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In this strangest of awards seasons, Viola Davis was a rare bright spot.
The 55-year-old star, who’s nominated for Best Actress at the 2021 Oscars for her performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” has captivated fashion lovers with her parade of colorful red-carpet looks over the past few months, injecting some much-needed joy into a year defined by a global pandemic and a long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism.
To be sure, Davis has long gravitated toward bold, bright hues on the red carpet. Who could forget the red-hot Armani she wore while accepting her Best Supporting Actress statuette for “Fences” at the 2017 Academy Awards, or the bubblegum pink Michael Kors column she chose for the same show the following year?
But, in 2021, the majority of the Juilliard grad’s vibrant-as-ever red-carpet looks were designed not by the usual red-carpet heavy hitters, but lesser-known labels led by creatives of color.
As a result, her outfits — from monochromatic marvels by Greta Constantine to a custom peplum confection courtesy of Duro Olowu — have made major statements in more ways than one.
Ahead of Sunday’s Oscars, let’s take a look back at Davis’ winning style throughout the season.
Lavie by CK for the Golden Globes
“It’s about feeling good and looking good in your queendom,” Cameroon-born designer Claude Kameni told Page Six Style of the inspiration behind the show-stopping mermaid gown Davis chose for the Golden Globes in February.
Kameni had just one week to complete the puff-sleeved dress from printed African fabric, but the end result, which had her at “a loss for words,” was “definitely worth the all-nighters.”
“We started saying, ‘Viola’s gonna violate this dress,’” the self-taught designer quipped, with a laugh, adding that she hopes to see more A-listers following Davis’ lead when it comes to supporting black fashion talent.
“There’s a whole bunch of talented designers that need their names out there; it shouldn’t just be the same designers all the time,” Kameni said. “Give someone else a spotlight!”
Greta Constantine for the Critics Choice Awards
“After months of panic and fear, we wanted garments that excited us, styles that evoked a sense of hope,” Pickersgill told us of Davis’ ruffle-trimmed cerulean frock. “By producing bright, structural garments, we were looking to bring a smile to the face of both the wearer and the beholder.”
Pickersgill added that seeing the star in her bright blue gown was about “so much more than the fashion. It was about capturing a moment in history that celebrates black creativity in all of its beautiful, challenging, inspiring forms.”
Duro Olowu for the NAACP Image Awards
Appropriately dubbed the “happy dress” by stylist Elizabeth Stewart, this cheery printed peplum frock was a perfect pick for Davis to wear during her double win for “Ma Rainey” and “How To Get Away With Murder” at the NAACP Image Awards in March.
Nigerian-born British designer Olowu has also dressed Michelle Obama, Lupita Nyong’o and Thandiwe Newton, to name but a few.
Louis Vuitton for the SAG Awards
According to the French fashion house, Davis’ lime green gown took 140 hours of work and 10,000 sequins to complete. The gold and silver embellishments formed a geometric pattern that ran parallel to a pair of zippers down both sides of the strong-shouldered dress, perfectly framing the star’s silhouette at the SAG Awards in early April.
Greta Constantine for the African American Film Critics Association Awards
Davis picked another look from Greta Constantine’s spring 2021 collection — this one in ruffled sunny yellow — for her last pre-Oscars appearance on the awards circuit, when she netted the icon award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards.
“After months in which we had no choice but to take everything seriously, this was one of those garments that would invite you to let your guard down and simply be,” Pickersgill said.
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