86th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

‘I’d Like to Thank God and My Stylist': 25 Winning Oscar Gowns

We take a walk back down the red carpet.

Frazer Harrison

The Oscars are often called “The Super Bowl of Fashion” — and for good reason. If you can win on this red carpet, you can win anywhere. With the 90th Academy Awards airing March 4 on ABC, we reflect on 25 years of style MVPs. (Pictured: Lupita Nyong'o at the 2014 ceremony.)

Janelle Monáe, 2017 Kevin MazurJanelle Monáe, 2017Sequins! Feathers! Beads! Tulle! It shouldn’t have all worked together and yet... it all worked together. The “Hidden Figures” actress and singer may not have been nominated for an Oscar, but she surely deserved an award for best dressed in this ornate Elie Saab gown.
Alicia Vikander, 2016 Jason Merritt/TERMAlicia Vikander, 2016Fashion critics breathlessly compared the “Danish Girl” actress (and Oscar winner) to a real-life Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” in this “dusty yellow” frock from Louis Vuitton. The custom gown lent Vikander a sunny, yet regal air, well-suited to her winning night. Jennifer Lopez, 2015 Jason Merritt/TERMJennifer Lopez, 2015Proving the diva is in the details, JLo owned the evening in this blush-colored Elie Saab punctuated by glittering embellishments and a sweeping train. Lupita Nyong’o, 2014 Kevin MazurLupita Nyong’o, 2014The first-time nominee was a breath of fresh air at the typically staid event, beaming and twirling in this gauzy custom-made Prada. “It's a blue that reminds me of Nairobi, so I wanted to have a little bit of home," the actress, who is of Kenyan heritage, told Ryan Seacrest. And perhaps it brought her a bit of luck too: That night she won best supporting actress for her performance in "12 Years a Slave."
Naomi Watts, 2013 Jason Merritt/TERMNaomi Watts, 2013The star of “The Impossible” looked ready to take up arms in a sparkling gun-metal column dress from Armani. While Watts may have lost the Oscar battle, she certainly won the red-carpet war. Angelina Jolie, 2012 Frazer HarrisonAngelina Jolie, 2012Jolie had a leg up (sorry) on the fashion competition in this side-split Atelier Versace dress that launched a thousand memes (and one very funny parody Twitter account, now defunct). Jennifer Lawrence, 2011 Kevork DjansezianJennifer Lawrence, 2011For her first Oscars, the “Winter’s Bone” star was every inch the blonde bombshell in a form-fitting red Calvin Klein dress that left little room for her beloved pizza and French fries. (The Hunger Games—they’re real!)
Queen Latifah, 2010 Frazer HarrisonQueen Latifah, 2010All hail the Queen! The actress-rapper-singer added “fashion plate” to her list of titles, ruling the red carpet in this shiny pink number. Sarah Jessica Parker, 2009 Steve GranitzSarah Jessica Parker, 2009We couldn’t help but wonder at SJP’s baby-blue chiffon frock from Christian Dior Haute Couture. It was enough to make any girl swoon. Marion Cotillard, 2008 Steve GranitzMarion Cotillard, 2008The French actress — who nabbed an award for her turn as singer Edith Piaf in the film “La Vie en Rose” — made a splash in this pearlescent Jean Paul Gaultier gown festooned with dozens of sparkling scales. Mermaids everywhere are still jealous.
Nicole Kidman, 2007 Frazer HarrisonNicole Kidman, 2007The first of two Kidman gowns featured here, this scarlet Balenciaga with oversized bow made the actress look like one pretty red-carpet present. Michelle Williams, 2006 Frazer HarrisonMichelle Williams, 2006Not everyone can pull off a yellow dress, but, then again, not everyone is Michelle Williams. The “Brokeback Mountain” actress absolutely shined in this V-neck sunflower dress by Vera Wang. Hilary Swank, 2005 Ron GalellaHilary Swank, 2005What else is an Oscar-winning actress with a boxer’s body to do but wear a back-bearing gown with lats and traps on full display? The “Million Dollar Baby” star flaunted her hard work in a plunging navy blue Guy Laroche dress that surely inspired more than a few new gym memberships.
