The Best Oscars Dresses Of All Time, From Audrey Hepburn to Halle Berry

A feast for the eyes.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Michelle Williams and Julia Roberts

by Charlotte Pavitt |

There is no starrier night than the Oscars. And in preparation for this Sunday, what better excuse for a look back at the most memorable dresses of all time?

'Wow' Oscar dresses don't come cheap. One of our favourites was Cate Blanchett at 2007's Academy Awards, who wore a gown from Armani Privé (which, whisper it, cost upwards of $250,000). You can see our comprehensive list of the most expensive dresses worn here.

Ahead of the 94th Academy Awards, we've had a look back at the best dresses from years past. So without further ado, here are some of the most memorable sartorial moments in the history of the Oscars, from Audrey Hepburn's classic outing in Givenchy Couture back in 1954 to Margot Robbie in Chanel - and, yes, even Bjork's swan.

Gallery

SEE: Best Oscar Dresses Ever

Lauren Hutton, 2006
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CREDIT: Getty

You don't have to wear a dress to get on the best dressed list. For 2006's red carpet, Lauren Hutton appeared wearing a shrunken tuxedo jacket and cigarette pants that blew all the frothy frocks out of the water.

Jennifer Lopez in Valentino, 2003
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Bennifer is back on the table - and this one-shouldered vintage gown from Valentino, which she wore with frosted green eyeshadow, is still one of our all-time favourites from Jennifer Lopez.

Cher in Bob Mackie, 1986
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According to Cher, her boyfriend at the time almost passed out when she walked out of her bedroom wearing this showgirl outfit by Bob Mackie. She also said, in a video interview with Vogue, that she wanted to wear it because the powers that be, the Academy, didn't like her. 'They hated the way I dressed, and I had young boyfriends, and they just thought I wasn't serious so I came out and said as you can see I got my handbook on how to dress like a serious actress.'

Cynthia Erivo in Pablo Sebastian, 2017
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Cynthia Erivo's proved herself to be our favourite red carpet risk-taker in recent years, and this oh-so-elegant little black dress with a difference was the best look at 2017's ceremony.

Barbra Streisand in Arnold Scaasi, 1969
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Apparently Barbra Streisand didn't realise that her winning look, a spangled suit by Arnold Scaasi, was almost entirely see-through. And while it might not have won best dressed plaudits on the night, it has undoubtedly made it into the most memorable outfits hall of fame.

Viola Davis in Michael Kors, 2018
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Viola Davis was a bolt from the blue in the hottest of hot pinks at 2018's Oscars.

Lisa Bonet in Fendi, 2019
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Lisa Bonet always serves up red carpet gold, and managed to maintain her laid-back cool even while wearing this sequin-encrusted gown from Fendi.

Octavia Spencer in Christian Siriano, 2019
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Octavia Spencer had a swoon-worthy moment at 2019's Oscars, wearing off-the-shoulder and full-skirted Christian Siriano.

Constance Wu in Versace, 2019
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Constance Wu, high off the fashion endorphins from Crazy Rich Asians, came out swinging in sunshine yellow Versace.

Margot Robbie in Chanel, 2018
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My personal favourite (and not just because its an oh-so bridal look from Chanel) - Margot Robbie at the 2018 Academy Awards.

Brie Larson in Celine, 2019
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Only Captain Marvel could wear skin tight chainmail (by Celine, no less) and look this sensational.

Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein, 2018
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Saoirse Ronan in this satin pink Calvin Klein, complete with bow back, was the epitome of pared-back elegance. Teaching us a lesson in less is more, she teamed her statement dress with a blunt bob and minimal make-up. We, ahem, bow down to you, Miss Ronan.

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy, 1954
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This belted dress with a subtly floral print and classically full skirt didn't just prove lucky for Hepburn, who went on to receive the Best Actress statuette for her turn in Roman Holiday. The ceremony also marked the first time she wore a Hubert de Givenchy design to a Hollywood event. The designer had dressed her for Sabrina the previous year, marking the start of a sartorial partnership that would see Hepburn write Givenchy into her future film contracts. 'His are the only clothes in which I am myself,' she remarked in 1956.

Billy Porter in Christian Siriano, 2019
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Wearing a fabulous take on the traditional tuxedo, Billy Porter wowed in Christian Siriano at the 2019 Academy Awards.

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior, 2013
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'I think I just stepped on the fabric and they waved the stairs or something. What went through my mind? A bad word that I can't say.' J. Law's 2013 Oscars dress is worthy of your attention, and not just because it precipitated that memorable swoon up the stairs. A dramatic pale pink confection by Raf Simons that closed Dior's Haute Couture show in 2013, it proved that Lawrence can pull off Old Hollywood style like no one else (despite her persona being as far from the staid stars of the studio era as possibleu2026)

Michelle Williams in Vera Wang, 2006
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An old style adage decrees that blondes shouldn't wear yellow. Michelle Williams put paid to that particular rule with her sunshine yellow gown from Vera Wang, arguably one of the most instantly memorable Oscars dresses of recent years. From the bold colour to the ruffled shoulder detailing, the draped skirt to Williams's swept up hair and bright red lips, this is modern Hollywood glamour at its best.

