The most breathtaking Oscars gowns
Gwyneth Paltrow, 2012
"The Oscars is the biggest nail-biter. I've learned to wear what works for my body while always taking a bit of a risk," Gwyneth Paltrow told InStyle of her sleek all-white ensemble. "This Tom Ford gown was stunning and modern and recalled a kind of '60s glamour." The designer approved. "I love that Gwyneth was brave enough to [wear it]," he said. "And that she stood so perfectly in that outfit." She accessorized the gown and cape with Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie diamonds, Jimmy Choo shoes and a sleek low ponytail.
Renee Zellweger, 2001
This canary vintage Jean Desses gown made Renee Zellweger one to watch on the red carpet. "Her publicist, manager, assistant—everyone was in on" choosing the '50s-era gown from Lily et Cie, proprietor Rita Watnick told People. "At the end of the day, Renee was absolutely committed to that yellow dress." The star herself was jubilant about the choice: "It's old and it fit and I love it."
Reese Witherspoon, 2002
Reese Witherspoon stole the spotlight at her Academy Awards debut, thanks to a Valentino makeover. "It was her first time presenting and Reese wasn't as established back then. People thought of her as cute, but not glamorous," the designer told InStyle. "We thought she could be the new Grace Kelly and made a gown that was romantic and fresh—as if she were starring in a brand-new movie."
Nicole Kidman, 1997
Nicole Kidman made history with her daring chinoiserie gown from Christian Dior. "I was the new boy at the big House of Dior, and there were people who didn't think I would cut it," John Galliano told InStyle. "Nicole looked like a goddess and showed the world she believed in me. I had seen all of her work and wanted everyone to see her as a star in her own right, as well as being Mrs. Tom Cruise at the time. I've always been seduced by Hollywood, and it was a complete honor to dress her. Nicole trusted us and let us suggest a new direction and the striking chartreuse color, which was controversial at that point because everyone was using primaries or pastels. Dior turned the dress around quickly, as it had only been a month since the germ of the idea had appeared on the catwalk. She looked incredible—and even all this time later, she remains timelessly elegant and yet still directional."
Mila Kunis, 2011
Mila Kunis looked radiant in a lavender haute couture design from Elie Saab. "She wanted to be very feminine and timeless, her stylist Petra Flannery told Entertainment Weekly. The only drawback to the chiffon-and-lace layered number? A lack of insulation. "I'm cold, I have to admit!" Kunis joked on the red carpet.
Keira Knightley, 2006
"Keira wanted something dramatic and sexy," Vera Wang told InStyle of the burgundy mermaid dress she made for Knightley's Oscar appearance."The color is absolutely gorgeous on her."
Jennifer Garner, 2004
When an artist falls in love with his subject, the resulting creation is often magical, like the gown Valentino created for Jennifer Garner to wear in 2004. "Jennifer is so comfortable in her own skin, she can wear a gown this complex," the designer told InStyle of his dazzling creation. "Fifteen yards of taffeta—I lost count of the amount of silk chiffon! The skirt alone has two layers and that train goes on forever, darling. It took four couturiers more than 300 hours to create it. Jennifer handled herself on the red carpet as if she were greeting people in the back garden of her home. She has an easy grace that makes her so beautiful."
Hilary Swank, 2005
Her role in Million Dollar Baby gave Hilary Swank the perfect body for a dare-to-bare gown. "I've got the boxer's back," she said of her decision to pick up her second Oscar in the low-dipping Guy Laroche gown. "I looked at a few dresses, but I fell in love with this one."
Freida Pinto, 2009
Indian actress Freida Pinto gave a nod to her homeland with a sari-inspired design from John Galliano. Complementing the cobalt design (and the theme!) was a 150-year-old diamond from her native country.
Charlize Theron, 2000
Charlize Theron's Vera Wang dress was cut to showcase her perfect shape. "I think a plunging back is always sexier than a plunging décolletage," says Wang. "It's more unexpected and more erotic. This gown captures that siren-like glamour of the past. I designed it with no side seams, which makes a dress sleek—especially if you have the right body, which Charlize does. The reason the color popped so brilliantly is that the actual shade is achieved by overlaying six different hues that range from pink to pale green to form this brilliant opaque orange."