See the Oscars dresses worn by the Best Actress award winners since 1929
Always the pinnacle of awards season, the Oscars is the most hotly anticipated event in the showbiz calendar and never fails to pull in a glittering A-list crowd. In recent years the competition to be crowned ‘best dressed’ on the red carpet has become as highly contested as who takes home a trophy.
Pictures of the hollywood elite clutching their golden statues are splashed around the world’s media and cemented in history for ever more – making the dress decision-making process for lucky nominees of upmost importance.
Christian Dior is considered to be the fashion house with the lucky touch, having dressed more winners than any other designer since the awards began. But the most noticeable difference throughout the ages is the fluctuating hemlines. For the thirties, white floor-sweeping cuts, high necklines and long sleeves were all the rage but by the forties, fetching low cut V-necks were the height of fashion – with black being singled out as the most popular colour worn by winners.
By the time the fifties rolled around the trend had changed again, this time to green with tiny cinched-in waists and billowing full-blown skirts. But the late sixties and seventies (gripped by the rise of feminism) were the most iconic, with Hollywood elite Jane Fonda and Barbra Steisand stepping out in androgynous trouser-suits for the very first time.
Showing some skin was the theme for the nineties – cue slinky cuts and spaghetti straps a’ la Gwyneth Paltrow. But currently it’s the strapless cut which is reigning supreme on the red carpet, coupled with heavy embellishment and pale hues – that notably feature far more often than darker shades. Julianne Moore looked sublime in red last year as she was awarded the Best Actress title for her work in Still Alice.
Click through to see all the best Oscar-winning gowns worn by the Best Actress winners through the years…
In 2014 Cate Blanchett picked up an Oscar for Blue Jasmine in this nude Swarovski-crystal strewn Armani Prive gown, which has come to be the go-to style for the 21st century.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Christian Dior gown was so voluminous that she managed to trip over it as she collected her award! Luckily she laughed it off, and this look is one of the most talked-about in years.
Meryl Streep chose some clever draping in this gold Lanvin gown as she collected her award for her role in The Iron Lady.
A heavily pregnany Natalie Portman showed women everywhere how to do stylish maternity dressing with this simple off-shoulder Rodarte dress. She won the award for her role in Black Swan.
Her portrayal as an adoptive mum in The Blind Side may have won her the oscar, but Sandra also topped many best-dressed lists thanks to this stunning silver Marchesa gown.
Kate chose a classic Yves Saint Laurent design with stunning ombre and beaded material to collect her award for The Reader in 2009.
Marion’s sultry Jean Paul Gaultier gown was the opposite of the majority of flowing and frou-frou Oscars dresses, and just perfect for showing off her svelte figure.
Helen Mirren wowed critics with her performance as the Queen in 2007, but she stuck to what she knew best when choosing her outfit to collect her oscar – a fitted bodice with sleeves designed by Christian Lacroix.
One of Resse’s all-time most showstopping looks, this Christian Dior gown was the perfect choice as she collected her award for her role in Walk The Line.
This high-necked Guy Laroche dress featured an open back, which showed off Hilary’s svelte figure perfectly as she picked up her award for Million Dollar Baby.
Charlize knows what suits her blonde hair and pale complexion, and this Gucci beaded backlass gown made almost as much of an impact as her role in Monster.
Some clever shoulder detailing added a unique edge to this simple Jean Paul Gaultier gown.
This revealing Ellie Saab dress made headlines around the world the next day, but we thought the daring design showed off Halle’s gorgeous figure perfectly. She made history as the first black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for her role in Monster’s Ball.
Julia Roberts knows a monochrome colour palette looks great on her, so this Valentino gown was perfect for when she collected her award.
A bold choice for Hilary Swank’s first Best Actress Oscar, this Randolph Duke dress turned the actress from a relative unknown to the most talked-about in this business.
Sadly Gywneth’s stunning baby pink Ralph Lauren dress was overshadowed by her dramatic acceptance speech for her role in Shakespeare in Love, but we were still paying attention!
A simple blue column Tom Ford for Gucci dress was the perfect option for Helen when she won for As Good As It Gets back in 1998.
A simple royal blue Richard Tyler option for Frances McDormand gave us all a lesson in keeping it simple.
An unusual colour choice, but Susan’s Dolce & Gabbana gown actually looked perfect for the occasion.
The sheer patterned shoulders and sleeves of this Calvin Klein dress made Blue Sky star Jessica an instant fashion hit. The timeless style wouldn’t look out of place on this year’s red carpet.
Check out those arms! Holly made us all feel envious of her toned arms in this simple Vera Wang gown.
Emma tried something a little differet in Caroline Charles culottes – and it worked! It was refreshing to see a new style walk the red carpet – will we be getting something similar again this year?
Jodie gave us all a lesson in feminine androgyny with this sparkling Armani suit. Her role in Silence of the Lambs won her the award, but this look made just as much of an impact in the fashion world.
Kathy opted for a simple black velvet Donna Karan number when she picked up her award for Misery in 1991.
Driving Miss Daisy star Jessica showed that you can have fun with fashion at any age – and no matter what the occasion – in this Giorgio Armani floral jacket, worn with black trousers.
Jodie’s first Oscar win for The Accused meant a showstopper of a dress – and this blue satin one certainly did the trick! Who’d have guessed it was ‘off the rack’?!
Probably one of the most talked-about Oscars gowns of all time, this sheer Bob Mackie dress is still one of the most famous – and whether you like it or not, you have to admire Cher’s bravery!