Charlize Theron, 2004 SGranitzCharlize Theron, 2004They say dress for the job you want, but Theron took that adage to the next level by dressing for the award she wanted. And you could say it paid off. Clad in a gold Gucci, the “Monster” star took home Oscar — and plenty of best-dressed accolades. Kate Hudson, 2003 Kevin WinterKate Hudson, 2003Another gold gown worth its weight in, well, you know. This 14-karat frock from Atelier Versace — featuring hand-sewn embroidered lace — perfectly complemented the California girl’s flaxen locks and subtle tan. Halle Berry, 2002 Vince BucciHalle Berry, 2002A long-time devotee of Elie Saab, Berry (and the designer) has yet to top this burgundy mesh dress from the 2002 Academy Awards. It was a fittingly dramatic dress for a dramatic moment: Berry made history as the first (and still only) black woman to win for leading actress, in “Monster’s Ball.”
Julia Roberts, 2001 Getty ImagesJulia Roberts, 2001America’s Sweetheart went serious in the drama “Erin Brockovich,” portraying the wise-cracking, off-beat activist. Roberts’ Oscar gown that year — a vintage black-and-white Valentino — also reflected a certain maturity, with its understated yet elegant design. (And it could one day make a red-carpet reprisal: Roberts has said she’s keeping the dress in a box under her bed for daughter Violet.) Hilary Swank, 2000 KMazurHilary Swank, 2000Here’s where Swank’s red-carpet winning streak all began: with an olive-hued Randolph Duke ball gown the “Boys Don’t Cry” star wore to collect her trophy for best actress. Gwyneth Paltrow, 1999 Jeffrey MayerGwyneth Paltrow, 1999Arguably the most iconic Oscar gown of all time (“South Park” creator Matt Stone didn’t spoof it for nothing), this poofy pink Ralph Lauren confection earned the “Shakespeare in Love” ingenue immediate red-carpet cred. And it’s a look Paltrow herself has paid homage to multiple times since at the ceremony. (See: 2005 and 2015.)
Kate Winslet, 1998 Jim SmealKate Winslet, 1998Perhaps inspired by the old-world glamour of that long-sunken ship, the “Titanic” star opted for a rich emerald green and gold embroidered Givenchy gown designed by Alexander McQueen. Yep, our hearts still go on for this look. Nicole Kidman, 1997 Jim SmealNicole Kidman, 1997At nearly 6 feet tall, the Australian actress has never had a problem standing out in a crowd. But she took “striking” to a whole new level in 1997, walking the red carpet (with then-husband Tom Cruise) in this chartreuse number designed by John Galliano for Dior. The dress is widely credited with launching Galliano’s career, although not everyone was a fan: Joan Rivers reportedly made retching noises as Kidman passed her on the carpet. Susan Sarandon, 1996 Mirek TowskiSusan Sarandon, 1996Is it brown? Is it copper? Is it gold? Does it matter? Sarandon was all glam in this Dolce & Gabbana ball gown as she took home a best actress Oscar for her performance in “Dead Man Walking.”
Jennifer Tilly, 1995 Jeff KravitzJennifer Tilly, 1995You’d be forgiven for confusing the “Bullets Over Broadway” star with Jessica Rabbit’s long-lost cousin in this curve-hugging Isaac Mizrahi. (In a rare stylist snafu, model Vendela appeared at the event wearing the same dress but in pink.) Winona Ryder, 1994 Ron GalellaWinona Ryder, 1994Nominated for “The Age of Innocence,” Ryder channeled a 1920s screen siren in a cream-colored beaded dress finished with plenty of kicky fringe. Winona forever, indeed. Marisa Tomei, 1993 Ron GalellaMarisa Tomei, 1993The “My Cousin Vinny” actress looked ready for breakfast at Tiffany’s in this white organza Chanel number accessorized with black opera-length gloves. Marisa, go lightly...
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