Correct: with just days to go until Oscar night, we’re absolutely using it as an excuse to look back on the most iconic Oscars red carpet fashion of the last 40-something years. Of course, if we wanted to include all of them, this would be a 30-page PDF file with descriptions like, “Look! Look how cool she looks! Ugh, why can’t we all look that cool?” So we can’t.
Instead, we’ve chosen 10 of our favourite dresses – or more specifically, eight of our favourites, and two of the most controversial. (And also, technically, our favourites.) Join us on this journey – and make sure to point us in the direction of what you’ve defined as the most iconic, too.
Story continues below the slideshow:
1. Who: Anjelica Huston, 1975
Shout-out to Ms. Huston’s sheer, shimmery, lavender long-sleeved Oscar gown (say that three times fast), which serves to remind us exactly how in-style the actress has always been. While then-boyfriend Jack Nicholson’s hat arguably rivaled most attendees’ outfits, Huston’s mix of glamour and casual (that hair!) completely eclipsed her date.
2. Who: Farrah Fawcett, 1978
Is anything more appropriate than the simple gold gown Farrah Fawcett wore to present an Academy Award? No. Well, maybe: together with her lack of accessories and abundance of trademark hair, she evoked that California vibe that became synonymous with her image. Dare we say, she looked almost . . . angelic.
3. Who: Goldie Hawn, 1978
Breaking from her previous flower power-inspired Oscar looks (which were both wonderful and on-par with what daughter Kate Hudson would’ve worn in 2001’s "Almost Famous"), Ms. Hawn epitomized the last days of disco in her shiny silver wrap gown she complemented only with minimalist jewelry and loose blond curls. Suddenly, Amy Adams’ "American Hustle" wardrobe makes so much more sense.
4. Who: Donna Summer, 1979
Clear the way: the ‘70s disco queen completely upstaged her decade’s contemporaries thanks to her mix of sequins, metallics, long sleeves, and thigh-high slits. It takes confidence to take as many risks with a dress, but just as much to become renowned for looks that were bold, commanding, and unapologetic. (And can we please talk about why sleeves on red carpet-wear are totally reasonable, and that we should see more of them?)
5. Who: Meryl Streep, 1980
With her first Oscar in tow, Meryl Streep began her legacy of completely dominating the Oscars in every capacity. And somehow, through it all, she’s become immune to style criticism – and here’s why: because she is flawless. In a two-piece dress (which includes a jacket), she stuck to looks that worked for her, and for her exclusively. Would the rest of us rock a cream-coloured gown with more fabric than most clothing stores so well? Absolutley not. But this is Meryl Streep we’re talking about here, and none of us could secure 18 nominations over the span of our careers, either.
6. Who: Sally Field, 1980
We like her, we really like her! In a dress that could have easily functioned as a piece worn to a wedding, Field played down the night’s formality with a light tone and sheer floral blouse (that tied up at the bottom, thank you very much). Whenever you hear the phrase “less is more” this is specifically what everybody is referring to.
7. Who: Nicole Kidman, 1997
Looking back, we can probably consider 1997 to be Nicole Kidman’s coming out. Standing up to her then-husband (literally – the already tall actress wore heels next to the very short Tom Cruise), she opted for bright colours and a slim-fitting cut (Dior, of course), which was different than her previously very safe fashion mandate. Since, she’s topped best-dressed lists almost religiously, all thanks to her willingness to take risks. (And thank goodness.)
8. Who: Gwyneth Paltrow, 1999
In 1999, viewers wondered whether the pink Ralph Lauren gown was too big, whether the straps were supposed to fall down, and whether the skirt supposed to be that big. Turns out: who cares? Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow used the awards as a means to have fun with the red carpet as opposed to playing it safe to make the top 10 lists, and good thing too: thanks to her very princess-inspired (Grace, specifically, thanks to her hair) look, the actress cemented her ’90s style as one of the most memorable of the last couple decades.
9. Who: Angelina Jolie, 2000
If you’d told fashion critics Angelina Jolie would become one of the most important people to watch on the red carpet, they probably wouldn’t have believed you. But Jolie’s gothic-inspired Versace merely laid the foundation for an actress associated with dark tones (and who looks wonderful in them). And that legacy has helped make Jolie’s upcoming turn in "Maleficent" even more realistic. Furthermore, a simple black dress is what we’re taught to adhere to, anyway – Jolie simply helped show how it was done.
10. Who: Bjork, 2001
Bjork’s nearly 15-year-old swan dress made such an indelible mark on pop culture that it continues to be referenced today. In short: she wore a dress that a) looked like a swan, and b) made her look like a swan. Absolutely no other human on this planet could get away with it, and anybody who panned it then should feel foolish. At least once a year, somebody should wear a swan dress.