Pretty in pink Theoni V. Aldredge was the order of the day for Children of a Lesser God actress Marlee, who was the first deaf performer to win an Oscar back in 1987.
Geraldine’s Gail Cooper-Hecht velvet dress with shawl looked great as she collected her award for The Trip To Bountiful.
Sally made her famous ‘you like me…you really like me’ speech at the 1985 Oscars in this simple black dress by an unknown designer, accessorised with a bow necklace.
Shirley certainly looked like partying after she collected her award for Terms of Endearment, and who could blame her, when her co-ordinating Fabrice dress and jacket were so dancefloor-ready?!
Meryl won her first Oscar for Sophie’s Choice back in 1983, and chose this loose-fitting embellished Christian Leigh gown for the occasion. A slightly unflattering fit, we definitely prefer the first one!
Sissy chose an ‘off the rack’ black jumpsuit with metallic stripes in 1981 – very 80s, and very fabulous!
Pretty as a picture in this simple Bob Mackie dress with sheer shrug, Sally’s first Oscar was awarded for her role in Norma Rae.
James Reva bell sleeves, all-over embellishment and a celeration in front of the cameras – Jane Fonda was certainly happy to have picked up her award in 1979!
Perhaps our least favourite Best Actress outfit, this dowdy Ruth Morley outfit swamped Diane’s frame. Still, it made a refreshing change to see a star trying something different on the red carpet.
This black robe-like Geoffrey Beene dress was a simple but effective choice back in 1977, when the actress won her award for Network.
Louise wore pale, flowy Alfred Fiandaca to collect her award for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976.
Liza chose a strikingly bright Halston dress and jacket in primrose yellow which she teamed with a colorful collar-shaped necklace.
Barbra picked her award for Funny Girl in 1969 in a high neck black dress with Peter Pan collar detailing designed by Arnold Scaasi.
Winning an Oscar for Darling in 1966, Julie made her own gold, high neck gown in a shimmering fabric. She accentuated her waistline with a simple belt.
Julie Andrews opted for a simple strappy dress in pale yellow by an unknown designer when she accepted her Oscar for her role as Mary Poppins. She accessorised very tastefully with an elegant statement necklace.
Winning an Oscar for her role in Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor opted for a striking Christian Dior number with a simple pale yellow top and a full-bodied skirt with fine floral detailing.
With a draped skirt and elegant neckline, Simon Signoret chose this elegant black dress to accept her Oscar for her role in Room At The Top.
Susan accepted her award in a black strappy dress with a full-bodied skirt. In keeping with the height of fashion in 1959, she wore white gloves with her ball gown.
Joanna?s deep emerald green dress was a gown she created herself. She won her Oscar for her role in The Three Faces of Eve.
In a mint green satin dress with strap detailing by Edith Head, Grace Kelly picked up her award for Country Girl.
Audrey Hepburn stepped out to accept her award in a white floral lace dress by Givenchy. The simple, tightly fitting bodice with a low back accentuated her tiny waist while the full-swing, calf length skirt heightened the air of elegance.
Olivia chose an Orry-Kelly dress with a flattering neckline and flower embellishment to collect her award for her role in The Heiress in 1950.
Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagon’s wife, won Best Actress for her role in Johnny Belinda in 1949. She received the award in this simple, high neck white gown. The flattering waist tie revealed her svelte figure.
A showstopper of a gown by Ann Lowe for Sonia Gowns was chosen for Oliva De Havilland back in 1947.
Ingrid chose a sensile knee-length dress by Howard Greer with low-heeled shoes to collect her award for her role in Gaslight.
A simple blouse worn under a dress by Anita Colby showed Jennifer’s creativity when she picked up her award for The Song of Bernadette.
A simple gown with neck detailing by an unknown designer was the choice for Greer Garson in 1943, who won for Mrs Miniver.
Black lace was the order for Joan Fontaine, who picked up the Oscar in this I. Magnin & Co. dress for her role in Suspicion.
Another Irene Gibbons option, this time for Ginger Rogers, who picked up the Oscar for her role in Kitty Foyle. A sheer top was a bold choice at the time, but resulted in one of the most iconic Oscars looks.
Gone With The Wind is a classic film, so Vivien’s simple floral Irene Gibbons dress was a perfect option to collect her award.
A second Oscar for Bette, but this time she chose an unknown designer to design her dress. The feather shoulder detailing led the way for other actresses to try a more daring look.
This white long-sleeved dress by an unknown designer stood out amongst a sea of suits when Luise collected her award for her role in The Great Zieglfeld.
Bette’s role in Dangerous won her the Oscar, but her Orry-Kelly patterned dress made her a fashion icon.
Claudette, pictured here with It Happened One Night co-star Shirley Temple, chose a prim Travis Banton suit and hat to collect her award.
Helen’s gloves have since seen many imitations, but it’s her floral embellished dress from an unknown designer that we really loved.
Min and Bill star Marie chose an elaborate black dress and fur shawl by an unknown designer to collect her Oscar in 1931.
Norma chose fur-trimmed sleeves by an unknown designer to pick up her award for her role in The Divorce.
Mary Pickford’s gown set the trend for years of showstopping Oscar dresses. Sadly the designer of the white embellished dress is unknown.
The first ever Best Actress Oscar winner, Janet Gaynor wore this simple ‘off the rack’ ensemble to collect her award for three roles in 7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.