With no traditional red-carpet walk and nominees beaming in from around the globe in the middle of the pandemic, Sunday’s 2020 Emmy Awards telecast will look and feel markedly different than it has in previous years, especially on the fashion front.
This point was underscored by the dress-code guidance offered in a July letter sent to nominees by the virtual show’s producers that read in part, “Our informal theme for the night is ‘Come as you are, but make an effort!’” The letter went on to float the ideas of both traditional formalwear (“We’d love that,” read the letter) as well as loungewear (“If you’re in the UK and it’s 3 a.m., perhaps you want to be in designer pajamas”).
According to stylists working with some of this year’s nominees, it’s the second half of that suggestion that seems to have captured the collective awards-show-from-home imagination.
The pajama game
“The story the day after the Emmys this year is going to be all about pajamas,” said stylist Jill Lincoln. “It’s not going to be about the pink and red of last year or fishtail [dresses] or any of that.”
Lincoln and fellow stylist Jordan Johnson are working with comedy lead actress nominee Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) for a more laid-back and casual Emmy-night look they describe as “loungewear-inspired” — something that combines the actress’ love of casualwear, bold colors and patterns.
“We know everyone’s going to be wearing loungewear. We knew that coming out of the gates,” Johnson said. “So it’s not like people are going to see [Rachel] and say, ‘Whoa! Who thought of that?’ But this is a different year, so we can be a little more creative and do something different than we normally would have.”
While Lincoln and Johnson don’t want to tip their hand too much, they said their client’s 2020 Emmy look will skew closer to the jade green jacket and trousers combination Brosnahan wore to the AFI Awards in 2019 than to the sequined Elie Saab Haute Couture gown she wore to last year’s Emmys.
Stylist Cristina Ehrlich, who is working with Uzo Aduba (limited series supporting actress nominee for “Mrs. America”) for her Emmys-night look, didn’t cite loungewear as a trend specifically but said in an email that she expects the overall vibe of the night to be more subdued than in past years.
The story the day after the Emmys this year is going to be all about pajamas.
“If nominees are seen, they will be dressed up, but I don’t necessarily think it will be to the full capacity of red-carpet moments we have seen in the past,” she said. “I don’t see ballgowns or elaborate jewelry coming into play, but then again, we never know! I am thinking we will get a mix of high/low.”
Andrew Gelwicks, the stylist working with Catherine O’Hara (comedy lead actress nominee for “Schitt’s Creek”) for the big night, also weighed in via email, saying he’d also be surprised to see a lot of gowns in play on Sunday. As for his client’s night-of look, he said it wouldn’t be as casual as loungewear. “We are not going as formal as we would with a traditional red carpet,” he said, “but we are still dressing up and continuing to have fun with the fashion.”
That mix of high and low referenced by Ehrlich likely will be seen in the disparate sartorial choices of the two 2020 Emmy nominees dressed by stylist Michael Fisher: Ramy Youssef (comedy lead actor and director nominee for “Ramy”) and Nicholas Braun (supporting actor nominee for “Succession”). Youssef, whom Fisher said plans to beam in from his backyard in Los Angeles, is taking the more casual route.
“The idea in mind is pretty much the quarantine outfit that he’s been in for the last six months but with the fashion side of it turned up just a little bit,” Fisher said. ”It won’t just be his typical [look].”
His other nominee client is taking a different approach. “[Nicholas] wants to wear a tuxedo because it’s his first big nomination and he wants to celebrate it and make the effort,” Fisher said, adding that Braun was planning to have some fun with his accessories. “He wants to do something kind of lighthearted to bring a laugh to people.”
Mindful of the moment
According to the stylists surveyed, another challenge in dressing A-list celebrities for this year’s Emmys is to avoid coming across as tone-deaf. “I think that’s important to consider because of everything that’s going on in the world,” Fisher said. “You don’t want to come off as trying too hard. I think everyone wants to hit the right note.”
Brosnahan’s stylists also acknowledged that tension. “The [loungewear approach] feels right for us and for the time,” Johnson said. “But other people will want to go big and pull out all the stops — which we’d love to see because this is a little bit of escapism — but at the same time, you don’t want to be tone-deaf. That’s why we wanted to make sure there was some positive messaging.”
That positive messaging guided the creation of Brosnahan’s outfit (the stylist duo won’t divulge specifics, saying only that it’s a collaborative effort involving lots of people who, as Lincoln put it, “don’t usually get credit for their work”) as well as what happens to the star’s look afterward. Brosnahan’s Emmy-night outfit — as well as those worn by Aduba, Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King — will be headed to the auction block to raise funds and awareness for former First Lady Michelle Obama’s voter-registration organization, When We All Vote.
Organized in conjunction with philanthropic organization RAD (Red Carpet Advocacy), the auction at Chic-Relief.com will be open for bidding Sept. 23 through Oct. 2, with 100% of proceeds from the auction — and sale of other items — going to WWAV’s nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort.
“We won’t speak politics,” Lincoln said, “but obviously this is a very important year on a lot of fronts, and people need to use this time to kind of make a positive impact with their platform.”