Celebrity Style

A Brief History of Red Carpet Rebels at Cannes

Photo: Getty Images; Collage: David Vo

Though the Cannes Film Festival is known for many things, its archaic dress code has become a talking point in recent years. Since its beginnings in 1939 in response to political interference in the Venice Film Festival—a veto from Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler prevented the French war drama, La Grande Illusion, from winning that year—Cannes has billed itself as Europe’s premier showcase for cinema. Set against the backdrop of one of the French Riviera’s most famous resort towns, its rules about dressing stem from the eveningwear norms for guests at the luxury hotels and casinos that line Cannes’s streets. For men, a jacket and tie were standard, while the expectations for women involved high heels and long dresses.

In 1946 when the festival launched officially (World War II resulted in a seven-year gap between inception and opening ceremony), the highly regulated approach to after-hours dressing wasn’t unusual. Still, even in the early days of Cannes, there were rule-breakers. Never one to adhere to conventions, Pablo Picasso enjoyed a screening of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear in shearling. Tropic of Cancer author Henry Miller served as a juror in 1960 but refused to alter his wardrobe, ejected from screenings due to his lack of a dinner jacket; Miller proved his style was as nonconformist as his writing.

Each decade a new group of red carpet rebels comes to the festival and decides to do their own thing. There are the fashion absurdists (French comedian Colouche ditching the tux for a playful drag moment with Beatrice Dalle in 1986), the heel averse (Kristen Stewart ditching her Louboutins at the premiere of Blackkklansman in 2018 in deference to the dress code), and even the occasional nudist—you try telling Cicciolina she ought to cover up.

Last year, the Cannes red carpet enjoyed even more rule-bending moments. Jennifer Lawrence, for one, punctuated her Dior couture gown with a pair of flip-flops. “I had no idea until it came out that there was a whole controversy with people wearing flats or walking down the red carpet barefoot, I had no clue,” Lawrence later said of her viral footwear. “My shoes were a size too big.” Will this year’s festival deliver even more unexpected style moments? We’re about to find out.

Below, a brief history of red carpet rule breakers at Cannes.

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

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