Check out our round-up of the best dressed stars in the history of the Academy Awards
The Academy Awards is undoubtedly one of the most glamorous events in history. Since its advent in the fifties, it’s been a true celebration of the achievements of some of the biggest stars of the screen. The ceremony is now televised in over 200 countries. This is our comprehensive guide of the Best Oscar Dresses of all time.
At the first ever Oscars, it was an iconic moment when waif-like Audrey Hepburn won the Best Actress trophy for her role in the 1953 film Roman Holiday. Her dress was designed by Hubert de Givenchy and the actress went on to become his muse. The delicate flowers adorning the fabric seemed to chime with her elfin features. The look was innocent, yet striking and sexy and won her hearts all over the fashion industry.
In 1995, a year after wearing THAT safety-pinned Versace dress to the premiere of Four Weddings And A Funeral, Liz stepped out once again on the arm of Hugh Grant. This time she was wearing a slightly less out-there affair, a beautiful embellished gown (with the requisite plunging neckline still in place of course).
Despite a couple of her looks now seeming a little bit dated, Nicole Kidman has turned heads in an iconic dress at a number of Oscar ceremonies. In 2000 she most certainly stole the show as she walked the red carpet with then-husband Tom Cruise. She positively shimmered in the clingy one-shouldered gold gown.
In the years that followed, the likes of Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lopez all wore some incredible pieces that have landed them in our round-up of the most iconic Oscar dresses of all time.
Fast-forward to 2009 and it’s Katherine Heigl’s turn to take the spotlight in Los Angeles. Combining two of the night’s key trends – asymmetric cuts and the colour red – she commanded attention for all the right reasons in an Escada column dress.
2013 saw Amy Adams get it very right in a feathered Oscar de la Renta design and 2014 was Jennifer Lawrence’s time to shine. She picked a Dior floor-sweeper that was incredibly flattering to her trim hourglass curves.
In 2015 and 2016, there were sequins, ruffles and feathers galore, with Emma Stone and Emily Blunt shimmering in Elie Saab and Prada respectively.
Keep reading to see who else has featured in our edit of the most iconic Oscar dresses of all time…
Around four weeks before the 2013 Oscars ceremony, producers purged any mention that the awards (formerly known as The Academy Awards) would be in there 85th year to avoid alienating a younger generation. Now in its 86th year, the awards ceremony is only ever referred to as The Oscars.
A year after wearing THAT safety-pinned Versace dress to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Liz stepped out once again on the arm of Hugh Grant. This time she was wearing a slightly less out-there affair, a beautiful embellished gown (with the requisite plunging neckline still in place of course). (1995)
Nicole Kidman turned heads on the red carpet in 1997. No, it wasn’t because she was stood next to diminutive Tom Cruise, it was due to her utterly gorgeous gown by John Galliano for Christian Dior. The Asian-inspired shift dress was part of Galliano’s debut couture collection for the label. (1997)
OK, fashion fans, this dress may look a little dated now, but rest assured, back in 2000 it created something of a show-stopping moment for Nicole Kidman. Having entered the new millennium married to one of the most famous men in the world, it was stand-out style hits like this that stopped the world seeing the actress as merely Mrs Tom Cruise, and made us all start seeing her as a star in her own right. This gilded golden dress was one of the first signs of the style super-stardom that was to come. (2000)
It may have seemed an odd and rather risky choice to wear yellow on the red carpet, but when it came down to it, Renee’s wonderful dress by Lily et Cie practically oozed vintage Hollywood glamour. In the glare of flash light bulbs going off, she was every inch the movie starlet with her 1940s hairstyle and a slash of killer red lippy. Sensational darling! (2001)
Julia Roberts made waves when she stepped on stage to receive her Oscar in 2001, and not simply because her dress was so beautiful. The actress eschewed the standard award ceremony practice for custom-made, never-seen-before gowns, in favour of this vintage Valentino masterpiece from 1982. By breaking Hollywood conventions, the actress instantly made vintage wear more covetable, desirable and ultimately fashionable. Valentino later described this moment as one of the highlights of his career. (2001)
Ben de Lisi saw his career skyrocket when Kate Winslet donned his beautiful one-shouldered scarlet gown to the 2002 Oscars. One of Winslet’s many scene-stealing Academy Award appearances, she’s become something of a pro on the Oscars red carpet, with six nominations under her belt before she finally won a coveted statue in 2009. (2002)
Super sexy Reese Witherspoon graced the red carpet wearing a gorgeous black Valentino gown. With lace trim and intricate beading detail on the front, it was a truly stunning look. She was there to present an award with her husband at the time Ryan Phillipe. It wasn’t till 2007 that she won an award of her own for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line. (2002)
