The 2019 Emmy Awards red carpet ranked best to worst

On Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, TV’s biggest stars gathered at the Microsoft Theater for the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards. Game Of Thrones ended up winning big, FX’s Pose broke records, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge swept the comedy categories, but let’s be real. Who actually cares about the ceremony? Most of us are just in it to see who won and what they were wearing.

This year, the purple carpet was a frenzy of sequins, satin, and organza. Strangely enough, red and pink made a massive comeback — a comeback we weren’t sure was actually needed considering Valentine’s Day is about five months away. Unlike most modern awards shows, political statements were shockingly kept to a minimum.

From Laverne Cox’s statement-making clutch to Gwendoline Christie’s puzzling getup (which could have easily been lifted from a Spirit Halloween without the Gucci price tag), here’s the best and worst of 2019 Emmys purple carpet ranked.

Laverne Cox showed up with a message

Orange Is The New Black actress Laverne Cox didn’t show up to the Emmys purple carpet just looking to make a fashion statement — she wanted to make a political statement, too. Every piece of her outfit, from her rainbow acrylic clutch to her choice of arm candy, was calculated to speak out about LGBTQ rights. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cox paired her lavender and black Monsoori gown with a custom Edie Parker clutch that was emblazoned with the words “Oct. 8, Title VII Supreme Court.” On that day, the Supreme Court will hear the cases of Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostok, who were allegedly “fired from their jobs for being gay,” and Aimee Stephens, who was allegedly fired for being transgender. Title VII, which is the part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, but has been subject to various interpretations within the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court will essentially set the precedent on whether or not Title VII applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Maybe it’s about raising awareness so everyone knows that our lives are in danger,” the actress told E! News. “A lot of people aren’t talking about this case, and it has implications for the LGBT community.”

Cox, who was nominated for outstanding guest actress, walked the carpet with ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, who’s representing Stephens in court.

Zendaya was a femme fatale

At 23 years old, Zendaya is a red carpet veteran (lest we forget that time Giuliana Rancic almost ruined her career after an ill-advised comment about the former Disney Channel star’s Oscar’s look). 2019 has been particularly monumental for the actress, who starred in HBO’s critically acclaimed drama Euphoria. Though the series missed out on the Emmys deadline for 2019, the star still made her purple carpet debut in a stunning look that casts her as one of DC’s most infamously sexy villains.

According to People, Zendaya’s look was inspired by Batman’s famed foe Poison Ivy. Her stylist Law Roach reportedly posted snaps of the supervillain on his Instagram story on the night of the awards show. To get those sexy, femme fatale vibes, the former Disney Channel star donned a green Vera Wang dress with a high, thigh-bearing slit and stunning sheer bodice with matching Brian Atwood shoes. Her fiery red hair was styled in soft waves, and she topped the look with Cartier earrings. 

“When it comes to fashion, there’s nothing that Zendaya won’t try,” Roach told People. “After working with her for eight years, she keeps it new and fresh and exciting every single time.”

Steven Canals had sleeves longer than Pose's list of nominations

At the 2019 Emmy Awards, all eyes were on FX’s Pose. The Ryan Murphy and Steven Canals-created series, which explores the subculture of New York’s LGBTQ ballroom scene during the late ’80s and early ’90s, had a whopping six nominations, according to Entertainment Tonight. The show also made history. Remezcla reported that the series features “the largest cast of transgender actors” out of any show ever created in the United States. Buzzfeed also revealed that behind the scenes, Janet Mock and Lady Jay became the first transgender producers to receive Emmy nominations, and Canals became “the first Latinx producer to be nominated for a drama.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Billy Porter, who plays ballroom emcee Pray Tell, also became “the first openly gay black man to win the lead actor in a drama category.” That’s a whole lot of (much-needed) firsts.

In an interview with DeadlineCanals admitted that his series “was conceived as a way for LGBTQ people of color [to] occupy space unapologetically on television.” That it did, and it’s finally being recognized for it. He also channeled this unapologetic loudness with his look on the purple carpet. Ain’t no one saying sorry about having not one, but two, trains of sequins trailing behind them. Canals clearly drew from the camp and over-the-top glitz seen in some of Pose’s most outrageous fashion with his fresh take on a tux. 

