The Academy Awards have long been a showcase for some of the most incredible and dramatic gowns known to fashion. From Audrey Hepburn in Hubert de Givenchy, to Julia Roberts in vintage Valentino and Kate Winslet in Ben de Lisi, here are just a few of the dresses that have made a stir in Oscars red carpet history.
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Picture credits: Rex Features
Best ever Oscar dresses: Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet in Ben de Lisi, 2002
He may now be best known for his high street collections, but in 2002 Ben de Lisi hit the headlines after he designed this scarlet column dress, complete with a garland of pretty silk flowers running across one shoulder, for Oscar winner Kate Winslet.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly in Edith Head, 1955
When Grace Kelly needed a dress for the most important moment of her career so far - her best actress nomination for The Country Girl - she turned to the doyenne of Hollywood costume design, Edith Head.
She created an understated, aquamarine duchesse-satin column dress that the movie star also wore on her iconic Life magazine cover a couple of weeks later.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts in vintage Valentino, 2001
Trailblazer Julia Roberts helped kick-start the trend for wearing vintage dresses on the red carpet, with this monochrome column dress from the archives of Valentino. The velvet and satin gown was aptly taken from Valentino’s 1982 collection dedicated to film stars.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone in Gap and Vera Wang, 1998
Certainly one of the most memorable Oscars ensembles of all time, Sharon Stone turned heads when she opted for a high-low mix: pairing a simple, white buttoned-down men’s shirt from Gap with a satin evening skirt from Vera Wang.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams in Vera Wang, 2006
Michelle Williams makes red carpet dressing look easy in this gorgeous, vintage-inspired saffron-yellow dress from Vera Wang. However, the design and construction of the dress took work: Wang made hundreds of sketches before coming up with the final design, which was then painstakingly cut to fit Williams’ body using a mock fabric, before a skilled seamstress constructed the finished chiffon and tulle gown.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy, 1954
Often cited as one of the most iconic dresses in the history of the Oscars, this belted white floral dress - worn by Audrey Hepburn when she scooped the award for best actress for Roman Holiday - was the first time audiences saw the Breakfast At Tiffany's in a Hubert de Givenchy creation, but certainly not the last.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor in Dior, 1961
‘Remember the woman’ was designer Marc Bohan’s famous phrase when he took the helm of the Christian Dior label in 1960. And who could be more womanly than Elizabeth Taylor, who wore this floral Dior creation to pick up her best actress Oscar for BUtterfield 8.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand in Scaasi, 1969
Barbra Streisand made fashion designer Arnold Scaasi into a household name overnight when she wore this risqué, embellished blouse and flared trouser combo to collect her best actress Oscar (an accolade she had to share with Katharine Hepburn in a historic tie) in 1969.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett in Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci, 2011
As exquisite and unique as the actress herself, Cate Blanchett sparked a trend when she stepped onto the Oscars red carpet wearing this beautiful creation from Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci: gowns from the same collection were quickly snapped up by Florence Welch, Rooney Mara and Liv Tyler.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman in Rodarte, 2011
From awards and accolades to a husband and eventually a son; Natalie Portman gained so much from her role in Black Swan, so it was only fitting that she wore a dress by the film’s costume designers to pick up her best actress Oscar: her plum-coloured, off-the-shoulder gown was custom-made by Rodarte.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman in Balenciaga, 2007
Nicole Kidman added a dose of high drama to her signature elegant style with this fluid, red halterneck dress from Balenciaga, which featured as its pièce de résistance an oversized bow at the neck leading down to a long train.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Marion Cotillard
Marion Cotillard in Jean Paul Gaultier, 2008
Before she became the face of Dior, Marion Cotillard was free to wear whatever she wanted on the red carpet. For the 2008 Oscars - where she won best actress for her portrayal of Édith Piaf in La vie en rose – Cotillard chose a flowing, mermaid-esque couture gown from fellow countryman Jean Paul Gaultier.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford, 1930
American silent film star (and the only female founding member of the society behind the Academy Awards), Mary Pickford wore a fluid, drop-waisted evening dress, with a bow and jewel embellishments, to pick up her best actress Oscar for her role in Coquette - her first talking movie.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow in Zac Posen, 2007
Gwyneth Paltrow chose this beautiful flesh-toned dress from Zac Posen’s autumn/winter collection for her turn on the Oscars red carpet in 2007. Famous for his glamorous eveningwear, this Jean Harlow-esque dress shows off Posen’s love of pleating and folds to dramatic effect.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley in Vera Wang, 2006
