Compared with her fellow Bafta best actress nominees — women like Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep, all of whom experienced early success — Amy Adams has tread a slower ascent. Yet there is no question that Ms. Adams has fully arrived. She stars in two of the most talked-about films of the awards season, “Nocturnal Animals,” directed by Tom Ford, and the sci-fi drama “Arrival,” for which she is nominated.
You could say that her style is taking a similar tack. On screen, Ms. Adams, 42, can carry off expensive silks and deep-V necklines with panache (see: “American Hustle” or “Nocturnal Animals”), but in real life, her early forays into gowns and glitz were uneven. Then, starting with “Man of Steel” in 2013, she began working with the Los Angeles stylist Petra Flannery, who has helped hone her red carpet image.
Ms. Flannery, through her work with Zoe Saldana, Gwen Stefani and Ms. Stone, is known as a risk taker, but with Ms. Adams, her steering has been gentler. “Amy’s style has gone into cleaner silhouettes and things that are more column-like, or a piece that maybe has a bit more modern detail,” Ms. Flannery said. “She also has this side to her that is very feminine and loves pretty clothes and that aspect of dressing up.”
In fact, Ms. Adams has seemed the most comfortable this season in the sleek designs of Mr. Ford, the designer, whose simple shapes amplify Ms. Adams’s sex appeal: A one-sleeve antique-bronze gown was a hit at the “Nocturnal Animals” premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, and the striking red column with a keyhole neckline she chose for the film’s New York premiere in November revealed a teasing amount of cleavage.
“It’s an extraordinary position to be in when the director of the film also happens to be an exquisite designer,” Ms. Flannery said. “He’ll have this vision for Amy, and then we’ll look at the designs together.” The process has allowed them access to unique details. For example, the red column “had twists on the sleeves,” she said. “There’s so much appeal if you look closer.”
The same could be said for Ms. Adams’s Golden Globes gown: a stately bustline (strapless, yet high and straight across) rendered in allover sequins. “It was a really interesting color,” Ms. Flannery said. “We had talked about doing it in gunmetal, but we ended up going with this shade. It looked black in the photos, but in person it actually had an eggplant to it.”
Mr. Ford’s fit has also been immaculate, which can elevate an overdone shape, like the ivory one-shoulder gown Ms. Adams wore for the “Nocturnal Animals” premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “My main focus when I’m doing a fitting is proper fit and the shape,” Ms. Flannery said. “That’s what you’re going to see on camera. Often you don’t see the details at all.”
That’s not to say Ms. Flannery focuses solely on gowns that will photograph well. She nearly gushes when discussing the up-close handiwork of the Altuzarra dress Ms. Adams wore at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January. The design appears to feature two floral prints, but the pattern was actually accomplished by beads.
That look showcased Ms. Adams’s softer alter ego, Ms. Flannery said, as did the black Marchesa cocktail dress with flirty bell sleeves that the actress wore to the National Board of Review gala in January. She was in a similar mood two days later at the American Film Institute awards, for which she chose a bright blue Roland Mouret dress with a swingy skirt and brocade bust detail.
Perhaps Ms. Adams’s best look of the season was her most unexpected. At the Gotham Independent Film Awards in November, she wore a Max Mara navy tuxedo with lacy black underpinning peeking out from the shawl collar. It was the kind of urbane outfit that Susan, the art gallery owner she plays in “Nocturnal Animals,” may have chosen to host an exhibition opening.
“It also showed how a suit can be sexy,” Ms. Flannery said. “Amy is ever so feminine, so to put her in something that is sexy and cool and modern is a contrast. I love that juxtaposition.”
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