“For years, we’ve sold these awards shows as women, with our gowns and colors and our beautiful faces and our glamour,” the actress Eva Longoria told The New York Times earlier this week, explaining the movement among attendees to wear all-black to the Golden Globes this weekend. And she was absolutely right, to a certain extent. But the awards shows were not all that the gowns and the colors and the faces and the glamour of the women on the red carpet were selling.

They were also selling their own images, manufactured in collusion with the brands they represented, as well as the millions of magazines and websites (including, yes, our own) that recorded those images, and they were profiting — often handsomely — from it.

To ignore that history and their own role in creating it is both hypocritical and ultimately undermines the perhaps meaningful shift in that equation, which may be taking place this weekend as the women involved finally use their clothes to do more than just boost a variety of bank accounts.

Which is, let’s be honest, part of what they have been doing for more than two decades. To understand why this change is a big deal, you need to understand the background against which it is playing out.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the red carpet became an economy unto itself — somewhere back in the late 20th century — but it has been a carefully cultivated marketing tool for generations now, built on an illusion into which we all buy: the largely fabricated pretense that actresses (and actors) are choosing their own gowns, and that what we see is a pure expression of their personal style.

Fact is, what we are seeing is often a look that has been bought, and created, by a global brand, or group of brands, from clothes to shoes, bags, jewels, watches and hairstyles. And the individuals involved have been more than willing to secure their financial future by selling it: swirling in it, name-checking it and otherwise promoting it.

For any major awards show (and the Globes certainly qualifies) many boldface nominees will have contractual relationships with fashion brands — negotiated by managers and agents — that require them to wear a gown or a tuxedo by that brand to that event. They may have input into the final product. They may even, with the help of a stylist (who is also often paid by both actor and brand) have chosen it themselves. But the idea that they chose it from all the gowns on option? The idea they — gasp! — shopped for it? Utter hooey. They chose it under very specific guidelines from a very specific selection.

(Excerpt) Read More in: The New York Times

The Red Carpet Is Its Own Economy

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