Halle wore a completely unique dress by Elie Saab for the 2002 Oscars. With a satin train and some strategically placed embroidery, she wowed the red carpet onlookers. Later in the evening she was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Monsters Ball. An emotional Berry, who was the first African-American actress to win the award, gave a rambling, tear-filled speech covering racism in the industry, her mother and Oprah Winfrey. (2002)
At the height of Bennifer fever, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck arrived hand in hand at the 2003 Oscars and while the relationship might not have lasted, the fashion moment endured, with J-Lo racing to the top of the best dressed lists in this uncharacteristically demure Valentino gown. The stunning asymmetric dress was inspired by a design Mr Valentino had created for Jackie Onassis back in 1967. La Lopez was reportedly obsessed by the former First Lady, and her passion paid off in the style stakes, leading to one of the chicest looks in her style history. (2003)
Kate Hudson chose this stunning Versace gown for the 2003 Oscars. The intricate design took 500 hours to create, and was comprised of hand-made gold chiffon silk. She makes the cut for getting every element right, from the glowing make-up, to the vintage style gems and soft updo. Simply gorgeous. (2003)
One of the most beautiful redheads of all time, Julianne Moore dressed for the part of a silver screen siren at the 2003 Oscars. Her dress was by Tom Ford for YSL and the ivy green colour perfectly complemented her pale skin and fine features. (2003)
Styled by Phillip Bloch, Halle once again looked fabulous in her gold Elie Saab dress. Berry had asked Elie Saab to add more tulle to her $20,000 gown because, ‘she thought it was too transparent,’ let slip a Saab spokesperson. The glittering dress needed nothing else apart from a simple gold clutch. (2003)
Another Oscars, another Versace hit. This glimmering dress, worn by Naomi Watts to the 2004 Academy Awards, might consist of classic elements – glittering all-over embellishment, a chic column silhouette and floor-skimming hemline – but it was the timeless touches that created an utterly flawless red carpet moment. Gorgeous! (2004)
Charlize Theron proved that the simplest dresses can also be the most
stylish when she picked up her Best Actress Oscar in 2004. Her
glimmering Gucci gown took a classic floor-skimming silhouette, and
added impact with a plunging backless cut and draping train. The look
was topped off perfectly with slick 40s-style curls. (2004)
The ethereally beautiful Angelina Jolie wore a plunging white satin gown with matching wrap from Marc Bouwer at the 76th Academy Awards. She matched it with stunning jewellery. We’re just pleased that she moved on from her gothic Morticia Adams look back in 2000. (2004)
‘I knew I wanted to wear silver,’ said Julianne Moore, when asked about her dress. And if it was possible to catch a moonbeam and weave it into a dress, we think this gown is pretty much what it would look like. The simple sheath was by Atelier Versace and was accented by tiny crystals and pearls. (2004)
Cate Blanchett picked up her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Aviator in 2005, and won in the style stakes too, thanks to a vibrant Valentino Couture gown. The dress was designed specifically for the actress by Mr Valentino himself, who revealed at the time that he rarely offered custom-made gowns to actresses, but made an exception, admitting: ‘This time I decided to have one special dress, conceived for this one special actress.’ The buttercup yellow design proved a welcome shot of colour amongst a sea of black frocks. (2005)
Hilary Swank ensured that she was stunning from all angles when she arrived at the 2005 Academy Awards, wearing what has become one of the most iconic Oscar dresses of all time. The actress caused quite a stir as she twirled around on the red carpet in her seemingly conservative dress to reveal a daringly low back. The navy Guy Laroche gown was the perfect accompaniment to the coveted Best Actress statue she collected that night. (2005)
Nicole Richie was one of the surprise style icons of the Noughties. Initially shooting to fame as Paris Hiltons wild-child sidekick, fast forward 10 years and Miss Richie has undergone arguably one of the most dramatic transformation of the decade. Once a brash reality TV queen, the yummy mummy is now renowned for her hippie-luxe style, seen through her love of long, elegant maxidresses, tousled locks and clever use of layered accessories. Today shes even managed to garner huge respect for her own fashion and jewellery ranges, Winter Kate and House of Harlow 1960. Her appearance at the 2005 Vanity Fair Oscars after-party, looking nothing short of stunning, was a real turning point in this master of makeovers. (2005)
She won an Oscar the year before for her role in the film Monster, and in 2005 Charlize was to present the Best Actor award. To do so she wore this utterly beautiful duck-egg blue haute couture gown by John Galliano for Christian Dior. It was big, it was frothy and it had a four foot train. We loved it. (2005)
