Jennifer Lawrence’s dress prompts debate over sexism in Hollywood amid #TimesUp

‘It’s utterly extraordinary’

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 21 February 2018 14:34 GMT
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Jennifer Lawrence's outfit for Red Sparrow photocall polarises online fans

In the wake of #TimesUp, systemic sexism in Hollywood has never been such a prominent part of the cultural conversation.

Hence why Jennifer Lawrence’s latest photocall for Red Sparrow has polarised fans online.

As part of the US actress’ promotional rounds for the forthcoming thriller, in which she plays a prima ballerina-turned-seductive spy, Lawrence posed alongside her male colleagues in London wearing a plunging Versace gown, complete with a thigh-high slit.

Francis Lawrence, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons 

While some took to fawning over the dress, which bears a striking resemblance to the iconic safety pin gown worn by Elizabeth Hurley in the 90s, others were quick to highlight the dissonance between the 27-year-old’s revealing outfit and the men’s substantially more casual and covered-up gear.

This is such a quietly depressing (and revealing) image,” wrote journalist Helen Lewis on Twitter.

“Not least because I've been outside today and it's bloody FREEZING.”

Elizabeth Hurley pictured in the original Versace gown with Hugh Grant at the premiere for Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994

“It must be about three degrees in London atm, cold enough that the bloke actors have to wear coats and scarves to their press call and yet poor Jennifer Lawrence is wearing a small amount of fabric some might call a dress,” added another user.

Not only is Lawrence showing significantly more flesh, but she is dressed far more formally than the men, who, bundled up in jumpers and jackets look far more casual, making the actress's gown that much more of a sartorial statement.

However, putting Lawrence in a gown almost identical to the one that catapulted Elizabeth Hurley into a global sex symbol feels like an odd choice to make when we are at the vanguard of a movement like #TimesUp, which aims to empower women and take away from the significance placed on women’s outfits (see the all-black dress codes at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs).

So, what kind of a statement is it?

“TimesUp is an important movement, but it’s just the beginning,” explains Dr Katherine Twamley, gender studies professor at UCL.

BAFTAs 2018: Joanna Lumley opens awards comparing Time’s Up and #MeToo to Women's suffrage

“I’d love to hear Jennifer Lawrence’s take on this, she does not look happy. At the same time, it’s difficult for a woman (or any person) alone to affect change, so my question is what happened during this shoot?

“Did anyone even care to mention the stark disparity in clothing? Perhaps no one did, which speaks volumes in itself,” she told The Independent.

Some speculated that Lawrence might’ve been running between press junkets and not wanted the fuss of changing looks, however, that hasn’t stopped a diatribe from burgeoning against this stark imparity.

“I’m actually really quite shocked,” said celebrity stylist Alex Longmore, whose clients include Claudia Schiffer and Jerry Hall.

“She must have been doing another photoshoot inside, that’s the only excusable explanation,” she told The Independent.

“If that really was a press call and that was the chosen outfit, then it’s utterly extraordinary, particularly given that she would have had the final say in what she was wearing.

"Had she wanted to change into something more casual to fit in with the others, nobody would’ve stopped her because she’s the star.”

Another explanation might be that her stylist was briefed to match Lawrence’s outfit to her role, something Longmore says is common in styling celebrities for film promo.

In Red Sparrow Lawrence plays a woman who quite literally uses seduction and her sexual identity as a weapon, so one could argue that a revealing outfit would be apt for such a brief.

However, Longmore concludes that in light of #TimesUp and #MeToo, this dress was ultimately a "bad judgement call".

Red Sparrow Featurette - Dominika

It wasn’t long ago in November that Lawrence revealed to The Hollywood Reporter she was called “difficult” and a “nightmare” for standing up for herself in a work-related incident.

Lawrence has since responded to the comments surrounding the photograph via Facebook, calling the controversy "utterly ridiculous" and "sexist".

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