Halsey had her Cinderella moment

Halsey made her Emmy Awards debut at Sunday’s ceremony, and she looked like a real-life Disney princess on the purple carpet. The only difference was that at midnight — or realistically, a couple hours before — the starlet turned back into a pop star. At the in-memoriam section of the show, she sang a soulful piano rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit “Time After Time” to honor those in the industry who passed away since last year’s show, including Cameron Boyce, John Singleton and Peggy Lipton.

Halsey has a thing for color palettes, lest we forget her glorious cobalt hair during the Badlands era. This time, everything isn’t blue. It’s shades of purple. On Sept. 13, 2019, the star announced her third studio album Manic, and released the single “Graveyard.” Whether it was intentional or not, she ended up matching her Emmys dress with her new album cover. She topped the look with pink, crystal droplet earrings and a glamorous curly up-do. Such a soft, feminine outfit is a huge departure from the singer’s typical edgy style, but it just goes to show you that she can pull off pretty much anything.

Charlie Barnett was a total star

Charlie Barnett has had a busy year. While most actors opt to film a single TV series and maybe — maybe – do a small supporting role or cameo elsewhere, Barnett did four seasons of four different shows. The actor joined up with the final season of Arrow, and had starring roles in Netflix’s Tales of the City and the Lifetime psychological thriller You. On top of that, he saw major success alongside Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll, which landed 13 nominations. 

On the Emmys purple carpet, Barnett’s star power was quite apparent. The actor opted for a sharp, polished suit with a subtle but edgy star print. He completed his look with a gold St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital pin. According to The Hollywood Reporter, these were given out by the Red Carpet Advocacy agency, who wanted to “honor September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.” The agency also created the Time’s Up pin that was spotted all over the Golden Globes red carpet in 2018.

Kerry Washington stunned in … pants?

Kerry Washington is a four-time Emmy nominee, so it shouldn’t be surprising that she’s got her red carpet swagger down pat. She last attended the awards show in 2016, where she wore an elegant maternity gown with cutout details. At the time, she was pregnant with her youngest. This time around, it was clear that the pressure was off considering the actress didn’t have any nominations. Instead, she just had fun with her look in glitzy version of menswear. 

According to Entertainment Tonight, the star opted for a “white Alexandre Vauthier tuxedo blouse,” sequined pants, and peep toe heels which fell somewhere around Saturday Night Fever dancer, cabaret singer, and Vegas blackjack dealer. It certainly wasn’t serving high-powered PR firm vibes like her Scandal character, but it felt good to see the actress in something flirty and fun. She topped the look with a popped collar and a ponytail so sassy it beckoned Ariana Granda to take a seat — or at least kneel on a stool in a bizarre balancing act (Come on, you know the photo we’re talking about).

Taraji P. Henson re-purposed her Met Gala gown

At the 2019 Emmy Awards, red and pink color-blocking rose up from the depths of Hollywood’s forgotten awards show trends and emerged in all its mismatched whimsy on the purple carpet. We saw it on Taylor Swift at the Grammys in 2016. We saw it on Emma Stone at the 2014 Met Gala. Now, we’re seeing it on stars like Susan Kelechi Watson, Marisa Tomei, Mandy Moore, and Taraji P. Henson. This time around, the look is way less streamlined and paired with exaggerated, puffed-up sleeves, draped chiffon and other stand-out detailing — and there’s no better way to ramp up the camp in this look than by drawing from 2019’s Met Gala.

Henson, who presented during the ceremony, owned the Emmys purple carpet in her custom pink and red Vera Wang dress, but it was never actually meant for this awards show. She initially planned to wear it to the Met Gala, but had to skip out to attend a funeral. The star told Variety that she had to “un-camp” the look, which originally had a train “three times as long” with butterfly embellishments, but there was one part she didn’t remove: the cape. Not all heroes wear capes, but Empire’s Cookie definitely pulls one off.

Sophie Turner flew solo in Louis Vuitton

The cast of Game of Thrones were having a total moment at their last Emmy awards in their respective GoT houses — and they certainly had a reason to celebrate. According to People, the series, which wrapped filming in 2018, won a whopping 12 Emmys for its eighth and final season after racking up 32 nominations. As it turns out, the Academy was totally willing to overlook the widely-debated finale episode. Between the epic cast-selfies, emotional reunions, and smiles, it’s clear the cast was truly winning, regardless of the awards.

