Oscars fashion: A look at the biggest style hits in Academy Awards history

Awards show fashion has more of an effect on our memories, our culture and even our economy than many people realize. For some Oscars viewers, the red carpet is the only part of the show worth watching.

As the 88th Academy Awards approach, we bring you photos of the memorable looks from red carpets past

Apologies to the gentlemen of Hollywood who, while always dapper, somehow fail to make as much of a statement with their suits as actresses do with their daring designer gowns. (Left: Dave Caulkin/AP, Middle: Christopher Polk/Getty, Right: Lucy Nicholson/AFP/Getty)

Unless you're a major movie buff, chances are you can't name which film won best picture at the Oscars in 2001 without Googling it.

You can probably remember who wore a swan around her neck to walk down the red carpet that year, though.

Awards show fashion has more of an effect on our memories, our culture and even our economy than many people realize. For some Oscars viewers, the red carpet is more important than the ceremony itself.

The 88th Annual Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday, no doubt ushering in a new, rainbow-coloured crop of gorgeous gowns for us to admire.

In preparation for this year's Oscars fashion spread, we took some time to reflect on the past.

Below are 10 of the most iconic looks from the Academy Awards in recent history based on critical acclaim, media attention and how long audiences continued to buzz after the show was done.

Apologies to the gentlemen of Hollywood who, while always dapper, somehow fail to make as much of a statement with their suits as actresses do with their annual parade of daring designer dresses.

(It was Gladiator that took home best picture in 2001, by the way.)

10. Angelina Jolie in Versace, 2012

It was the dress that launched a thousand tweets — as well as hundreds of news articles, dozens of Photoshop funnies and at least one parody Twitter account dedicated to Angelina Jolie's right leg. When the actress and her husband, actor Brad Pitt, arrived to the 84th Academy Awards in 2012, heads turned — but they always do. What nobody could have predicted was that Jolie's strapless black Versace gown would become a genuine internet sensation thanks to one high-cut slit.

Actress Angelina Jolie has long been known to impress fashion critics with her bold red carpet choices, but 2012 marked the first time her Oscars outfit made serious waves online. Within 24 hours of the ceremony, Twitter and Tumblr were flooded with photos of people showing off their own peekaboo legs on the hashtags #angellegging and #Joliening. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

9. Zoe Saldana in Givenchy Couture, 2010

Avatar star Zoe Saldana polarized the style set in 2010 with this straight-off-the-runway purple ombré gown by Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy Couture. Some felt that it was a bit over the top, what with the sparkles, the colour gradation and the layers upon layers of ruffles. Others put Saldana at the very top of that year's best-dressed list, praising her for picking such a pretty and expressive gown. Regardless of the reaction, it stood out by leaps and bounds. It's been six years and we're still talking about it, right?

This Givenchy Couture gown was described as everything from 'modern princess' to 'cabbage-like' after it was worn by Zoe Saldana to the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 2010. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

8. Nicole Kidman in Dior Couture, 1997

Australian actress Nicole Kidman took a bold risk with the colour of her bespoke Christian Dior Couture gown at the 69th Academy Awards. Fortunately, it paid off — and not just for her. "I was the new boy at the big House of Dior, and there were people who didn't think I would cut it," said designer John Galliano after Kidman's dress was deemed a fashion hit. "Nicole looked like a goddess and showed the world she believed in me … [she] trusted us and let us suggest a new direction and the striking chartreuse colour, which was controversial at that point because everyone was using primaries or pastels."

Nicole Kidman turned heads when she arrived to the 69th Academy Awards ceremony with her husband at the time, Tom Cruise, in this memorable chartreuse dress by Dior. (Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)

7. Michelle Williams in Vera Wang, 2006 

Arriving on the arm of her then partner actor Heath Ledger, who died in 2008, actress Michelle Williams didn't win the best supporting actress award she'd been nominated for at the Oscars in 2006. Her vintage-inspired Vera Wang gown, on the other hand, brought home the honour of being that evening's most widely hailed style choice.

