Kristen Stewart’s Tiny Chanel Shorts Broke Every Oscars Fashion Rule

In an era of rampant crop tops and microminis, showing skin isn’t necessarily that shocking anymore. Zendaya has made ab-flashing red-carpet looks a signature over the past few years, so when she wore a Valentino ensemble with a cropped blouse and long skirt to tonight’s Oscars it looked almost understated.

But when best actress nominee Kristen Stewart appeared at the event in a Chanel suit featuring short shorts, it turned up the thermometer of the Dolby Theater by several degrees. Indeed, this appeared to be the first pair of hot pants in the history of the Oscars red carpet.

The custom look, a black satin jacket and shorts worn with an unbuttoned white chiffon blouse and a million-dollar Chanel Fine Jewelry lariat necklace, was a collaboration between Ms. Stewart, her stylist of 17 years Tara Swennen and Chanel creative director Virginie Viard. Ms. Stewart, an ambassador for Chanel, has been faithfully wearing looks from the brand—many of them couture—while promoting her nominated role as Princess Diana in “Spencer.” In September 2021, she wore another minishort look, in proper black tweed, to the Venice Film Festival. But with the endless events, options were running out, so making something custom made sense. Ms. Swennen explained: “we knew she was going to wear Chanel, we just thought we’d get creative this time around.”

Kristen Stewart at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.


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So she, Ms. Stewart and Ms. Viard set about creating the look this January. It pulled from the Claudia Schiffer in St. Tropez spirit of the spring 2022 runway show, at which Ms. Stewart slipped into her seat fashionably late midway through. That collection—which is in stores now—featured several pairs of shorts, including 1990s-style bike shorts and sequined hot pants. Ms. Swennen was also inspired by the irreverent tuxedo looks Princess Diana wore in the 1980s. And the chiffon blouse was a reinvention of one she spotted in the Chanel archives.

The outfit just arrived in Los Angeles from Paris this Wednesday. “They had me on my toes until the last minute,” admitted Ms. Swennen, saying she normally has red-carpet looks planned for her clients three to four weeks in advance. But when it arrived, she said: “in true Chanel form it was perfect. We didn’t change a stitch on it.”

They were aware of the novelty of the look.

“We loved that it was something innovative,” Ms. Swennen said. “Of course Kristen is someone who loves pushing the boundaries and trying new things.”

They researched who had worn shorts at the Oscars in the past, finding just Pharrell Williams in Bermudas in 2019 and Demi Moore in a ballgown-skirted ensemble in 1989. Shorts are the final frontier for the red carpet.

Demi Moore fashioned her own bike shorts/ballgown hybrid look for the 1989 Oscars.


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Although Chanel is often associated with its ladylike quilted handbags, tweed skirt suits and proper pumps, it has a history of toeing the line of decency. In 1995, its former creative director, the late Karl Lagerfeld, sent a string bikini down the runway that was so tiny it made headlines well outside fashion. The vintage piece has gone on to become fashion legend, with Kim Kardashian flaunting her own on Instagram.

Ms. Stewart’s look proved divisive. Some praised the rule-breaking, individualist feeling of it. “It’s everything I wanted from her—someone who remakes high fashion in her own image,” said Esther Zuckerman, the author of this year’s book “Beyond the Best Dressed: A Cultural History of the Most Glamorous, Radical and Scandalous Oscar Fashion.” But on social media, many described the shortness of the shorts. Ms. Swennen was prepared for dissent.

A spring 2022 runway look from Chanel incorporated sequined hot pants.


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Chanel

“We knew it would be risky, that’s how her fashion always is,” she said. “But…she has this intrinsic confidence and that’s what makes her looks her own.”

Ms. Swennen sees this look as a culmination of the more daring spirit she’s seen on the red carpet after Covid’s interruption of the awards shows, which she calls “a turning of the tides…where everyone is unapologetically themselves.” She continued: “before the pandemic everyone was so concerned with what the media was going to say and what people were going to think, and after the last couple years of trial and turmoil everyone just wants to live in their happiness.”

Which explains a red carpet full of exuberance, including one pair of extremely short shorts that is destined to make an outsize impact on the fashion world.

Write to Rory Satran at rory.satran@wsj.com

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