Generally speaking, every year at the Cannes Film Festival, you can not only expect a slate of buzzy films and the odd scandal or two; you can also depend upon the most well-appointed women in Hollywood to dress their best, much to the delight of the internet’s Greek Chorus.
Last year, it was indisputably Anne Hathaway who emerged as the sartorial queen of Cannes in Armani Privé, a beaded Gucci minidress, and a hot pink Valentino jumpsuit. And the actress looked excellent this year, too, while wearing Atelier Versace at a Bulgari Mediterranea High Jewelry event in Venice.
But the emergent winner of Cannes 2023 is another of our most sylphlike brunette stars: Natalie Portman, who walked the crimson carpet to promote May December, the Todd Haynes film she co-stars in with the equally iconic Julianne Moore.
The Haynes movie has gotten rave reviews, and Portman has proved equally attention-grabbing at the festival, where she told journalists during a press conference that May December, like Cannes itself, examines “the different roles we play in different environments.”
“Even here, the different ways we, as women, are expected to behave at this festival even compared to men…how we’re supposed to look, how we’re supposed to carry ourselves,” Portman said. “The expectations are different on you all the time. It affects how you behave, whether you are buying into or rejecting it or whether you’re doing something in between. You’re defined by the social structures upon you.”
At Cannes, there’s famously an unwritten but generally adhered-to rule that women must wear heels on the red carpet, which may have been what Portman was glancingly referring to. Some, like Kristen Stewart, have played with this rule in the past: Sure, she wore heels to the Cannes red carpet in 2018—right before she slipped them off to scamper up the steps.
As she cannily called out the different expectations placed upon her as a woman at Cannes, Portman’s sartorial choices represented the height of old-Hollywood femininity.
natalie portman at the cannes film festival wearing one of christian dior’s most iconic creations of all time, the ‘junon’ dress designed in 1949!! THIS IS INSANE pic.twitter.com/LUEbzgExXp
— ❦ (@saintdoII) May 20, 2023
For one appearance, Portman stepped out in a faithful, spectacular recreation of Christian Dior’s 1949 Junon dress. Named for the queen of the gods in Greek mythology, the gown’s ombré petals and clean lines suit the petite actress spectacularly.
It also helps that, like Hathaway last year, Portman hadn’t really been seen on the red carpet in an array of major looks for quite a while before Cannes, priming her for major social media impact.
Natalie Portman at the 76th annual Cannes film festival. pic.twitter.com/JopjE0D3d0
— @21metgala (@21metgala) May 19, 2023
She was just as stunning in a sparkling, belted, midnight blue column dress, also by Dior. But perhaps her best Dior look came in casual form, styled by Ryan Hastings. It takes guts to keep it nonchalant at Cannes for your daytime looks, and taking risks can wildly backfire. A pastel, rather fussy Chanel Resort 2024 ensemble selected by Marion Cotillard this year, for example, has been getting panned.
— Red Carpet Fashion Awards (@Fashion_Critic_) May 21, 2023
As for Portman, she went with a Dior ensemble in fire engine red for her daytime look, keeping the elements super simple: a little red belted A-line dress, red jacket slung over her shoulders, red strappy sandals, black cat-eye sunglasses. It’s such a classic, foolproof look, it almost feels illegal.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis, whom Portman once portrayed on screen, would certainly approve.