The Best Oscars Looks of All Time

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The Best Oscars Looks of All Time featured image
Bob Riha Jr / Steve Granitz / Getty Images

If there’s one award show to rule them all, it’s without a doubt the Academy Awards. The Oscars represent the pinnacle in film, celebrating the best work from across the industry, but if we’re being honest, it’s the fashion we’re really looking forward to. The red carpet for the Oscars is fashion at its peak, with stars dripping in designer gowns and expensive jewelry. And among the suits and dresses, every year there are stand-out looks that have everyone talking. We combed through the archives to bring you the best looks from Oscar history, from the finest in construction to the moments that made history.

For a night all about that little golden statue, we’re busy thinking about satin, organza and metallic bodices made of silver thread. Each custom gown or vintage pull that gets worn on the red carpet represents dozens of man hours from the designer and celebrity style team, and the result can be a fairytale aesthetic worthy of a princess or the classic Hollywood starlet or the enticing seductress. From Grace Kelly to Viola Davis, the stars of Hollywood give us their best at the Academy Awards, and we’re walking through the decades to give you the fashion-defining looks that still have us in a chokehold. If you’re still thinking about Salma Hayek in 1997, so are we. These are the gowns we just can’t forget about, the looks that had us inspired and the designs that lit up the Oscar Awards.

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Grace Kelly in Edith Head, 1955

A Hollywood icon, Grace Kelly’s appearance at the 1955 Oscars saw her in a gorgeous light green satin as she accepted the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl. The gown, by celebrity fashion designer Edith Head, was made from french silk and featured an elegant train.

Grace Kelly Oscars 1955
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
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Barbra Streisand in Arnold Scaasi, 1969

This iconic look by Arnold Scaasi brought the pantsuit to the red carpet. “I did love the shiny black see-through effect, and as bell-bottoms were all the rage,” he writes. “I wondered why Barbra couldn’t wear some kind of pants to the awards. It was a thought that kept germinating in my head.”

ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
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Diahann Carroll, 1969

Presenting at the Oscars the same year, Diahann Carroll stunned in this fairy-princess-worthy crystal-lined gown. The mesh overlay brings the sparkle to what is otherwise a simple light pink gown.

ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
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Jane Fonda in Yves Saint Laurent, 1972

This somber, two-piece suit from Yves Saint Laurent Couture worn by Jane Fonda while accepting the Academy Award for her role in Klute is the epitome of cool. Fonda didn’t want to be a fashion icon at the time, but this sharp wool pantsuit was too cool to ignore.

Jane Fonda oscars 1972
Getty Images
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Cher in Bob Mackie, 1986

If you know anything about Cher, you know this outfit. Designed as a statement against those who said she was too much, this Bob Mackie piece was all about bare skin and drama. The iconic headpiece will always live rent-free in my mind.

cher oscars 1986
Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Salma Hayek in Armani, 1997

Always gorgeous, always stylish, Salma Hayek’s 1997 look is a part of Oscars history. Considered one of the most gorgeous looks of all time, this tiara-included body-hugging sequined gown stands out as the epitome of formal fun.

Salma Hayek oscars 1997
Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Céline Dion in Christian Dior, 1999

There was a time when the red carpet’s worst dressed list was fun. This was that time. Thought to be one of the most out-there looks in Oscar’s history, Cèline Dion killed us dead with this backwards suit and top hat number. Just look at her back!

Celine Dion oscars 1999
SGranitz / WireImage / Getty Images
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Björk in Marjan Pejoski, 2001

The gold-standard for accidentally iconic, this goose dress has gone from maligned to one of the most recognizable moments on any red carpet, ever. It even has a Hannah Montana tribute episode!

Bjork oscars
Mirek Towski / FilmMagic / Getty Images
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Halle Berry in Elie Saab, 2002

We know you’ve seen this Halle Berry look before—its iconic nude illusion top and gorgeous rouge skirt was (and still is) a fashion-breaking moment. At the forefront of the naked dress and serving body for days, this Elie Saab original is one of the most iconic looks the Academy Awards has ever seen.

Halle Berry oscars 2002
Steve Granitz Archive 1 / WireImage / Getty Images
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Angelina Jolie in Marc Bouwer, 2004

Channeling Old Hollywood like no one else, Angelina Jolie’s 2004 look was statuesque. The cream satin gown featured a plunging neckline that drew Marylin Monroe comparisons for a reason.

Angelina Jolie oscars 2004
Gregg DeGuire / WireImage / Getty Images
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Charlize Theron in Gucci, 2004

Modernizing Old Hollywood the same year was Charlize Theron’s iconic light-catching gown by Gucci. Setting her hair with gorgeous pin-waves and smoldering with a smokey eye, Theron’s look took our breath away.

Charlize Theron oscars 2004
Bob Riha Jr / WireImage / Getty Images
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Jessica Alba in Versace, 2006

This gold gown just glows on the red carpet, and Jessica Alba and her gorgeous bouffant left us speechless. As a presenter, Alba stunned on stage while delivering the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing to King Kong.

