Ever since the inimitable Audrey Hepburn posed with her best actress Oscar (for 1953’s “Roman Holiday”) in an Edith Head dress tweaked to look like it was designed by Hubert de Givenchy (referred to as “Givenchy-fied”), designer frocks and the Academy Awards have belonged together.
Hepburn, said to be “under the sway” of Givenchy (then the protege of legendary designer Cristobal Balenciaga), wore a nearly identical dress in the movie but had spaghetti straps added to the white-on-white floral dress and the back lowered. The dress sold at auction for $130,000 in 2011.
Givenchy went on to dress Hepburn for all her red carpet appearances and eventually even designed her film wardrobe.
Here are our picks for the most memorable Oscar looks for the past decade:
Jennifer Lopez, 2012: For better or worse this look personifies La Lopez. Delicate as it is, this white Zuhair Murad sheer spider web of a dress incorporates everything the diva requires in a dress, deep V front and back, curve hugging and sparkly, to maintain her status as the woman who brought old Hollywood glamour back.
Halle Berry, 2002: Elie Saab’s wine-colored gown featured a sheer bodice with strategically placed embroidered flowers and a satin train; Berry won best actress that year for “Monster’s Ball” and raves for the gown, which showed her flawless figure and face to maximum advantage.
Angelina Jolie, 2004: Marc Bouwer white silk halter. Too white and a bit boring, but this dress is important for one reason; it marks the first time designers wooed Jolie to wear their design on the Red Carpet.
Cate Blanchette, 2005: Valentino buttercup yellow asymmetric dress with a burgundy belt. She was nominated and won for “The Aviator.” Her dress was seminal in that it was the first time legendary designer Valentino Garavani designed a dress for a specific actress.
Hilary Swank, 2005: Swank won the best actress Oscar that night for “Million Dollar Baby” and the best dress award as well. The navy Guy Laroche dress is iconic for three things: It was long sleeved when most actresses wore sleeveless and strapless; it was navy silk jersey in a sea of black and sparkly bold color and it had no back.
Michelle Williams, 2006: Nominated for her role in “Brokeback Mountain” with her fiance, the late Heath Ledger, Williams’ yellow Vera Wang was her break-out red carpet moment. Youthful and light as a feather, yet beautifully structured at the bodice with a flanged train, most people say it was the bold, sunny color contrasted with her bright red lips and adorable side chignon that made this one work. But look at the whole thing; the fit of the dress, the lovely framing of the collar around the deep V neckline, the ruby lips, delicate tendrils of hair and that AMAZING color. Take away one of those things and it’s just another pretty dress on a pretty actress.
Nicole Kidman, 2007: Kidman made a splash in a red Balenciaga gown with the giant bow at the neck. Lots of people didn’t love the dress, but it was a standout red carpet moment for the color, fit and the way she was styled around that bow: simple hair and glowing makeup.
Penelope Cruz, 2007: Nominated as best actress for “Volver,” the lovely Cruz wore a blush Versace confection with a satin bustier bodice and full feathered skirt. The gown was equal parts sexy and innocent and has been imitated over and over again.
Marion Cotillard, 2008: The actress won that year for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” It was the world’s first real look at Cotillard’s red carpet style and she treated us to the ultimate “mermaid” gown by wearing a white and silver Jean Paul Gaultier halter gown covered in glittering scales.
Tilda Swinton, 2008: This dress is not well-loved but the look is iconic and all Tilda. The black washed silk Lanvin is a Frankenstein of a frock: all baggy and long-sleeved on one side and straight up and down sleeveless on the other side. But she wore it proudly with her red pompadour as she collected her best supporting actress Oscar for “Michael Clayton.”
Zoe Saldana, 2010: Saldana wore Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci. Another Franken-frock, it is loved and hated still, and therein lies its fascination. An amalgam of styles: classic glam-strapless-silhouette on top and a froth of purple ombre ruffles on the bottom. The dress barely misses tacky but was aided by Saldana’s flawlessly elegant and simple styling.
Gwyneth Paltrow, 2012: A transformational red carpet moment for its simplicity and drama. The modern white on white Tom Ford ensemble was accented by two glittering, intricate, giant diamond and platinum cuffs and cocktail ring and simple hair. Perfection.
Marion Cotillard, 2008: A white and silver Jean Paul Gaultier halter gown covered in glittering scales.×
Jennifer Lopez, 2012: A white Zuhair Murad sheer dress.×
Zoe Saldana, 2010: Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci.×
Cate Blanchette, 2005: Valentino buttercup yellow asymmetric dress with a burgundy belt.×
Michelle Williams, 2006: A yellow Vera Wang.×
Tilda Swinton, 2008: A black washed silk Lanvin.×
Penelope Cruz, 2007: A blush Versace confection with a satin bustier bodice and full feathered skirt.×
Angelina Jolie, 2004: A Marc Bouwer white silk halter.×
Nicole Kidman, 2007: A red Balenciaga gown with the giant bow at the neck.×
Hilary Swank, 2005: A navy Guy Laroche dress with long sleeves in silk jersey×
Halle Berry, 2002: Elie Saab’s wine colored gown featured a sheer bodice with strategically placed embroidered flowers and a satin train.×