Oscar night brings the stars out in high-wattage glamour and for many of us, the fashion is the sole reason to watch.
Met Gala Ball aside, you cannot beat Oscar night for pure, unexpurgated glamour.
While we all remember the classic Oscar looks, there are definitely some more recent gowns that can be classed as iconic.
Each of the eight below either epitomise a great red-carpet designer’s style or subtly bend Oscar fashion to catwalk trends.
Mila Kunis in Elie Saab Couture, 2011
Lebanese designer Elie Saab’s couture made its Oscars debut in 2002, when Halle Berry wore his sheer-bodied burgundy gown to take Best Actress for her performance in Monster’s Ball.
He’s been a red-carpet stalwart ever since.
Each piece bears some intricate detailing that makes it unique, be it strategically-placed floral appliqués (Halle’s gown) or the sequinned, scalloped tiers (as seen on Miley Cyrus at the 2009 ceremony).
The designer outdid himself with this lingerie-inspired dress.
Balanced by a grosgrain-ribbon waist and lavender silk panels, the basque bodice and lace inserts look far more romantic than risqué.
Amy Adams in Oscar de la Renta, 2013
The late Oscar de la Renta designed a host of stunning dresses for the red carpet over the years and this dreamy powder-blue number surely ranks among his finest.
The sweetheart bodice was striped with tiny beads and each of the skirt’s tiers was finished with hand-pulled “eyelashes”.
US Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley gave the gown his “Best Dressed top honours” after the ceremony.
Penelope Cruz in Atelier Versace, 2007
Versace has been an awards’ season favourite since the 1991 Oscars, when Cindy Crawford turned heads in a plunging scarlet number that was clearly a precursor to the safety-pin gown Elizabeth Hurley wore in 1994.
Donatella’s ladies are typically Hollywood sirens like Halle, Angelina, Charlize and Penelope, but the Versac-ification of the red carpet is growing.
During the 2015 season the brand dressed more actresses than any other label. Beyond providing the perfect colour to flatter each star’s complexion, the Atelier Versace team clearly understands that a less than flawless fit destroys couture.
There are several stunning designs that made headlines in recent years (Angelina’s leg-flashing black velvet, Kate Hudson’s ivory power-shoulders...), but this strapless blush-pink gown really sent the competition flying at the 79th Academy Awards.
The strapless bodice fits Penelope perfectly and the be-feathered train creates a frothy, romantic silhouette.
Charlize Theron in Gucci, 2004
Charlize Theron could pull off the golden goddess look in a dress fashioned by Ferrero Roche, but this slinky halter-gown made her fug-tastic Monster mug even tougher to fathom.
Created by Tom Ford for Gucci and hand-stitched with gold paillettes for extra shimmer, it is both understated and the most Oscar-appropriate gown ever.
This fashion moment happened five years before her first Dior J’adore campaign but makes her easy to envision alongside Marilyn or any other iconic Hollywood blonde.
With Grace Kelly waves, white diamond jewellery, and a deep Californian tan, Charlize looked a prize all by herself.
Zoe Saldana in Givenchy Haute Couture, 2010
Hollywood power-stylist Petra Flannery cited Zoe Saldana in this Givenchy Haute Couture as the best red-carpet moment of her career back in 2011. The strapless lavender ombré gown is from Riccardo Tisci’s spring collection for the French fashion house.
Such an avant-garde choice is rare at the Oscars but the ‘Natalia’ (named for the model who wore it on the catwalk), with its pom-pom skirt and sequin-strewn bodice, was irresistible to even the most cynical fashion critics.
The Avatar star accessorised with purple platform sandals by the same brand and Lorraine Schwartz diamonds.
Marion Cotillard in Jean Paul Gaultier, 2008
Marion Cotillard made a splash in Jean Paul Gaultier’s relatively literal interpretation of a mermaid dress while picking up her Best Actress Award for La Vie En Rose.
The iconoclastic designer, better known for conical bras than red-carpet fare, took Cotillard’s request for a simple gown and rethought a look from his Spring/Summer 2008 couture show, a fisherman’s dream that closed with model Coco Rocha dressed as a mermaid bride on coral crutches.
The fabric for this dress took five weeks to print with scales and hand-embellish.
At first glance she looks to be wearing a textured halter-gown, so Gaultier did not venture too far into costume territory, but in this age of hyper-styled celebrities any whimsical detail seems risqué.
This gown is also unique for its part in a special moment for foreign — and particularly French — film at the Academy Awards.
How many countries see one of their top actresses dressed in their most famous living designer score a statue for a biopic on their premier chanteuse?
Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen by Sarah Burton, 2012
Alexander McQueen is another red-carpet rarity at the Oscars, which only serves to make this jaw-dropping dress more memorable.
Jessica Chastain’s black silk- organza dress was intricately embroidered with gold bullion and metal thread.
McQueen creative director Sarah Burton gave the bodice a sweetheart neckline, in-built corset, and flared peplum waist, all of which created a super-flattering fit.
The Help star accessorised with $2m worth of yellow diamonds from Harry Winston.
Dakota Johnson in Saint Laurent, 2015
Dakota Johnson, awards season’s bright new style-star, shone in Saint Laurent by Hedi Slime last year. Both the colour and the one-shoulder goddess gown are classic Oscars choices, but the gathered bodice and diamond-knot shoulder detail make it interesting.
This scarlet column topped US Vogue’s “Best Dressed Celebrities” list and super-stylist Kate Young declared it her favourite look of the season.
Johnson will certainly be one to watch at tomorrow night’s ceremony.
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