Jessica Alba oscars 2006
J. Vespa / WireImage / Getty Images
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Kate Winslet in Valentino, 2007

The nearly icy green tone of this gown calls back to Grace Kelly, but with a fresh update. Looking like a vision in Spring, Winslet kept her hair pinned back and her makeup minimal, adding to the statuesque effect of her look.

kate winslet oscars 2007
Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images
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Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford, 2012

She’s wearing a cape—do I need to say anything else?

This Gwyneth Paltrow look served royalty and elegance, and I’m still thinking about it over ten years later.

Gwyneth Paltrow oscars 2012
Donato Sardella / WireImage / Getty Images
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Natalie Portman in vintage Christian Dior, 2012

Bringing vintage ladybug vibes to the red carpet, this Christian Dior piece retails at $50,000, just in case you’re interested.

George Pimentel / WireImage / Getty Images
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Angelina Jolie in Versace, 2012

Presenting the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Angelina Jolie wowed in this asymmetrical black gown. The thigh-high slit and structural top combined with Jolie’s loose waves and red lip created a powerful femme-fatale look that I would gladly die for.

Angelina Jolie oscars 2012
Donato Sardella / WireImage / Getty Images
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Amy Adams in Oscar de la Renta, 2013

Packed with fluffy layers of delicate blue ruffles, this Oscar de la Renta piece made Amy Adams looks like a bonafide princess. The strapless ballgown played with volume and texture to create a romantic silhouette.

amy adams oscars 2013
Jason Merritt / Getty Images
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Jennifer Lawrence in Christian Dior Couture, 2013

Though she ended up falling on her way to the stage, she looked amazing doing it. Jennifer Lawrence’s look saw her pinned back and elegant to accept her Oscar for The Silver Linings Playbook.

Jennifer Lawrence oscars 2013
Jason Merritt / Getty Images
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Kate Hudson in Versace, 2014

It’s the shoulder’s, okay? This powerful look from Versace combines a plunging neckline, strong shoulders and a backless drape to create classic glamour with an edge.

Kate Hudson oscars 2014
Jeff Vespa / WireImage / Getty Images
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Zendaya in Vivienne Westwood, 2015

Looking like a goddess at her first Academy Awards, Zendaya made fashion history with this gorgeously styled gown and natural locs.

zendaya oscars 2015
Steve Granitz / WireImage / Getty Images
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Lupita Nyong’o in Calvin Klein Collection, 2015

Draped and drowning in pearls, this Calvin Klein original looks incredible on Nyong’o. The delicate beadwork and open keyhole top create drama while the color and cut create a simple silhouette.

Lupita Nyong'o oscars 2015
Gregg DeGuire / WireImage / Getty Images
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Emma Stone in Givenchy, 2017

Nominated for La La Land, Emma Stone channeled the jazzy heart of the movie with this beaded golden dress from Givenchy’s couture collection—one of Riccardo Tisci’s final designs before departing from his creative director role.

Emma Stone oscars 2017
Ian West / PA Images via Getty Images
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Viola Davis in Armani Privé, 2017

Winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, Viola Davis and her sharp pixie cut absolutely stunned. The off-shoulder draped sleeves, halter neck and firey red color left us in awe.

viola davis oscars 2017
Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic / Getty Images
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Elsie Fisher in Thom Browne, 2019

At the Oscars for her incredible performance in Eighth Grade, then 15-year-old Elsie Fisher made headlines for her stylish, androgynous look. The three-piece suit by Thom Browne left her looking way classier than I ever did at 15.

Elsie Fisher oscars 2019
Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images
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Billy Porter in Christian Siriano, 2019

This look is all about drama and bringing the fun and playful camp back to men’s fashion. Billy Porter made headlines for this standout look that marries the gown and the tuxedo for a true play with androgyny.

billy porter oscars 2019
Steve Granitz / WireImage / Getty Images
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Regina King in Versace, 2020

This soft pink Versace gown has a masterfully constructed asymmetric bodice and embroidered clear and silver Swarovski crystals to create a shimmering, fluid effect.

regina king oscars 2020
Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images
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Scarlett Johansson in Oscar De La Renta, 2020

It was the a nude netted corset of this gorgeous metallic gown that drew attention, with it’s dripping fringe and light-catching sparkle. Johansson’s elegant styling made this sensual look a can’t-miss on this list.

scarlett johansson oscars 2020
Getty Images
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Natalie Portman in Dior, 2020

Looking sleek and powerful in black and gold Dior, Natalie Portman’s 2020 look included a Dior cape embroidered with the names of all the female directors who were not nominated that year. Combined with the sharp bob, and this look will haunt my gayest dreams.

Natalie Portman oscars 2020
Steve Granitz / WireImage / Getty Images
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Zendaya in Valentino, 2022

Looking effortless and expensive in a crisp cropped button down and glittering skirt, Zendaya’s outfit nods towards another history-making Oscars look from Sharon Stone back in 1998.

zendaya oscars 2022
ANGELA WEISS / AFP via Getty Images
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Angela Bassett in Moschino, 2023

Looking like royalty in this deep purple, structural gown from Moschino, Angela Bassett channeled the character she was nominated for: Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The mermaid fit and gorgeous loose waves in her hair combine for a picturesque Oscars moment.

Angela Bassett oscars 2023
Arturo Holmes / Getty Images

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