Sophie Turner, who received a nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, ended up flying solo on the purple carpet — meaning her husband Joe Jonas wasn’t on her arm. According to Cosmopolitan, who captured the Instagram Stories between the newlyweds, Jonas was busy watching a football game in Missouri with his friends (Okay, fine, he was actually there to kickoff the reincarnated JoBros Happiness Begins Tour). Nonetheless, the Queen in the North stunned in her baby pink Louis Vuitton gown. According to Elle, she changed into a bedazzled, white mini dress for the after parties.

This wasn't anything like Phoebe Waller-Bridge's black jumpsuit

Phoebe Waller-Bridge pulled the prime upset of the 71st Annual Emmy Awards. The Fleabag creator was up against Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was expected to take home her seventh Emmy in a row for best lead actress in a comedy series. According to The New York Times, Louis-Dreyfus was on-track to beat the record for most Emmy wins for acting, but not on PWB’s watch. Waller-Bridge, who was nominated for her work in both Fleabag and Killing Eve, ended up taking home statuettes for three of her five nominations.

Fleabag started as a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014, and the journey has been absolutely mental to get here,” she said during her acceptance speech (via the New York Times).

Compared to Waller-Bridge’s impressive win, her Emmy look fell a little flat. Sure, she was absolutely stunning in the glittery Monique Lhuillier gown, but it didn’t cause anywhere near the stir as the infamous jumpsuit she donned in Season 2 of the now-award-winning series of her own creation.

Zoe Kazan went totally '80s

The Deuce might have been snubbed at the 2019 Emmy awards, but Zoe Kazan still showed up to represent regardless — even if she only had a small recurring role in the HBO series. The indie darling took the Emmys pink and red dress trend to a whole new, fabulously ’80s level with a whimsical, bow-detailed Gucci gown. Who needs shoulder pads when you’ve got billows of puffy fabric?

Kazan isn’t a stranger to the Emmys — she received a nomination back in 2015 for her work in the HBO’s miniseries Olive Kitteridge. Since then, she’s contributed to a number of critically acclaimed flicks, including her role in The Big Sick. Most prominently, the star teamed up with her husband Paul Dano to create the screenplay for the Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal-starring flick Wildlife. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it took three years to come together.

Gwendoline Christie came with a GoT Easter egg

It’s hard to categorize Gwendoline Christie as the best dressed or the worst dressed at the 2019 Emmys. If Rihanna stunned by cosplaying the Pope at the Met Gala, could we possibly criticize Christie for proving that — in the words of Ariana Grande — God is a woman? When your series is nominated for 32 awards, you can kind of do whatever you want. 

According to Page SixChristie’s look came from Gucci’s cruise 2020 collection. She finished it off with a tiny Game Of Thrones Easter egg. The red draping was pinned with a gold lion brooch that had a blue gemstone in its mouth. As fans know, lions are the mark of the Lannisters, and Brienne was head-over-heels for Jamie Lannister. Tarth, Brienne’s homeland, is also known as the Sapphire Isle. Does this mean the couple got the fairy tale ending they deserved? We need something after that finale.

Brienne achieved her dreams of becoming a knight, despite being a woman. In real life, Christie was also the one who made her dreams of an Emmy nomination come true. She submitted her own name for consideration, and opened up to People about why she decided to be her own cheerleader. “For everything she represents in terms of women, I wanted there to be the possibility of the opportunity. And for me to feel like that’s how I was honoring saying goodbye to this character,” she said.

Amy Adams brought funeral vibes to the purple carpet

Amy Adams finally made her highly-anticipated Emmys debut. In the past, the starlet has been nominated for six Academy Awards and eight Golden Globes, but she’s never once been given props for her work in TV. This year, the star was nominated for HBO’s Sharp Objects, both as an actress and as an executive producer.

Though Sharp Objects was impressive, Adams’ Fendi gown was less so. The sheer, long-sleeved get-up was ill-fitting, garnering her a spot on various worst dressed lists. The Daily Mail claimed the actress “looked more like Morticia Addams,” and USA Today admitted they “wished [they] had ‘Sharp Objects’ to shred it” with (honestly, that play on words was too easy). That’s not to say Amy Adams regularly makes worst-dressed lists. The star has a pretty good track record and usually opts for elegant, form-fitting gowns, like the one she wore just a few months earlier at the 2019 Oscars. Oh well, here’s to next year.

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