Sparkles, Lace & a Whole Lotta Muscle On the ESPYs Red Carpet


Why don’t sports events have red carpets more often? Wednesday night’s ESPYs was a blast to look through, and not just because the most prominent trend was glittery, sparkly, splashy sequined gowns. The amount of physically strong, happy looking athletic idols on the photo line was inspiring, and their clear confidence trickled down to their outfits. One more time: congratulations to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team! You’re all champions.

Kylie Jenner, there to support Caitlyn, did my absolute favorite trend for fall, the sequined turtleneck, gussying the buttoned up nerd staple for a luxe take on librarian gone wild. Dior made my favorite, in silver, with a much higher neck; this one’s Shady Zeineldine, and a little bit more of a mockneck. Soccer pro Hope Solo followed suit, covering her arms in an elegant gunmetal grey; I will refrain from making a goalie pun about how this outfit scores.

Rocsi Diaz was a little less demure, breaking up the dazzle with a sheath of a neckline, and pro surfer Stephanie Gilmore went for simplicity, which I love in this Grecian silvery number.

Britney Spears, notable patron of groceries, brought some old-world, ‘30s showgirl glam in a beaded Davidson Zanine, while Carli Lloyd, superstar of the Women’s World Cup, celebrated her win like a queen in a long, beaded inky gown with a train.

Model Hannah Davis really broke out one of the best sequin numbers there, a shimmering Mikael D runway piece with what looks like a reptile snaking down the front. Gorgeous. Jessica Alba’s color is definitely iridescent cream, though the angle of this shot makes the neckline seem dog-eared. Hmm.

Soccersplosion! These three athletes are real winners (see, I couldn’t help it) in these great looks, all of which use minimalism and clever cutting to prove a point. Christen Press is showing the Hollywood stars how to utilize a cut-out dress without looking like a trend victim—that subtle slit really makes it—while Megan Rapinoe looks like a really chic Chicago gallerist in Prabal Gurung. Side hustle, maybe? I saw like eight googly-eyed tabloid posts about Sidney Leroux’s abs, which yes, are impressive—she’s a professional athlete, what do you want—but I would also like to commend her on really working minimalist crop-top chic in a very upscale and classy (Hervé Léger) way on the carpet, both dressed for the occasion but not so fussy she’s not gonna forgo a good time.

Mo’ne Davis is a star in the making, and her red carpet style supports it—the lovely white origami dress is very Viktor & Rolf, and her baby hairs are the perfect touch. Micha Hancock, a Penn State student athlete, went more Hollywood glamour in a very pretty navy gown, good for summer.

I cannot gush enough over this Ronda Rousey photo, not particularly because I’m in love with her dress (though it suits her), but because of the way she is standing, feet wide, strong legs, not afraid to strike a commanding pose and take up space. In a world where most red carpet flicks feature withering model types with one leg crossed across the other in hopes that their silhouettes will shrink, it’s fucking great to see someone staking some claim on their surroundings. Claim that carpet, Ronda Rousey! OWN IT! BODYSLAM THAT RED CARPET!

At right, pro snowboarder/Dancing with the star Amy Purdy is also showing that damn carpet what the hell time it is, in a gorgeous sheer-and-crystal party dress and strappy sandals.

Candis Cayne and Grace Mahary both went for vavoom in ultrafeminine, classic looks and goddammit it’s not fair. Superstar and friend to Jezebel Janet Mock is always on-point in the outfit department, and this is one of the best red carpet looks I’ve seen in ages—voluminous, seasonal, very pretty, perfect hues for her skin tone and a chic two-piece. She is the living embodiment of a cool garden party with a champagne fountain and ganache-frosted cupcakes (not a snobby garden party, obvs).

Green and black was a common theme on the carpet, too; very into cyclist Greta Neimanas’s decision to rock her lime green kicks—this is a sporting event, after all—but tennis player Caroline Wozniacki shows the range of this carpet, anything goes, in a slightly more formal, Oscars-style look. In the red Léger (that’s Léger, right?) is the WWE’s Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, no doubt glowing after her excellent decision to do this thing I don’t really understand but is cool because women are now in the ring. And Danica Patrick, boss of the speedway, went full-on resort in a dress that reminds me to book my 10-woman vacation to Atlantis Resort soon. Danica, you are invited if you so choose.

