Decoded: What Makes A Winning Oscar Dress?

Ever wondered what makes an Oscar winner’s gown so, well, Oscar worthy?

Ever wondered what makes an Oscar winner’s gown so, well, Oscar worthy? Whether there’s a winning formula that only certain stylish actresses know about? Whether there’s a lucky colour or silhouette to be wearing, or if one designer name manages to dress more winners than anyone else?

As the 2016 Oscar nominations are announced, with Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan and Jennifer Lawrence front runners for the coveted Best Actress prize, we’re getting ready to place our bets on who will wear what this awards season.

And now we can make some slightly more educated guesses than before. You see a rather gorgeous infographic, created by the Big Group, allows you to browse sketches of every dress worn by an Academy Award winning Best Actress, sorting styles by date, designer, or colour.

With an overview from 1929 to now, it paints a pretty nice picture of what’s worked, style-wise, for the winners and also is a lovely way to track changes in the fashion silhouette throughout the decades.


So what should this year’s winner go for? Well for the last six years (including last year’s winner Julianne Moore, who’s not yet in the graphic) it’s been all about the hemline. From Sandra Bullock’s 2010 Marchesa confection, to Jennifer Lawrence’s now-iconic 2013 Dior, a light swoosh of volume at the hem has proven to be the mark of a sartorial winner.


Natalie Portman, who won wearing Rodarte in 2011 and Helen Mirren, who wore Lanvin in 2012, both added some goddess draping into their fashion equations, so that, too, could be in the recipe for success.

Throwing it back to some of Hollywood’s original leading ladies, and a sensible skirt suit, often with a contrasting sailor collar, was the look du jour. We love Bette Davis’ Orry-Kelly dress from 1936, and Janet Gaynor’s off-the-rack ensemble from 1929 would have been sooo ahead of its time.

Experimentation was, clearly, everything in the Eighties and from Cher’s winged naked dress, to Jodie Foster’s flared-back, off-the-rack statement, more was definitely more on the red carpet.

As for the designers to watch, Dior is a clear winner having dressed three best actresses over the years, while Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy have each dressed two.

A lot of stars (and their stylists) lose sleep over what to wear on the big night – with all the attention on you, it must be kinda like shopping for a wedding dress, non? So, to the next nominees, study our analysis and study it hard. That dress could be a career-maker, don’t cha know? 

See our edit of the best Oscar dresses ever.

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