Besides its opulent burgundy shade and spectacular taffeta fishtail, what makes Keira Knightley’s Vera Wang gown so special is that, after the Oscars, Knightely donated the dress to Oxfam where it raised £4,300 at auction.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie in Marc Bouwer, 2004
Not since Marilyn Monroe stood on that subway grate in The Seven Year Itch has anyone looked as stunning in a white halterneck dress. After rocking a slightly scary all-black gothic look a few years before, Angelina looked positively angelic at the 2004 Oscars in this satin Marc Bouwer gown.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis in Elie Saab Couture, 2011
She may have missed out on an Oscar nomination for Black Swan, but Mila Kunis ensured she wasn’t forgotten on the night by making her entrance in this exceptional dress from Elie Saab Couture. Constructed from lavender chiffon, the spring/summer 2011 collection gown featured intricate, tiered lace panels and a waist-cinching grosgrain ribbon.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Emma Stone
Emma Stone in Giambattista Valli, 2012
Famed for his feminine bows and ruffles, Giambattista Valli was the go-to guy for Emma Stone’s turn on the Oscars red carpet in 2012. Choosing this striking, full-length red couture gown with an oversized bow at the neck, Stone drew comparisons to Nicole Kidman’s Balenciaga number which she wore to the awards in 2007.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana in Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci, 2010
Featuring a bold, purple ombré ruffled skirt and a glittering sequined bodice, taking this statement Givenchy Haute Couture look off the catwalk and into real life was certainly going to be a challenge. However, Zoe Saldana certainly did it with aplomb.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Hailee Steinfeld
Hailee Steinfeld in Marchesa, 2011
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld took to the Oscars red carpet like a duck to water in a pretty, crystal-embellished tea-length dress from Marchesa, which was based on a sketch done by the actress herself.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Glenn Close
Glenn Close in Zac Posen, 2012
There’s a reason Glenn Close looks so smug in this picture: she knows she looks absolutely amazing in this Zac Posen dress. With its nipped-in waist and flared full skirt, Close’s gown typifies the '50s American couture meets Far East' aesthetic Posen was going for with his autumn/winter 2012 collection.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Penélope Cruz
Penélope Cruz in Atelier Versace, 2007
Penélope Cruz pretty much stole the show when she attended the 2007 Oscars in this romantic couture gown from Atelier Versace, which contrasted a form-fitting, ruched bodice and with a textured skirt and train.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Halle Berry
Halle Berry in Marchesa, 2011
Halle Berry chose a confection of crystal-embellishments, organza and silk tulle ruffles for her attendance at the 2011 Oscars. While everyone remembers her see-through Elie Saab number from 2002 (the year she became the first black woman to win a best actress Oscar), it’s this beautiful Marchesa dress that got her onto the best-dressed lists.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei in vintage Charles James Couture, 2011
Styled for the occasion by Rachel Zoe, Marisa Tomei looked stunning in a satin and tulle 50s ballgown from American couturier Charles James. Said to be the inspiration behind Christian Dior’s New Look, James was renowned for his elaborate and voluminous skirts which exploded out from beneath a sinuous, boned bodice.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton, 2012
Michelle Williams’ appearance at the 2012 Oscars - where she was nominated for a best actress Academy Award for My Week With Marilyn - in this vintage-look, ruched gown from Louis Vuitton certainly helped jump-start 2012’s peplum trend.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger in vintage Jean Dessès, 2001
Normally in Carolina Herrera, Renée Zellweger instead chose a canary-yellow, vintage chiffon gown from Jean Dessès for the 2001 Academy Awards. A leading fashion designer from the 40s to the 60s, Dessès was renowned for his draped evening gowns based on ancient Greek and Egyptian robes.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Milla Jovovich
Milla Jovovich in Elie Saab, 2012
Milla Jovovich dipped into the Elie Saab archives and came up trumps with this glittering asymmetric dress from the label’s autumn/winter 2009 couture show, made famous for its line-up of all-white dresses.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway in Marchesa, 2008
Red was a key hue at the 2008 Oscars ceremony – the colour was worn by Heidi Klum, Katherine Heigl and Dame Helen Mirren – but Anne Hathaway led the charge in this stunning asymmetric gown by Marchesa, complete with romantic rosette detailing.
Best ever Oscar dresses: Rooney Mara
Rooney Mara in Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci, 2012
Courted by Calvin Klein, Givenchy and Prabal Gurung, Rooney Mara waited until the morning of the Oscars before deciding on this sculptured, white lace gown from Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci.