OPINION: The reaction to Nicole Kidman’s Oscars dress proves we need to change the way we view women over 50

It says a lot about ageism in fashion and films today.
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Throughout her career and countless red carpet appearances, Nicole Kidman has never been one to shy away from unique fashion choices.

Over the years, the 54-year-old has embraced unconventional colours – such as the chartreuse John Galliano for Dior gown she wore to the 1997 Oscars – and eccentric silhouettes that somehow always work on her willowy figure.

Not every ensemble has topped the ‘best dressed’ lists, but through the years Nicole has shown time and again that she knows how to take a fashion risk and make it work.

Nicole Kidman poses with husband Keith Urban on the 2022 Academy Awards red carpet in a gown by Armani Privé.

(Image: Getty)

Just look at the strapless silk number with a dramatic peplum at the waist she wore to this year’s Academy Awards.

“I’m lucky because this dress, they actually made this colour,” the star told E! News of the blue-grey Armani Privé gown with a sheath skirt and glittering narrow train.

“I was like, I really want to wear blue. This was the colour. They made this colour [for me].”

Nothing about the gown, which was tailored to perfection, was “ordinary” and that’s what made it work so well on Nicole – something her fans and fashion critics alike were quick to commend.

Vogue called the actress “a vision” on Twitter, Variety dubbed her “picture-perfect” and even those who weren’t in love with the design kept their criticisms relatively light-hearted.

“You all may be making fun of the middle of Nicole Kidman’s dress, but she’ll have the last laugh later when she can rest her glass of wine and a plate of food on it,” tweeted Vulture TV critic Jen Chaney.

In fact, the reaction to the unique gown was so kind that it’s hard to believe just over a month ago the actress was being lashed on social media for another out-of-the-box fashion choice.

When Nicole starred on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in a two-piece Miu Miu set featuring a low-rise skirt and belly-baring crop, social media users lost their collective minds.

Nicole’s cover shoot in a Miu Miu two-piece set sparked controversy and backlash.

(Image: Vanity Fair)

“She’s an accomplished actress who’s nominated for an Oscar. Why is she dressed like a school girl? Not cool,” one fan wrote on social media.

“Why does a 50+ year old woman need to be fetishised as a teen to make it on the cover of Vanity Fair?!” said another.

Fashion critics weren’t kind either, slamming Nicole’s outfit as everything from “tacky” to “inappropriate” on the 54-year-old, with many of the harshest critiques centred on her age.

WATCH: Nicole Kidman’s Vanity Fair cover outfit divides fans. Story continues after video.

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All this raises a compelling question; at what age is a multi-award-winning actress with decades of fashion experimentation under her belt no longer allowed to bare a little skin?

Her Oscars gown is about as unconventional as her Vanity Fair cover outfit, in fact one of the few differences is that her Academy Awards number is more covered up and fits more comfortably into what is expected of a 50-something movie star.

It would be remiss not to note the ongoing debate about how the Miu Miu outfit sexualises Nicole while appearing to emulate a schoolgirl uniform, a comparison neither Nicole nor the magazine have addressed but one that made many social media users “uncomfortable”.

However, there was no such backlash when much younger stars like Emma Corrin and Zendaya wore the exact same ensemble, baring just as much skin.

In fact, the 25-year-old Euphoria star wore an elevated crop top and bared her midriff at the Academy Awards alongside Nicole on Sunday and was lauded for her innovative take on red carpet fashion.

But there’s no doubt that if Nicole had arrived in the exact same outfit she would have found her photo splashed across every “worst dressed” list on the internet and mocked mercilessly on Twitter and Instagram.

There’s no denying that the Australian’s age plays a major role in the way her fashion risks are perceived these days.

In a perfect world, 54-year-old Nicole could walk the red carpet at the Academy Awards in Zendaya’s two-piece Valentino set and be lauded as a style icon in the same way the 25-year-old has been.

Zendaya, 25, stepped out in a midriff-baring ensemble at the 2022 Oscars.

(Image: Getty)

In a perfect world, women would be able to embrace all kinds of outfits and bare as much (or as little) skin as they wanted at any age without fear of vicious online attacks.

But that’s not the world we live in, and it’s certainly not the attitude in Hollywood.

Nicole looked ravishing at the Oscars and deserves praise for her unique approach to fashion, but the stark contrast in how her most recent style statement was received compared to her Miu Miu look says a lot about the way women over a certain age in Hollywood are viewed even in 2022.

There’s no easy fix for the ageism that subtly drives so many criticisms of women over 50 in the entertainment industry, but perhaps recognising the different ways we respond to Nicole’s outfits can help us break down some of those unconscious biases.

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