Actress Michelle Williams dazzled in a vibrant Vera Wang gown at the 78th Annual Academy Awards, where she was a best supporting actress nominee for her role in Brokeback Mountain. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

8. Bjork in Marjan Pejoski, 2001

Another name that continues to dominate conversations about Oscar fashion is that of Icelandic artist Bjork, who famously hit the red carpet ahead of 2001's Academy Awards ceremony in what appeared to be a swan costume. Created by Macedonian fashion designer Marjan Pejoski, her "swan dress" is currently on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Actress and singer Bjork wrote the music for 'I've Seen It All,' which was nominated for Best Song at the 73rd Annual Academy Awards. The Icelandic artist told reporters that her swan dress was meant to symbolize fertility. She left a trail of eggs as she walked down the red carpet. (Lucy Nicholson/AFP/Getty Images)

5.  Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Haut Couture, 2013 

How does a Hollywood it-girl maintain the relatable image her fans love her for while wearing Dior Haute Couture? Trip on the train of that billowing, expensive gown as you accept your Academy Award for best actress. Jennifer Lawrence was the picture of elegance when she arrived at the Oscars in 2013, and thanks to a show-stopping fall while climbing on stage, she was the talk of the night as well. 

Jennifer Lawrence tried on this elaborate Dior Couture gown for the first time just hours before she wore to the Academy Awards in 2013. 'I just woke up and tried on the dress, and it fit, thank God!' she told reporters after winning best actress for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

4. Julia Roberts in Valentino, 2001

Speaking of American sweethearts, Julia Roberts still holds strong as an all-time Oscars fashion icon — particularly when people think of the vintage Valentino column gown she wore to accept her Academy Award for Erin Brockovich in 2001. This simple black and white dress has been credited for helping to popularize vintage clothing in the 2000s, and its Italian designer has said that seeing Roberts wear it to the Oscars was the high point of his 45-year career.

Julia Roberts wore a dramatic velvet-and-satin vintage Valentino gown to accept her Oscar for Erin Brockovich in 2001. The dress was originally created as part of the Italian designer's 1982 collection dedicated to movie stars, according to InStyle, and had to be taken in slightly by a tailor for Roberts at the last minute. (Getty Images)

​3. Lupita Nyong'o in Prada, 2014

Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o epitomized Tinseltown glamour at the Oscars in 2014 with a look that was classic, yet stunning in its execution. The Yale grad, who won best supporting actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave, indulged photographers by swishing and swaying around in her floaty chiffon skirt all night — and the world was grateful to watch that ethereal Prada gown in action.floaty chiffon skirt all night — and the world was grateful to watch that ethereal Prada gown in action.

Actress Lupita Nyong'o stole the style show in 2014 at her very first Oscars ceremony with one of the dreamiest dresses ever to hit Hollywood. 'It's a blue that reminds me of Nairobi,' she told Ryan Seacrest of her Prada gown's unique colour on the red carpet that night. 'So I wanted to have a little bit of home.' (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

2. Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Lauren, 1999

Pretty in pink was the name of the game for Shakespeare in Love star Gwyneth Paltrow at the 71st Academy Awards in 1999. From her red carpet entrance to the tearful acceptance speech she gave after receiving the Oscar for best actress, Paltrow, then 26, commanded every eye in the house with her Ralph Lauren gown and princess-perfect styling.

Gwyenth Paltrow gave off a Grace Kelly vibe with her look at the 71st Academy Awards. Classy and simple, the actress won praise from even the harshest fashion critics for her chic hair, diamond choker and the matching pink shawl she paired with this Ralph Lauren gown. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Halle Berry in Elie Saab, 2002

In 2002, Halle Berry became the first black woman to win an Oscar for best actress thanks to her work in Monster's Ball. The achievement, as well as the actress's performance itself, were celebrated widely that year, but the sheer-bodice Elie Saab dress Berry wore that evening tops new lists of history's most iconic red carpet ​looks to this day.

Actress Halle Berry attended the 74th Academy Awards in an Elie Saab gown that struck the perfect balance between risqué and demure. On-trend in a heavy satin jewel tone skirt, Berry's sheer, embroidered bodice elevated this look from 'perfect for the era' to 'absolutely timeless.' (Fred Prouser/Reuters)


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