Tuxedos, evening gowns ‘de rigueur’ at Cannes, but not stilettos

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Cannes’ 12-day film festival may be known for its parties and play, but there’s no playing around with the dress code set half a century ago for guests climbing its celebrated red carpet.

Tuxedos and evening gowns remain “de rigueur” but stilettos are not a must, festival organisers insisted amid a row over women in flats being denied access to Cannes’ legendary red-carpeted stairs.

With some 4,500 journalists accredited to attend the festival, the 24 steps are recarpeted three times a day for the cameramen and photographers on hand to shoot the stars treading the carpet.

Access is by invitation only, but to get past the security guards guests need to stick to the dress code set in stone in 1946 — glamorous evening gowns for women, black-tie for men, at worst dark suits.

Even the cameramen and photographers are forced to throw on evening gear and bow-ties before gaining access to the red-carpet steps.

There can be exceptions to the rule for some VIPs. This year US film-maker Joel Coen, who with his brother Ethan is heading the festival’s prize jury, turned up for the opening ceremony wearing a mere tie.

A measure of eccentricity can be allowed for women, as long as they are deemed glamorous.

Cannes is one of the world’s premier shop-windows for designers and the luxury industry, with dozens of the globe’s leading fashion houses and jewellery firms vying to dress the likes of Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman and Salma Hayek.

As for shoes, there are no rules, festival director Thierry Fremaux said Tuesday as organisers scrambled to defuse claims of a ban on women in flats treading the red carpet.

But Twitter and other social media sites reported several instances of trouble over shoes.

Film-maker Asif Kapadia, whose Amy Winehouse documentary screened in Cannes, said his wife had been stopped from ascending the red carpet for wearing flats before eventually being let through.

Producer Valeria Richter, who has had part of a foot amputated, told the BBC on Wednesday that she too was stopped for not wearing high heels, before then being allowed in.

“You can’t get in like this,” she quoted an official as saying as he pointed at her shoes.

Fremaux admitted security officials may have been a little over-zealous. “We apologise,” he said.

And in a statement, the festival denied there was a diktat on female footwear.

“Regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years,” the statement said. “And there is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s.”

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