The annual Venice Film Festival is an opportunity for extreme glamour: think big gowns, with plenty of feathers and sequins.

This year, the event was much more low-key than usual. There weren’t as many big-name celebs in attendance for starters, and face masks were one of the most common sights on the red carpet.

However, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t still interesting in the style stakes – particularly as Cate Blanchett was in attendance as the jury president, and Tilda Swinton was receiving the lifetime achievement award.

Yes, there were less princess gowns and feathered caftans on the red carpet this year, but what we did see was a masterclass in understated elegance…

The monochromes…

Cate Blanchett
(Joel C Ryan/AP)

For one of her more unusual outfits of the festival, Blanchett wore a white Alexander McQueen dress featuring plenty of layered tulle, a sheer skirt, plus gold accents. White tulle can easily feel a bit frothy and princessy, but Blanchett gave the outfit a bit of edge with a black blazer.

Cate Blanchett
(Gian Mattia D'Alberto/AP)

Blanchett also brought some eco-friendly fashion to the red carpet, by recycling dresses she has already worn. This elegant black gown, with three-quarter sleeves and a deep-V, is by Armani Privé – a brand she models for – and was previously worn during the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It just goes to show: a classic black dress never goes out of style.

The sparkles…

Cate Blanchett
(Joel C Ryan/AP)

This shimmering navy gown with white accents and caped sleeves is by Esteban Cortazar, and is yet another dress Blanchett has already worn on the red carpet – to the 2015 premiere of Carol in London.

Maya Hawke
(Joel C Ryan/AP)

If you’re wondering why Maya Hawke looks familiar, it’s probably because she bears a striking resemblance to both her parents: Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. Hawke is now making her own way as an actor and singer, having roles in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Stranger Things.

The 22-year-old attended the premiere of Gia Coppola’s new film Mainstream – and took Venice by storm in a Versace dress, with a nude spaghetti strap top ombre-ing into a gold sequinned skirt.

The pops of colour…

Tilda Swinton
(Domenico Stinellis/AP)

It hasn’t been the most colourful of red carpets in the grand scheme of things, which is why Swinton’s unexpected bright limey-yellow suit is such a breath of fresh air.

Vanessa Kirby
(Joel C Ryan/AP)

Vanessa Kirby’s sexy red gown is basically the dress version of a mullet: business at the front, party at the back. With long sleeves and a high neck, this definitely looks a demure outfit – until Kirby turns around, revealing that it’s entirely backless.

Nathalie Emmanuel took advantage of the sunshine in Italy with this purple two-piece from Miu Miu, given a red carpet edge with silver accessories and shoes.

Gia Coppola
(Joel C Ryan/AP)

Director Gia Coppola often works with Gucci and has shot short films for the brand, so it was no surprise she walked the Venice red carpet in gown by the Italian label. For the occasion, she wore a tiered embellished dress, flowing from pale yellow through pink to blue.

The masks…

Tilda Swinton
(Domenico Stinellis/AP)

To pick up her Golden Lion for Career Achievement, Tilda Swinton wore a structured white lace gown from Chanel – the coat style bringing a bit of her signature androgyny to the look. Swinton accessorised with brocade heels and an elaborate gold hand-held mask.

Of course, this mask was more of a fashion statement than pandemic-appropriate. The designer, James T Merry, wrote on Instagram it was "inspired by: stingray skeletons, seaweed, orchids… + also my favourite fish sculptures on the columns of the Rialto fish market in Venice".

Ana Rocha
 (Joel C Ryan/AP)

Portuguese filmmaker and actor, Ana Rocha de Sousa wore a see-through mask on the red carpet, for a powerful reason. She was debuting her film Listen at the festival, starring deaf child actor Maisie Sly.

Rocha de Sousa told the PA news agency: "It’s an inclusive message, it’s about not forgetting, not leaving anyone behind, it’s like I also feel that even if you can listen and if you can hear, I think that the mask blocking the view to your mouth, it becomes very difficult sometimes to communicate."