Black was where it was at for Drew Barrymore. She wore a fitted corset dress which flared at the knee. The Atelier Versace gown was strapless showing off Drew’s porcelain white neck and shoulders. The effect was simple and elegant. (2005)
Reese Witherspoon chose a vintage Chanel gown for the 2006 Golden Globes, only to discover that Kirsten Dunst had worn the very same dress to the very same awards just a couple of years before. She didn’t risk such style snaps for the Oscars that year, sourcing a 1955 vintage Christian Dior gown for her big Best Actress moment. The dress might have been restored to its former glory by a team of stylists but the actress was thrilled to rave, ‘It’s mine, which is nice!’ (2006)
Michelle Williams’ Vera Wang 2006 Oscars dress was a real love/hate case. Making almost an equal number of worst-dressed lists as it did best-dressed ones, many considered the canary yellow too garish for her pale skin tone. We thought she looked lovely, and the dress has rightfully gone down in Academy Award style history. (2006)
Not only did this breathtaking taffeta asymmetrical Vera Wang gown create an iconic fashion moment on the red carpet at the 2006 Oscars, the kind-hearted Keira Knightley later donated the sensational dress to Oxfam and raised £4,301 for charity. You don’t often see generosity like that! (2006)
Jessica Alba showed off her enviable figure in this glittering gold Versace dress at the 2006 Academy Awards. The flash of bare back and slinky halterneck shape made it a sophisticated, yet sexy choice. (2006)
Like some sort of sexy milkmaid, the sunkissed, hourglass-shaped, Diane Kruger really made an impact when she walked down the red carpet in this frothy, frilly lace creation by Elie Saab. (2006)
Salma Hayek looked absolutely flawless in this one-shoulder, aquamarine satin gown from Versace. Despite presumably being shouted at non-stop by the throng of photographers and TV crews, she seemed very relaxed with her long black hair worn loose, curly and flowing around her shoulders. The diamond drop earrings set off the look perfectly. (2006)
Just two years earlier, Uma Thurman had attended the Oscars ceremony wearing what was, essentially, a milkmaid’s outfit, albeit a designer one. It was a bad fashion faux pas. In 2006 however, she had upped her game and this gorgeous Versace dress was a total hit. It made her look sophisticated yet carefree and the loose updo and drop earrings added the perfect finishing touches. (2006)
Penelope may have missed out on the Best Actress accolade at the 2007 Oscars, but she won in the style stakes. Her blush feathered Versace gown ensured she made an entrance to remember, while its sheer extravagance makes it deservedly one of the most iconic dresses of the decade. (2007)
Nicole Kidman absolutely personifies elegance, and had millions of jaws hitting the floor when she swept down the red carpet at the 2007 Academy Awards. Ms Kidman was the ultimate scarlet woman in this breathtaking Balenciaga gown, which added a modern twist to the traditional column silhouette with a fabulous trailing bow, which tied at the back of the neck. Divine. (2007)
Maggie is one of our fashion icons. She rarely gets it wrong on the red carpet and this is no exception to that rule. In a midnight blue Proenza Schouler dress with a black feather train, she looked like a catwalk queen despite being a new mum. (2007)
In 2007, Cate Blanchett was up for the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Sheba in Notes on a Scandal. For the ceremony Cate wore a wonderful gun-metal grey gown by Armani Prive. The slinky number accentuated the actress’s curves and was embellished on the one shoulder with jewels and pearls. Cate wore a beautiful pair of vintage earrings that curved their way up her earlobe to finish off the outfit. (2007)
Fresh from fashion flick, The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt was a regular Jessica Rabbit in this gorgeous slinky number from Calvin Klein. The sapphire blue dress set off her porcelain skin and she chose to acessorise with a tiny clutch and simple diamond stud earrings. Anna Wintour would have been proud! (2007)
Simply beautiful. The year after winning a Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in The Constant Gardener, Rachel Weisz was back at the Oscars, this time to present an award. She dressed for the occasion in a champagne coloured Vera Wang dress with stunning diamanate detailing on the bust and a short train embellished with plaited satin and tulle. The new mum looked a world away from feeding babies and changing nappies with her loosely-waved updo and berry-stained lips. (2007)
When it comes to red carpet dressing, Marchesa has been one of the most talked about design houses of the past few years. Its ethereal gowns became a regular fixture at award ceremonies, premieres and parties, seen on the likes of Dita Von Teese, Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez. But in our opinion, it was Anne Hathaway who really stood out from the sea of Marchesa-clad celebrities in 2008, stealing the show at the Oscars in this stunning draped asymmetric gown. (2008)
