When Elisabeth Moss flipped the bird at E!’s 'mani-cam' in 2014 it didn’t just give us a kick-ass GIF to share in the office - it raised an uncomfortable question. Why do so many powerful, intelligent women feel pressured to look a certain way on the red carpet? Surprise, surprise: no one seems to know. So, why does it keep happening?
Last year’s Cannes #heelgate saw a group of women allegedly turned away on the red carpet because they were wearing flat shoes. This year, Kristen Stewart slipped into a comfy pair of geometric plimsolls to attend the Opening Gala Dinner – and openly questioned its red-carpet policy. 'You simply cannot ask me to do something that you are not asking him,' she complained. 'Things have to change immediately.'
Which is why we’re celebrating a few tiny revolutions that occurred on the Cannes red carpet last week. Those *blink-and-you’ll-miss-it* flashes of rebellion. Some may smirk at Julia Roberts’ bare feet, or Lily-Rose Depp’s floral print jeans – but like Elisabeth’s one-finger salute, they have something to say. What makes Kristen Stewart’s feet any different to, say, her Café Society co-star Jesse Eisenberg’s? Come to think of it, what do jeans communicate that a dress or skirt doesn’t?
These women aren’t geishas and shunning a pair of Jimmy Choo heels shouldn’t feel like an act of modern warfare. The fact that we’re even writing about Lily-Rose Depp wearing a hoodie (albeit a Chanel hoodie, granted) – that it’s actually a thing - shows you just how backwards the dress-code etiquette still is.
When Julia Roberts turned up at the Cannes premiere of Money Monster barefoot, it shouldn’t have attracted so much attention - and yet it did. It’s not the first time she’s dared to make a statement. In 1999, she caused tabloid uproar when she flashed her unshaved armpits at the premiere of Notting Hill. That was nearly two decades ago and few actresses have made the same statement since.
Which is what makes the likes of Susan Sarandon rocking a Saint Laurent suit and shades so gloriously refreshing. It says: I know who I am, I’m comfortable. I’m me. Which isn’t to say a pair of Louboutins can’t say the same thing - of course they can - so long as it’s a choice.
If ‘casual Cannes’ has taught us anything, it’s this: when it comes to gender equality on the red carpet, we’re not quite there yet. But maybe, with the help of Susan & co, we’re halfway there…