There is a significant amount of irrational exuberance over the soon-to-be-released “Black Panther” movie. The superhero film is stepping into a void with its predominantly black cast, its setting in a fictional African country, its narrative about futuristic African nobility, its talented African American director, its aesthetic artistry and the sense that the whole, enormous project is long overdue in the march toward greater diversity in Hollywood.
“Black Panther” has already set a record for advance sales. Social media is aflame. People are hyperventilating.
The stars are so talented! The sets are stunning! Chadwick Boseman is so handsome! Lupita slays!
Yes, yes, yes and of course.
So it was not especially surprising that for the Los Angeles premiere, guests were asked to dress in “royal attire” as a way to underscore the grandeur of the evening and cultural importance of the film’s arrival. The celebrities followed the instructions — or at least their stylists did. They walked the purple carpet swaddled in bold colors, headdresses, stoles, crowns and plenty of swagger. As step-and-repeats go, it was one of the more challenging ones, as guests were essentially asked to walk a fine line between fashion and costume.
Some did it expertly. Others? Dare we criticize? We fearlessly sally forth.
Perfectly balancing fantasy and stylishness was the aforementioned Nyong’o in Atelier Versace. Issa Rae looked especially radiant in a white pleated Rosie Assoulin dress with colorful metallic insets. Donald Glover — writer, actor, singer, man-of-endless-talents — miraculously pulled off a carrot-orange, shimmering Dolce & Gabbana suit. (Give him a chutzpah award to go with his Emmy, Golden Globe and Grammy.)
Chadwick Boseman, who plays the film’s title character, wore a gold-and-black floral jacket and black trousers from Emporio Armani and made it all look quite aristocratic. Janelle Monae essentially accessorized her Christian Siriano gown with a golden crown and called herself done — magnificently.
And actor Isaach de Bankolé, born in Côte d’Ivoire, made his simple black and white ensemble look suave.
Some of the guests essentially opted out of the dress code. Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker arrived in a shawl-collar tuxedo and an expression that said: I am an actor. I bring a character to life. I do not live the life of my character — especially when these pictures could possibly go viral and haunt me for a lifetime. Actress Tessa Thompson seemed to be of similar mind.
A lot of guests, however, seemed to have adhered to the dress code. And the interpretations of royal attire, in the context of “Black Panther,” ranged from grand and futuristic to the occasional case of comic-book chaos. Indeed, some folks interpreted royal style as pretty much just wearing as many patterns and colors and whatnot as possible until they looked a bit like a walking African bazaar. So many choices! Why edit when one can wear it all?
In other words, exuberance got the better of a few folks. Calm down people. Seriously. There are weeks to go before “Black Panther” opens. Lots of parties. Plenty of red carpets.