What's the magic formula for picking the best red carpet-dress? To be perfectly frank, there isn't one. We all know a winning number when we see it, regardless of the cut, color, or number of decorations used on the red carpet. The design makes us gasp, fills us with immense excitement, and stays fresh in our minds for days, months, and even years.
Grace Kelly in Edith Head, 1955
Dressed in an icy blue gown by Edith Head, Grace Kelly received an Academy Award for her portrayal in The Country Girl. It was made from $4,000 worth of French satin and worn with a matching evening coat, scarlet lipstick, and a dazzling updo for the movie's premiere.
Sharon Stone in Gap and Vera Wang, 1998
While a button-down shirt from Gap isn't really a dress, it certainly made an impression when Stone wore it to the Oscars. While she did tone things down with a Vera Wang skirt, her outfit was the show's most relaxed moment style-wise and demonstrated the value of a crisp white button-down.
Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Lauren, 1999
In a pink Ralph Lauren gown and a diamond choker by Harry Winston—both gifts from her late father, Bruce Paltrow—she won the award for Best Actress for her performance in Shakespeare in Love.
Julia Roberts in Valentino, 2001
When it comes to black dresses, the one worn by Julia Roberts to the 2000 Academy Awards stands head and shoulders above the others. "This dress made me worried," Valentino said to InStyle. "It's impossible to guess what somebody will be wearing until they take the stage.
Halle Berry in Elie Saab, 2002
The bare dress may have been inspired by this. Halle Berry was the only person who could have started this craze, and nobody else comes close and her fabulous pixie haircut. There are no "best of" red carpet lists without the mesh embroidered dress.
Michelle Williams in Vera Wang, 2006
For the 2006 Academy Awards, Michelle Williams donned a canary yellow Vera Wang gown that has since become a fashion legend. She teamed the exquisite saffron gown with an equally striking scarlet lip that complemented the red carpet.
Angelina Jolie in Atelier Versace, 2012
Yes. In this case, the outfit. Angelina made headlines when she exposed her right leg through the slit in her Atelier Versace velvet gown.
Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Haute Couture, 2013
J. Law may reign as the queen of laid-back chic, but she dressed to impress when she won Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook in 2013. The actress accessorized her Dior Haute Couture dress with a Chopard 74-carat necklace of 150 diamond beads, worn in reverse.
Lupita Nyong'o in Prada, 2014
After all, Lupita's baby-blue Prada gown at the 12 Years a Slave awards ceremony is impossible to forget. The Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress showed us all how to have a princess moment on the red carpet by twirling and posing in a colorful, flowy outfit.
Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen, 2019
The Lady Gaga who showed up at the 2019 Oscars in a strapless, structured Alexander McQueen gown and a 128-carat diamond necklace formerly worn by Audrey Hepburn was not the same Gaga who wore flesh dresses and bedazzled bodysuits.
Sandra Oh in Elie Saab, 2020
The Oscars offered us a wonderful dose of dazzling, glittery gowns, and Sandra Oh's was a popular favorite, before the pandemic and about a month before we went inside for over a year.