Marion Cotillard topped the best dressed lists when she collected her 2008 Best Actress Oscar thanks to this stunning white and silver mermaid dress by John Paul Gaultier. We can’t think of anything more fitting for an Academy Award winner than this curve-skimming fishtail frock, which was covered in hundreds of shimmering scales. Nothing short of perfection. (2008)
This ivy-coloured gown by Proenza Schouler was the perfect choice for Julie & Julia star Amy Adams. The actress wowed onlookers with her sexy, yet somehow restrained, strapless gown. The corseted bodice fitted amazingly and the dress fishtailed out at the knee for a classic hourglass shape. Amy’s tiny woven gold bag just added a final touch of red carpet glamour to the look. (2008)
Although Penelope Cruz was not nominated at the 2008 ceremony, she did have the task of presenting the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ award to Stefan Ruzowitzky, director of the winning film The Counterfeiters. For the occasion Karl Lagerfeld designed a dress just for her. The black feathered couture number fitted like a dream and made the actress look a million dollars. She finished this super sophisticated look with a clutch by Roger Vivier, dazzling jewels by Chopard and satin shoes by Jimmy Choo. (2008)
Combining two of the night’s key trends – one shouldered dresses and the colour red- Katherine Heigl looked stunning in this Escada column gown. Her tight curls give the look a hint of old Hollywood glamour. (2008)
Jessica Alba added to the abundance of baby bumps on show at this year’s ceremony, and dressed hers in a flowing Marchesa gown and Cartier diamonds. (2008)
Academy Award presenter Jennifer Aniston shrugged off her usual play-it-safe mantra, and chose a beautiful gold embroidered strapless Valentino gown for her big night duties. Not only do we adore this sizzling design, but her chic yet casual hairstyle was also one of our favourite ‘dos of the night. (2009)
Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock didn’t just score a little gold statue, she triumphed on the red carpet, too. Oozing elegance, the star wowed in a floor-skimming metallic Marchesa gown, that was perfectly set off with a hot pink pout and slick, side-swept locks. All-in-all, Sandra won on every count! (2010)
Zoe Saldana, we salute you! Never one to play it safe on the red carpet, the Avatar leading lady took a fashion risk with a dramatic Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci ruffled purple gown that definitely paid off. (2010)
Anna Kendrick might have missed out on the Best Supporting Actress Oscar to Mo’nique in 2010, but she definitely won in the style stakes, thanks to her stunning blush pink Elie Saab Haute Couture gown and Sergio Rossi suede platforms. We LOVE! (2010)
She may have missed out on Best Supporting Actress for her role in Black Swan, but breakthrough beauty Mila Kunis got our fashion pulses racing in an oh-so-feminine lavender lace Elie Saab Haute Couture. Beautiful… (2011)
After a series of Oscars looks that left the public divided (her sugary pink Ralph Lauren number in 1999) and shielding their eyes (the misjudged sheer gothic Alexander McQueen gown in 2002), the 2012 Academy Awards was Gwyneth’s time to shine. It was certainly daring to wear a high fashion minimalist white Tom Ford gown and a matching cape to the Oscars, but it worked, big time, as this was the standout look on the famous red carpet. (2012)
Michelle Williams has long been a fashion favourite on the red carpet, but this award season’s wardrobe will surely cement her standing as a style icon. This red strapless dress with a sweet peplum by Louis Vuitton that she wore to the Oscars is up there with her best. A candy pink clutch by Bottega Venetta, a Fred Leighton necklace and her signature blonde pixie crop completed her look, and she’s never looked more confident. (2012)
Rooney Mara got so into character for her edgy role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that it moulded her personal style too in the early months of 2012. And thank god she did, because she was one of the most exciting red carpet dressers to emerge for years. While many expected her to wear her signature black to the Oscars, she surprised everyone and opted for angelic white instead in a stunning backless Givenchy Couture gown. Not only do we love the ethereal quality of the dress, but we adore the contrast to the gothic hair and bold make-up too. (2012)
The breakout style star of 2011 continued to pull off fashion hit after fashion hit during the 2012 awards season. This dramatic fuchsia Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown with its statement bow on the neck could have swamped many actresses, but Emma Stone wore it with confidence. The Help actress completed her look with towering Brian Atwood heels, and a clutch and jewellery by Louis Vuitton. (2012)
Jessica Chastain may not have bagged the 2012 Best Supporting Actress award for her role in The Help, but the flame-haired actress raced straight up our Best Dressed list, thanks to her black and golden Alexander McQueen gown, and pretty Harry Winston jewels. (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence’s Christian Dior gown certainly won’t be one she’ll forget in a hurry. The Oscar-winning actress tripped over the front of her full-skirted dress on collecting her award in front the live audience and everyone watching at home. We blame fashion, it looked great though.
