had to text!) and earrings, evocative of the white mourning outfits in the beginning of Wakanda Forever which was, of course, on purpose, as she let us know. 

Imagine getting to honour your mother, who died at 101, this way. “This week, Mabel Carter became an ancestor,” is a construction that, I wish we were all able to look at death as a gift this way. With a send-off in sunny yellow, and a confidence that it’s all some sort of continuum. It’s been a minute since I said ‘specificity is universal’, but this is yet another instance – it’s Carter’s specific circumstance and remembrance of her mother, but linked through the memory of Chadwick Boseman, and the impact he had on his family and colleagues and fans alike, to make her remembrance something we can all share. 


It's really evolved, which is not generally a term I expect to use for the Oscars. But for a show that is basically the same, 95 times over, it felt like something we’d never seen, and that’s something. 

One more thing –Carter had cue cards, though she didn’t appear to need them, so you may or may not have noticed. Or maybe you didn’t notice because they are the exact same shade of lemony-chartreuse as her outfit. Because why not? And that is the kind of attention to detail that makes her a history-making Oscar winner with a lot more in front of her. 

Ruth E. Carter accepts the Best Costume Design award
Ruth E. Carter accepts the Best Costume Design award for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California