Oscar 2021 Countdown: Viola Davis-ology

Posted on April 21, 2021


Well, it’s that time of year again and we’re not gonna let a little thing like a worldwide pandemic and year-long lockdown affect our Oscars week traditions are we? We’ve been doing these Ology posts for a good minute or two, arising out of some of the oldest posts in our blogging careers, when we would look at the season-long output of the Project Runway finalists. In retrospect, we’re a little embarrassed it took us so long to figure out that the format works even better for actresses on their Oscar campaigns. We can’t claim we know what sort of record we have when it comes to using these posts to predict what anyone will choose to wear on Oscar night (their ostensible purpose), but it’s always fun for us to take a look at an actor’s “style arc,” so to speak. Some actors stumble out of the gate in the early stages of their film’s promotion and only seem to course-correct around the time the first talk of nominations starts getting serious. Other actors, usually those who’ve been on the awards merry-go-round before, have a game plan from Day Zero and never once falter in their style serves. Just a glance at the fashion choices of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star and Best Actress nominee Viola Davis in the collage above makes us feel like we don’t even need to say much here. The lady knows the terrain, knows herself, has a fantastic stylist in Elizabeth Stewart, and with years of experience under her belt, has a very keen sense of what works for her and what kind of image she wants to convey.


Viola Davis Promotes “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in Jonathan Simkhai

These “ology” posts are going to be much more limited in scope and number this year because so many of the nominees made limited appearances and had a much smaller number of opportunities to promote themselves. Viola’s been in the business a long time and she had the benefit of just ending a very popular hit TV show, which makes her among the most accessible of the nominees with the highest name recognition. She lined up a lot of appearances to make up for the lack of red carpet or talk show time and we’re including a good number of them here. No matter the venue, she always stuck to the boldly colored, largely uncomplicated designs that suit her the best.





Viola Davis in Kenneth Ize for InStyle Magazine


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A post shared by Elizabeth Stewart 🐯🎈🈹🍸 (@elizabethstewart1)






Viola Davis in St. John for The New York Times




We’re including these styled looks for magazine and newspaper photo shoots for largely the same reasons: she utilized every bit of press at her disposal in the absence of normal promotional work and she stuck to the game plan when it came to her style choices: boldness, color, simple shapes. LOVE that Kenneth Ize suit.


Viola Davis Promotes “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in Stella McCartney

These entries are in chronological order and we tend to think of this Stella McCartney dress as her last gasp of “conventional” fashion. Her awards show looks followed this and there was a distinct stepping up of game and tightening of theme in her style. Not that this is bad. It’s actually a great dress, but it feels less like her than everything else on this list.


Viola Davis in Lavie by CK for the Golden Globes

See what we mean about ramping up game? Her love of bold colors and Black designers landed her on the hot Lavie by CK brand and into this stunning gown utilizing the folk shapes and prints the Cameroon-born designer loves most.



Viola Davis in Greta Constantine for the Critics’ Choice Awards

From that point, it became a series of gorgeously colored simple gowns or bold, African-inspired prints. It became entirely about color, pattern and silhouette. She’s been down this road and she clearly has no intention of traveling it in a succession of body-con gowns and shapewear anymore.



Viola Davis in XULY.Bët for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

Love this.



Viola Davis in Duro Olowu for the NAACP Awards

We don’t think we can recall someone on the awards track being so consistent in her style choices, so clear in the image she wants to convey, and still manages to keep it looking fresh and not repetitive.



Viola Davis in Louis Vuitton for the SAG Awards

And she’s not shy about making the biggest luxury brands in the world design something that speaks to her needs and her image.



Viola Davis Accepts AAFCA Icon Award in Greta Constantine

Like we said, we’re not convinced that these “ology” posts work all that well in terms of predicting what someone will wear on the night she might win an Oscar, but given how tightly consistent this promo wardrobe was, we have a hard time seeing her in anything that isn’t brightly colored and exuberant.


Styled by Elizabeth Stewart



[Photo Credit: Eizabeth Stewart/Instagram]

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