With her beau Justin Theroux faithfully by her side, Jennifer Aniston wore romantic red for the Oscars 2013 in a Valentino gown. With a strapless shape and classic a-line shape, Jen kept it traditional, and did it well as only Jennifer can.
Cherlize Theron chose Oscars night to debut her new cropped hairstyle to great effect. She chose a peplum waisted Christian Dior gown in stunning bright white.
Amy Adams’ Oscar De La Renta dress was certainly a memorable one in 2013. The American Hustle actress wore a feathered skirt that followed her dutifully down the red carpet with grace.
Jennifer Lawrence is a big fan of Dior, so naturally her Oscar gown choice would be showstopping. Strapless, floor-grazing and oh-so-bright – this dress really shows every inch of Jennifer’s enviable bod, and is the perfect choice to compliment her chic updo.
Cate Blanchett won the award for most embellished gown on the Oscar red carpet, stepping out in this unbelievably beautiful Armani Prive creation. Top marks for that Hollywood-style, ultra-glam hairdo.
Lupita Nyong’o quite literally stole the show in this powder blue Prada gown. The colour, the plunging neckline, the beautiful floaty fabric – there really is nothing here we don’t love.
Keira Knightley wrapped her baby bump in style at the 2015 Academy Awards in a dreamy Valentino dress (2015).
The La La Land actress never gets it wrong on the red carpet. Case in point: this beaded Elie Saab gown in the palest shades of green that complements her porcelain skin like a dream (2015).
JLo slayed it in this Elie Saab ballgown (2015).
Julianne Moore kept it classic in Chanel to pick up her Best Actress Award for the incredible Alice (2015).
What. A. Dress. While the actress had gone for ballgowns for past Oscars ceremonies, she really nailed it in this Versace dress of dreams (2015).
We kind of fell in love with Lady Gaga’s bold jumpsuit by Brandon Maxwell. Who says you have to wear a dress to the Oscars, eh? (2016)
Wearing red on the red carpet shouldn’t work, but Charlize made sure she well and truly stood out in this oh-so-sexy Dior number (2016).
Proving maternity fashion can be impossibly chic, Emily Blunt dazzled in an embellished Prada gown at the 2016 Academy Awards (2016).
Cate is another celeb who always gets it right when it comes to awards season, and this Armani Prive gown with 3D floral detailing is the perfect ode to old Hollywood glamour (2016).
This silk August Getty dress might not have looked that exciting from the front, but from the back, it was a whole other story (2016).
Brie Larson’s electric blue Gucci gown may have divided fashion critics, but we were won over by those pretty ruffles. Brie went on to pick up the Best Actress statue for her role in Room (2016).
How I ended up jumping in the sea at 3am with Istanbul’s glitterati
I have been guilty of assaulting women and here’s #HowIWillChange
P!nk reveals Christina Aguilera once tried to punch her in a club
Ed Sheeran has opened up about his battle with substance abuse
How to up your charisma in five minutes
This Victoria’s Secret Angel was ‘aggressively pressured to do nude shots’
Sign up for our daily bulletin and get the latest fashion & beauty news, competitions and exclusive Marie Claire offers direct to your inbox