The Academy Awards are around the corner, and while we wait to see who swoops the best actor and actress gongs, all eyes will be on the red carpet to see the best Oscar dresses…
Most expensive Oscar dresses
Go big or go home as they say, and when we say big, we mean several million dollars big, which is the estimated cost of the Dior gown Jennifer Lawrence wore to pick up her Best Actress gong in 2013. The dress was rumoured to be worth $4m, and that’s likely to be the cost of the dress itself (depending on the level of embroidery and detail, they can come with a six figure price tag), as well as the contract J-Law signed with Dior.
Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman was paid $2m to wear a Dior dress back in 1997. Also up there were Lupita Nyong’o’s $150k pearl-encrusted Calvin Klein dress which was famously stolen from her hotel room in 2015, and Cate Blanchett’s 2007 Swarovski crystal Armani Privé gown, which was worth $200k – see our full round-up of the most expensive Oscar dresses of all time here.
Oscars dress code
Technically, the dress code for the Oscars is ‘black tie’ formal which would involve a black tux for men and ballgowns for women, though it has become less strict over the years, with men opting for colours like blue and pink (we’re looking at you Jared Leto and Timothee Chalamet), and women going for shorter lengths, and sometimes even suits.
Best Oscar dresses ever
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).
Nicole Kidman has turned heads in iconic dresses at a number of Oscar ceremonies, from shimmering gold gowns to red bow-embellished dresses. 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 best Oscar dresses of all time.
Fast-forward to 2013 and 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.
Then there was of course the pandemic, forcing the event to get cancelled altogether, or reduced to a few well clad guests. 2022 year marks the first proper return to the red carpet though, and we expect celebrities to truly embrace bold and colourful designs, to celebrate the joy of dressing up again.
How to watch the Oscars
The Oscars 2022 will air in the UK in the early hours of Monday 28th March, at 1am.
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.
Credit: Rex Features
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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).
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).
Margot Robbie in Chanel
Jennifer Lawrence in Dior
Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein, wearing Christian Louboutin shoes.
Viola Davis in Michael Kors
Nicole Kidman in Armani Privé, wearing Christian Louboutin shoes and Harry Winston Diamonds.
Wearing custom Alexander McQueen.
In Louis Vuitton
In Armani Privé