Chloé Zhao at the 93rd Academy Awards
Fashion

Why Nomadland director Chloé Zhao is the real style star of the 2021 Oscars

The filmmaker took a leaf out of her leading lady Frances McDormand’s book and kept it comfy and cosy.

Not content with making Oscars history last night as the first woman of colour and the second woman ever to win the coveted best director gong, Chloé Zhao also used the occasion to ever so subtly and very unintentionally cement her status as a style icon.

The Nomadland director, who is also the first woman to have received four nominations in the same year, took the ceremony’s ‘Inspirational and Aspirational’ dress code and ran with it, opting for a knitted Hermès dress from the brand’s autumn/winter 2021 collection and a pair of box-fresh white trainers for her red carpet debut.

Alongside her fellow nominees and winners, who sported all manner of high-octane ensembles, Zhao looked decidedly casual with her hair in her signature braids and without so much as a scrap of make-up on. How refreshing for such a talented woman to roll up to one of the most talked-about and highly publicised events of the year and defy convention by being so unapologetically herself.  

Chloé Zhao in Hermès at the 93rd Academy Awards
Chloé Zhao in Hermès at the 93rd Academy Awards

Why is this at all notable? At its core, it shouldn’t be. Women who are nominated for the highest accolades in their fields shouldn’t feel the need to conform to any societal expectations in terms of anything as superficial as what they choose to dress their body in. Yet for Zhao, who has steadily become one of the buzziest names in film, attending the Oscars in an outfit she felt seemingly comfortable in was a deft way of stating firmly and definitively: “This is me; this is who I am, and I am here on behalf of my work, not my wardrobe.” After all, distil it down and at its core fashion is purely functional; merely a mechanism that helps us to present ourselves to the world.

Chloé Zhao, winner of Best Director – Motion Picture for “Nomadland”, speaks during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards broadcast on February 28, 2021. -- (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Golden Globes 2021: how Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao made history at this year’s awards

It’s not the first time we’ve seen Zhao rip up the rule book. To virtually accept her best director and best film awards for Nomadland at the BAFTAs, she wore a plaid shirt and what appeared to be dungarees. Just a matter of weeks before, she received her Golden Globe for best picture drama whilst wearing a khaki T-shirt, her hair in their now-signature braids, and drinking a cup of tea. 

Zhao’s far from alone in keeping it chill on the red carpet. In fact, it seems uncanny that Zhao’s leading lady in Nomadland, Frances McDormand, has previously exhibited a similar love of comfy clothes at the Oscars. At the award ceremony in 2019, the actress took to the stage wearing a pair of custom Valentino yellow suede Birkenstocks underneath her pink gown from the Italian house’s spring 2019 couture collection. 

Images: Getty Images

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