Also vacationy: driver Erica Enders-Stevens’s dress and shoe straps are prime for that fancy chandelier hotel in Vegas (I think it is called the Chandelier?), while former WNBA player Lisa Leslie kept it in another classic era with a pretty yellow ‘70s style sheath. Then there is Halle Berry, who is I think for the first time in history not looking 1000%? The leather draping on those bell sleeves and skirt seems too heavy a material for that lace bodice. Luckily Jazz Jennings was there in white to brighten up the place, looking perfectly and wonderfully 14 years old. PS, can we note that an awards event thrown by ESPN has a more diverse red carpet than 99% of supposedly liberal Hollywood red carpets? Just an acknowledgement, here.

Kristin Spodobalski, the girlfriend of ESPN’s Stuart Scott who died six months ago, wore simple white to match her date, Stuart’s sister Susan. It’s always a great idea to match your red carpet date and I wish more friend-crews would pick up on this trend, because it’s a cool declaration of friendship. Maggie Vessey is hands down the running world’s most stylish athlete, hitting the track in custom-made designs; here she works that acumen into a unique, pretty sheer onesie with flared legs that I do not hate at all. Kendall Jenner also went for sheer, but I’m more on the fence with hers; Alexandre Vauthier is LA’s fave new designer and all, but the banded sheerness on this seems slightly egregious. Pro skateboarder Leticia Bufoni, though, is fully manifesting my teen dreams of shredding in life and then going full uberfeminine sk8 betty on the off hours.

Tennis player Victoria Azarenka is taking the ethos of her job to the carpet, too, straight up and cannily wearing a pleated tennis skirt on the red carpet. So canny! Alex Morgan, the soccer player, is another of the fashionable women on the team in a lace bodiced Prabal Gurung that looks great. As for volleyball player (volleyballer?) Destinee Hooker, I love that she kept it super chic and simple, and the disco ball handbag is a nice touch given its resemblance to a volleyball. Serve, girl. (God, I’m so sorry.)

Cute couples alert! From left, NFL player Rob Gronkowski and his mother Diane; Paralympians Oksana Masters in a pretty gown and Aaron Pike; pro wrestlers The Miz mizzing as Maryse Ouellet mizzes his miz; and, of course, Ciara and Russell Wilson, who matched his suit to her Elie Saab gown so you know it’s true love even though there’s no true d. Love that ombre Elie Saab, though.

Kaitlyn Carter, with Brody Jenner, also is doing understated cut-outs, and the shoe pairing is phenomenal with that criss-cross neckline. Veronica Smiley, with Brian Grazer, clocks one of the best sequin looks of the night, a confetti of iridescence on a shift dress. Melanie Brown, the only Spice Girl as far as I’m concerned, is as ever elegant in lipstick red, with her husband Stephen Belafonte apparently taking the L.

And the gods said there would be pants! Wrestling twins Nikki Bella and Brie Bella kept it monochrome, and Nikki’s pant-gown is absolute perfection, would get married in that thing. Olympic athlete/hammer-throw star Amanda Bingson, who is my new life idol thanks to this, looks utterly great in that red pantsuit; it suits her curves and compliments her awesome solidity. Diane Sawyer looks every bit the part of vet journalist on the red carpet in that crisp white suit, while Rachel McAdams is giving serious-actor business in her own red version. I. WILL. NEVER. NOT. LOVE. A PANTSUIT. ON THE RED. CARPET. Accept it.

In homage to that idiotic, racialist New York Times piece about NBA players needing to like, “upgrade” their fashion to boringly mainstream white designers, I present to you some of the flyest dudes any of us have ever seen.

Yes, that is the NFL’s DeSean Jackson in a crispy, khaki-colored, shortsleeve shortset. Yes, that is the Giants’ Odell Beckham in a red smoking jacket and no socks. Yes, that is the Seahawks’ Ricardo Lockette in a pointillé tuxedo with shiny pants like he’s Puffy. Yes, that is soccer player AJ DeLaGarza in marsala. They all look fucking fantastic.

Oh, you want more? How about teen basketball player Ben Simmons showing off his acumen for a gleaming sneaker and pointed collar, or Georgia State’s Markus Crider in a dotty bow tie, or professional boxer Jake Gyllenhaal with a freakin tie clip. Finally, the Oaktown Raiders’ Jonathan Dowling, all black with a driving shoe and a perfectly subtle duet of gold chains, as slick and suave as can be.

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Images via Getty

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