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A (Very Calm) Rant About Broadway Style This Awards Season

Leanne Cope wore Rent the Runway to the Drama Desk Awards. I know this for two reasons:

1) As a Rent the Runway user myself, I recognized the dress.
2) She talked about it a few times that night, both on the carpet, and at the after party. (In fact, sources tell me that by taking advantage of their free-second-dress option, Ms. Cope actually shared an order with a friend.)

This might not seem that strange to you. Or even particularly noteworthy. But as a pop-culture fan, theater lover, and fashion devotee, I’m telling you that it is both of those things.

I mean honestly. Do you think that Cate Blanchett is going on some website to choose a pre-worn dress that she has to pay for the privilege of borrowing at the biggest moment of her professional career? Or Rosamund Pike or Felicity Jones?

I don’t mean this as a knock to either Cope, who looked stunning, or Rent the Runway. RtR is fucking excellent. Women have needed an option like this for a very long time — men have been renting tuxes for ages, while we’ve been stuck spending all the money buying gowns (and shoes and bags and foundation garments and special bras and jewelry). I love RtR so much, I almost used it for the Drama Desks myself, and tomorrow the dress I rented for the Tonys will arrive at my house. I’m buzzing with anticipation.

But if you don’t see the problem with me — a literal nobody — prepping for major awards ceremonies in the exact same way the fucking nominees are, given how very little I have at stake by comparison, you’ve lost your mind.

Michael Riedel wrote an entire column about how Anna Wintour — supposedly horrified by the frumpiness of the Tony Awards last year — was going to take several actors under her wing and style them this season. Now. I don’t know how much help La Wintour has, or has not, offered the nominees at the end of the day. But I do know that at least two major figures in theater circles have publicly decried this turn of events — Elisabeth Vincentelli and Peter Marks — worried that Wintour will extract all personality from Tonys style and/or turn the carpet into a vapid fashion show.

I could not disagree with these people more. And not even over high-falutin’ ideas like loss of personal style, or substance on the red carpet (if you’ve ever covered the Tonys red carpet, you know there ain’t nothin’ high-brow about it, the international and larger pop-culture press know nothing about theater and have no fucks to give, either). My concern here is far more basic, and it is as follows: awards season is obscenely exhausting and high pressure, and these actors can use any and all help they can get. It’s a travesty that more of them haven’t been receiving more help in years past, and it’ll be a travesty if the theater world doesn’t learn something from this moving forward.

I estimate that in recent years formal attire was necessary for twelve or more events on the campaign trail to the Tony Awards. Maybe the actors need more this year, maybe they need less. But you’re likely looking at a minimum of ten gowns/dresses/suits/tuxes in combination over a four week period.

Even if Broadway actors were paid like their Hollywood counterparts— HAHAHAHA — and thus, could afford to buy ten or more formal, designer outfits, they’re still doing eight shows a week during those four weeks of campaigning. So when, exactly, are they supposed to go shopping, purchase, and tailor these outfits?

You’re fooling yourself if you think Cate Blanchett doesn’t have a staff out there — employed by her, or her management, or the studio — calling designers, pulling selections, bringing her racks to choose from, and dealing with the details like tailoring and accessories. And not just for the Oscars, but for the entire season. And homegirl isn’t doing eight shows a week when this is happening.

Why would anyone object to someone stepping in to help theater stars in the very same way?

Leanne Cope needs to be focused on her show, on staying fit and healthy and ready to go on stage every night. On making sure she’s totally engaged in the campaign trail to help her show win Tonys, because we all know how much those mean in terms of keeping a show open. She doesn’t need to be panicking about/losing sleep over compiling enough formal attire to survive the campaign trail. And she sure as hell shouldn’t be browsing the same pages and pages and pages of pre-worn dresses that I am for the biggest journey to the brightest moments of her career.

So I say bring it on, Wintour. Jesus. Get Nina Garcia or Rachel Zoe or Petra Flannery in here too, if that’ll help. Give us more Micaela Erlanger.

Because Broadway should look as beautiful on the red carpet as it does on stage. Because looking cool and feeling cool and being cool are often one-in-the-same. And because frankly, these actors deserve to shine, not lose sleep over sorting out what to wear when Broadway’s biggest spotlight shines on them this June.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Sue Wagner June 4, 2015, 2:48 pm

    My RTR dress for the Tonys just arrived and now I’m terrified that Leanne Cope will be wearing it on Sunday!

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