Casual or couture, awards shows offer stars the chance to display their individual style and flair, while throwing formal convention out the window.instagram/tomc0le

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards this weekend honoured the best of television from the last year, and also offered a chance for stars of the small screen from around the world to bring out their best creative looks for the red carpet. Or should that be purple carpet?

The fashion on show turned tradition and expectation on its head: from vintage to futurist, minimalist to luxurious glamour, here are Vulture's top picks.

LENA HEADEY

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A vintage style with a twist came from Leana Headey, who wore Brock Collection, and channelled a riveting combination of the 1960s and the 1760s with a dress where the devil was in the detail. In a softy floral-printed sheer cyan, the loose shape and delicate layering, invoked the casual and long shapes of the hippie counterculture, and its companion the boho-chic of the 90s. Also playing into this aesthetic was the unhemmed edges of the fabric, which kept the dress light and flowing. The silhouette though, took a distinctly 18th Century path, with frilled sleeves and hips, a train and even a bustle. Never one to be restricted or confined by tradition or expectation, the dress finished in effortlessly sexy Lena Headey style with a plunging neck line. Truly incredible.

ANTONI POROWSKI 

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Antoni Porowski, star of Queer Eye, is never one to be underdressed, and this year’s Emmys were no exception. He brought the red carpet to its knees with a dazzling ode to the 1920s with a cream Ralph Lauren suit, black bow tie and suavely slicked back hair. This simple sartorial elegance is proof that just because you want to wear a suit, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. It’s all too easy to opt for a standard-issue black jacket on the red carpet, but even the colour choice and small styling details of extreme peak lapels and double-breasting can make a massive difference to the impact of a suit.

PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE, SIAN CLIFFORD and ANDREW SCOTT

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And the prize for best dressed show goes to… Fleabag! Narrowly beating Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in stunning pink and flashy white respectively, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford and Andrew Scott form, in my opinion at least, the best dressed TV group of the lot. Waller-Bridge’s nude column dress with a corset and cascade of embellishments was an amazingly flattering silhouette, that called to mind the floating tulle dresses of Molly Goddard, made famous by Waller-Bridge’s Villanelle. Clifford’s dress, by rising designer Emilia Wickstead, brought a hint of whimsy with beautiful draping white, topped off with a pearl-encrusted cape and pleated back. Andrew Scott, meanwhile, chose a black suit, dialling up the glam with a white satin shirt, a trend straight from the Spring/Summer 2020 runways. 

GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE

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Looking impossibly regal, Gwendoline Christie floated into the awards ceremony in Gucci, in a fantastical Classical silhouette that made her look like she’d just wondered out of the Forum in Ancient Rome. This is power dressing taken to a bold and imperial level. The minimalistic combination of deep red and white with intricate embroidery and beading is so simple, and yet so effective. I’m honestly not even sure I like this look, but it is so brilliantly constructed, structured and so visually striking that I can’t deny it a place on this list.

KIM KARDASHIAN and KENDALL JENNER

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Kim Kardashian, whatever you think of her rise to fame and fortune, is an impressive barometer of style, and has brought some of the most stand-out looks to red carpets over the last few years, notably her recent (quite literally) dripping in jewels Mugler dress at the Met Gala. She attended the Emmys this year to present an award with her half-sister Kendall, and while their speech drew a lot of attention, their fashion offerings were just as noteworthy. Kim departed from her often provocative and slinky style, sporting a luxurious black velvet Vivienne Westwood dress. With cinching corsetry and a bustle, the shape felt like a tribute to traditional Hollywood, but what elevated it to the fashion forward was the Alaïa-esque dramatic square neckline and chunky chain necklaces. Diverging from tradition again and subverting fashion precedents, Kendall Jenner wore a beautifully sculpted mermaid dress, that tumbled into a train in a living dynamism, echoing the floral print. This would have been beautiful but unremarkable had it not been topped with black latex encasing her upper torso and arms, like an 80s sci-fi heroine emerging from a ballgown. The piece, by British designer Richard Quinn, was a nod to the past and future of award show fashion, and the vaulting evolution of style driven by rising celebrities like the Kardashian-Jenners.

BILLY PORTER

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It seems that no best dressed list is complete without the iconic star of stage and screen who is Billy Porter. He killed the Met Gala as an Ancient Egyptian sun god on a sedan chair, and his myriad costume changes at London Fashion Week were lauded in the press and on social media. He’s also often challenged established standards of “masculine” dressing, wearing a tuxedo dress to the Oscars. At the Emmys, he chose a custom vibrant silver striped disco suit by Michael Kors, alongside his unofficial companion, a say-something hat by Stephen Jones whose elegance, flair and sheer fabulousness match Porter’s personality perfectly. In addition, it harked back to the fine millinery of the late, great queer fashion icon Prince.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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Vulture’s Best Dressed: The 76th Venice Film Festival 2019

AZZI & OSTA Couture dressed Melanie Liburd in a beautiful dress that combined the sharp tailoring of double-breasted Victorian-style corsetry, topped with a frilly white tulle bodice in an openly feminine bridal-like train. The opposition of restriction and fluidity was a stroke of genius, and combined well with the more androgynous elements of the look.

Mandy Moore

The singer-songwriter brought some pink parfait perfection with puffed baby pink sleeves on an off the shoulder dress by Brandon Maxwell, which fell to the floor in a savage drop of red from the high cinched waist. If this dress were a dessert, I would most certainly eat it. 

Zendaya

Think part Disney villain, part 19th Century undergarment. Thanks to Law Roach, traditional corsetry featured again, combining with yards of deep green satin and a high leg slit for a sexy ensemble straight off the runway.

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