Mila Kunis in Elie Saab, 2011
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Black Swan star Mila Kunis is yet another star who has chosen Lebanese couturier Elie Saab to dress them for the biggest night in the Hollywood calendar. For the 2011 Academy Awards, she chose this romantic lilac gown with a draped, almost Grecian-style plunging neckline and a loose skirt fashioned from strips of lace.

Lupita Nyongu2019o in Prada, 2014
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It's hard to believe that the 2014 ceremony marked Lupita Nyong'o's first-ever Oscars, so assuredly has she cemented her reputation as both a fashion-forward red carpet presence and a major acting talent in the ensuing years. Winning the Best Supporting Actress award for 12 Years A Slave, Nyong'o wore a custom-made Prada design in a pale blue shade that reminded her of her home city, Nairobi.

Cate Blanchett in Armani Privu00e9, 2014
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Many of Cate Blanchett's most memorable red carpet fashion moments have come courtesy of Mr Armani, and this is arguably one of – if not the - best. For the 2014 ceremony, which saw Blanchett take home the Best Actress statuette for Blue Jasmine, her ensemble was worth an estimated $18.1 million: $100,000 for this stunning embellished gown in pale blush, then a further $18 million for her Chopard earrings, bracelet and ring.

Amy Adams in Oscar de la Renta, 2013
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Amy Adams worked in close collaboration with the late design legend Oscar de la Renta for her 2013 Academy Awards gown. The actress, who was nominated for her role in The Master, presented de la Renta with a selection of old black-and-white photos, before one in particular (a picture of a model walking into a doorway, her stylist Cristina Ehrlich told People) captured both their imaginations. The result was this ice blue beaded confection with a tiered tulle skirt.

Angelina Jolie in Marc Bouwer, 2004
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The thigh-high split of her black Atelier Versace gown may have launched a thousand memes when Angie attended the Oscars ceremony in 2012, but it's her 2004 dress that is arguably her best: a white satin gown by South African designer Marc Bouwer that immediately recalls the infamous halter-neck style worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, bringing Old Hollywood glamour into the twenty-first century.

Marion Cotillard in Jean Paul Gaultier, 2008
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Marion Cotillard took to her first Oscars red carpet like a fish to water (and yes, we are playing on the fact that her idiosyncratically beautiful Jean Paul Gaultier gown was covered in hundreds of mermaid-esque scales). She went on to pick up the Best Actress statuette for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose: not bad for a first-timeru2026

Beyoncu00e9 in Atelier Versace, 2005
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For her Academy Awards debut in 2005 (promoting Dreamgirls) Beyoncé chose a vintage strapless gown in black velvet by Atelier Versace. She paired the simple dress with some serious hardware: chandelier earrings and a diamond bracelet by A-list jeweller Lorraine Schwartz (who also designed Bey's 18-carat diamond engagement ring).

Freida Pinto in John Galliano, 2009
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Freida Pinto's sapphire-blue dress, worn for her post-Slumdog Millionaire appearance at the 2009 ceremony, made its debut on the John Galliano catwalk just a few weeks prior to her red carpet moment. The actor wore the originally risqué (i.e. entirely transparent) style layered over a blue under-dress, a switch-up which allowed the intricate embellishment to do the talking.

Emma Stone in Elie Saab, 2015
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Emma Stone made it clear that she isn't afraid to take risks on the red carpet when she chose this beaded Elie Saab gown in a statement-making shade of chartreuse (that's fashion speak for 'yellow-green') that works unexpectedly well with her red hair.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Lauren, 1999
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Gwyneth's pale pink Ralph Lauren gown, with its spaghetti straps and full, Disney princess skirt, is arguably as famous as the tearful acceptance speech she made after winning Best Actress for Shakespeare In Love. The actress later revealed that she's kept all of her Oscar gowns for her daughter Apple, and hopes she'll wear the pink gown to her prom. 'Maybe she'll wear it to prom and do a Pretty in Pink thing and resew it and cut it up,' she mused to People, before backtracking with 'I don't know if I'd let her chop that one up.'

Penelope Cruz in Versace, 2007
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She may have lost out to Queen Helen Mirren in the race to the Best Actress trophy at the 79th Academy Awards, but Penelope Cruz was a winner on the red carpet in this sweeping blush-coloured number. While pale pink princess gowns are a mainstay of classic Oscars style (see Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence et al), the feathered skirt and sculptural bodice make this Atelier Versace number a showstopper in its own right.

