There May Not Have Been a Red Carpet, but the 2020 Emmys Stayed Home in Style

Zendaya presenting at the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards on September 20, 2020.
Zendaya presenting at the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards on September 20, 2020.
Screenshot: Entertainment Tonight

Plunging necklines. Shimmering sequins. Tailored tuxes. They may not have made their way onto a red carpet this year, but there were nevertheless plenty of each at the reimagined 72nd Annual Emmy Awards, where Hollywood showed us that one pandemic don’t stop no show.

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In fact, the modified ceremony was both a happy distraction from a world on fire and a not entirely terrible adaptation to our new normal. While the energy of actual live audience reactions was missed (they tried it), there was also something deeply relatable (and adorable) about seeing many of our faves make the most of the moment from the comfort of their own homes—just like us! And as host Jimmy Kimmel pointed out, while there’s not a lot to celebrate these days, it only made sense to celebrate those who have most frequently kept us company during these many months in quarantine—especially with many more to go ahead of us. It goes without saying, but aside from the frontline workers who were deservedly honored during last night’s telecast, when it comes to coping with the pandemic, TV has been the real MVP.

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But just because there was no red carpet to walk on Sunday night doesn’t mean some celebs didn’t try to recreate the magic at home. Take, for instance, the irrepressible Tracee Ellis Ross (in a golden gown by Alexandre Vauthier paired with matching Jimmy Choos and of course, a mask), who flexed her comedic and fashion chops by creating a red carpet in her own front yard, because high fashion should never go to waste.

“How fun to get dressed up!” she wrote on Instagram. “Can’t say I miss the frenetic energy of the red carpet or wearing high heels, but boy do I miss a pretty dress!!

Similarly, history-making Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie winner Regina King made the most of the modified ceremony, with help from stylists and 2019 Root 100 honorees Wayman and Micah. King filmed her own step-and-repeat, looking radiant in a jewel-studded, Watchmen-blue, one-shouldered and bubble-skirted Schiaparelli Couture dress designed by Daniel Roseberry.

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It was an absolutely stunning look we would’ve loved to see on an actual red carpet (and my God—those legs!), but King did us one better: She used her acceptance speech to make a fashion statement in support of Breonna Taylor, a gesture echoed by Uzo Aduba in her win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. King was wearing a tee designed by Phenomenal in collaboration with artist Arlyn Garcia (notably flipped backward to show Taylor’s portrait). In an Instagram post explaining the importance of the tee (which, at $45, is one of the more accessible garments seen on last night’s telecast), King wrote:

It’s been 150 days since Breonna Taylor was murdered in her sleep by Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove—and her killers have not been charged. Too often Black women who die from police violence are forgotten. Let’s stay loud, keep demanding justice for Breonna and her family, and SAY HER NAME. This campaign and t-shirt was created by @phenomenal in partnership with the Breonna Taylor Foundation, to which all profits will be donated.

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Insecure may have ended up Schitt’s Creek when it came to any number of well-deserved Emmys for its fourth season but show creator and Lead Actress in a Comedy Series nominee Issa Rae showed exactly how much of a good sport she is, making her Emmy appearance from SoFi Stadium in her home turf of Inglewood, Calif. Always and forever rooting for everybody black, Rae looked gorgeous and glowing in a custom gown by Black designer Sergio Hudson, comfortably paired with white-and-black Nikes. Co-star Yvonne Orji—nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, kicked up her heels in a crimson gown by Azzi and Osta—and did you check the Black power fist subtly shaved into the side of her head?

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Speaking of Black-led style moments, first-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) accepted his award wearing pinstriped Louis Vuitton designed by Virgil Abloh. Fellow nominee Jeremy Pope (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie; Hollywood) also donned Louis Vuitton by Abloh, who reinterpreted the luxury label’s iconic Damier check into a larger-than-life print on an expertly tailored slim-trousered suit.

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No doubt many of us were eager to see what fashion moment Billy Porter (nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Pose) might create at this year’s Emmys—one in which he and several other actors appeared in an ad calling for even more of an investment into diversity for the awards committee, ceremony and industry at large (h/t New York Times). This year, Porter, who notably celebrates his 51st birthday today, kept his look serene and subtle, styled by Beyoncé veteran Ty Hunter an all-white pantsuit by Ashi Studio. But because it was Porter, there was still requisite drama; this time via a shawl accent that flowed into a train.

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Cynthia Erivo may not have been on hand to collect another Emmy Sunday night, but the trailer for her turn as Aretha Franklin for National Geographic’s Genius series. For the Emmys, stylist Jason Bolden helped Erivo channel Franklin’s breakthrough era; the singer-actress wore a ‘60s-inspired multicolored minidress by Versace to introduce friend Lena Waithe.

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With four Emmy nominations under her belt—and no wins to date—Laverne Cox made sure to remind us that she’s always a winner in style, wearing a hieroglyphic-embroidered black custom jumpsuit by Kim Kassas Couture to present at the ceremony. But because too much is never enough, Cox also gave us a taste of what she dubbed “Neo Black Trans Feminist Barbie Tings,” posing in a pink gown by Azzi and Osta.

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Also pretty in pink? H.E.R., who made her tearjerking tribute to our departed stars while wearing a hot pink gown and pants by Vera Wang. Presenter Yara Shahidi also wore pink (albeit a very pale hue), pairing cornrows with tweed-and-feathered custom Prada, styled by Bolden. With an assist from Wayman and Micah, Robin Thede became a bronzed goddess in Christian Siriano, while Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie nominee Octavia Spencer reinterpreted loungewear in a dress and embroidered topper by Tadashi Shoji, which she subtly accented with a custom “Self Made” necklace by Sophie Ratner.

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Another couture costume change came courtesy of Kerry Washington, no doubt to match her dual nominations as actress and producer of Little Fires Everywhere. (Washington actually won her first Emmy this year for executive producing ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience: “All In The Family” and “Good Times.”) On camera, we saw her in animal-printed, sequinned Dolce and Gabbana, co-hosting a New Year’s-themed Emmys garden party with Reese Witherspoon; but the style star also joined Regina King in bringing the ‘80s and ‘90s-era bubble skirt back to the Emmys carpet in floral Oscar de la Renta, styled by Law Roach.

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Also styled by Roach was his longtime muse, Zendaya—who not only made history as the youngest actress to ever win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy but reminded us why she’s Hollywood’s current favorite “It” Girl with a euphoric pair of looks fitting for a history-making night.

“It’ll be … probably just my family over here, but I definitely want to pull a look and maybe just walk my living room carpet...I want to dress up,” she told fellow performer Ben Platt ahead of the virtual ceremony, promising that she’d still be dressing up, in spite of the circumstances (h/t Harper’s Bazaar). “It’s different for sure, but I’m grateful either way.”

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Also a producer on HBO’s Euphoria, Zendaya would end up with plenty to be grateful for, but she also presented during the ceremony, donning a color-blocked, sculptural look designed by CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year Christopher John Rogers (above) with coordinating jewels by Bulgari. Perhaps anticipating a big win, the starlet was ready, dressed in an equally plunging polka-dotted and beaded gown by Giorgio Armani Prive.

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It was an Emmys like no other—but it was only slightly less stylish. Perhaps that’s part of what made this year’s adapted format one of the more successful we’ve seen to date; and more than a bit comforting, as the stars joined us at home in more ways than one. Will Sunday night’s success continue to shift the paradigm for awards shows to come? Only time—and mask-wearing—will tell. In the meantime, we’ll always have television...

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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