Hilary Swank in Guy Laroche, 2005
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To collect her Best Actress Oscar for Million Dollar Baby in 2005, Hilary Swank opted for this deceptively simple gown by French designer Guy Laroche. With its long sleeves and high neckline, the navy-blue gown (fashioned from 27 yards of silk jersey) appeared sedate, even demure, from the front; the cut-away back and exquisite draping, however, made this dress unforgettable. Another lesson in 'less is more' style.

Elizabeth Taylor in Helen Rose, 1957
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Elizabeth Taylor certainly knew how to make a statement, as exemplified by her casually pairing this simple draped gown (by MGM costumier Helen Rose, who designed Taylor's outfits for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as well as Grace Kelly's now-iconic wedding dress) with a fur stole, elbow-length gloves and a Cartier tiara, a gift from third husband Mike Todd. If ever an image could encapsulate Hollywood glamour, this might just be it.

Jennifer Lopez in Elie Saab, 2015
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Jennifer Lopez appeared to have danced straight out of a Disney fairy tale in this embellished princess dress by red carpet failsafe Elie Saab. A departure from her typical fashion formula, the couture gown's embellished overlay was decked out in pearls and sequins, while the extensive tulle train was a certified show-stopper.

Cindy Crawford in Versace, 1991
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Attending the Academy Awards in 1991 as one half of the ultimate Nineties power couple (with then-boyfriend Richard Gere), Cindy Crawford managed to steal the show in this simple yet iconic scarlet dress courtesy of Versace, the designer of choice for the supermodels. The plunging V-neck style wouldn't look out of place on the red carpet today.

Zendaya in Valentino Haute Couture, 2021
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Kapow! After a year of digital ceremonies, Zendaya wowed and then some on the red carpet at last year's Oscars, arriving in sunshine-shaded Valentino Haute Couture.

Bjork in Marjan Pejoski, 2001
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The picture that sparked a thousand articles, debates and memes (a Debenhams poll published in The Daily Telegraph in 2008 voted it the ninth-most iconic red-carpet dress of all time). Perhaps not the most 'fashion' in the traditional sense, but certainly the most memorable.

Gemma Chan in Valentino Haute Couture, 2019
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Styled by the queen of red carpet dressing, Rebecca Corbin-Murray, Chan wore this billowing Valentino Haute Couture gown in 2019 and, to be honest, we're still dreaming about it now.

Grace Kelly in Edith Head, 1955
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It's hard to imagine any of this year's Oscar contenders re-wearing a gown for their big night, however beloved. Grace Kelly, however, wore this pale blue-green gown, designed by costumier extraordinaire Edith Head, for the New York premiere of The Country Girl the previous year, choosing to recycle it when that film earned her an Academy Award nomination (and eventually, a win). She would go on to wear it a third time on the cover of Life magazine a few weeks later. Sixty years later, it remains one of her most iconic looks.

Reese Witherspoon in Dior, 2006
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This vintage Dior gown dates from the '50s; appropriately, that's the decade Reese returned to for her Oscar-winning turn as June Carter-Cash in Walk The Line. Rumour has it that the actor had to fight for this piece of fashion history, which was reportedly originally designed for royalty, after finding it in a Paris boutique. Just like Elle Woods, her perseverance paid off: the intricate beading, muted colours and classic V-shaped neckline couldn't look better.

Halle Berry in Elie Saab, 2003
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Elie Saab gowns have become a mainstay of red carpet style, with Halle Berry among the label's legion of famous fans. The actor memorably wore a Saab creation with a sheer bodice when she made history as the first Black woman to win the Best Actress award in 2002 - and chose a simpler style by the same designer for the next year's ceremony, wowing in layers of embellished gold tulle.

Julia Roberts in Valentino, 2001
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The 2001 Academy Awards was one of the biggest nights in Julia Roberts' career: she was nominated for – and went on to win - Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich. To find the perfect dress, she looked back through Valentino's archives, eventually choosing to keep things simple in this classic black and white style from 1984. Appropriately enough, the designer said he had been inspired by the allure of movie stars when working on the collection nearly twenty years before Roberts's Oscar moment.

Ruth Negga in Valentino, 2017
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Ruth Negga's bold red Valentino gown is at once subtle and statement-making, and confirmed her status as an exciting new red carpet star. It's all in the details: the high neckline, the lace panel detail on the dramatic full skirt, the slightly capped sleeves and the almost empire-line waist, not forgetting the unmissable sky blue of her ACLU pin.

READ MORE: What 12 Stars Wore To Their First Oscars

READ MORE: What Makes A Winning Oscar Dress? See What Every Winning Actress Wore

READ MORE: Cynthia Erivo's Best Red Carpet Looks

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