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USA Today - Our Favorite Oscar Fashions

3:25 PM, Feb 22, 2012   |    comments
  • Elizabeth Taylor, best actress, 1961: 'BUtterfield 8' By Darlene Hammond, Hulton Archive/Getty Images She may have nabbed her first Oscar by playing a call girl, but a Dior-clad Taylor looked like a tanned princess when she received it. The color-blocked ballgown featured a yellow sleeveless bodice, flower-festooned white skirt, green sash and, bedecking the waist, a poufy red rose. Ratcheting up the regal spectacle: white opera gloves.
  • Julie Christie, best actress, 1966: 'Darling' The edict to nominees from academy fashion consultant Head was to don clothes that would pop from TV screens during the Oscars’ first color telecast, Cosgrave writes. The Darling Brit took Head’s dress code decree to a daring extreme, whipping up a sleeveless, mock-turtlenecked, gold lamé pantsuit — three years before Barbra Streisand walked to the podium in sheer Scaasi slacks. Many stars since have channeled Oscar and his shiny hue,
  • Grace Kelly, best actress, 1955: 'The Country Girl' No best Oscar-dress list would be complete without a design from Edith Head, the celebrated costumer who won eight Academy Awards, more than any other woman. And one of Head’s most important clients on-screen and off? Kelly. The mother-of-pearl-beaded icy blue satin gown — whose French fabric alone cost $4,000, Cosgrave writes — stands as perhaps the pinnacle of their sartorial partnership. Two weeks after her win, Kelly, wearin
  • Vivien Leigh, best actress, 1940: 'Gone With the Wind' Bettmann/CORBIS Of course, Leigh wore scarlet to accept her award for playing one of Hollywood’s most famous damsels. But her dress designer, costumer Irene Lentz (aka Irene Gibbons), injected sweetness with a print of poppies (the flower made famous, incidentally, by 1939’s other big movie, The Wizard of Oz). With Leigh’s waves loose and her shoulders bare — and her cleavage punctuated by a giant aquamarine pendant — it was a ravishing look
  • Audrey Hepburn, best actress, 1954: 'Roman Holiday' AP The belted white organdy cocktail dress marked Hepburn’s public debut with Givenchy, the couturier with whom she paired for so many movies and Oscar shows thereafter. The boat neck was a favorite of Hepburn’s, Givenchy told Vanity Fair in 1995: It camouflaged her sharp collarbone and accentuated her strong but slim shoulders.
  • Liza Minnelli, best actress, 1973: 'Cabaret' AP/Corbis Few designer-muse duos are as knitted together as Halston and Minnelli. Minnelli shucked her characteer Sally Bowles’ overtly sexy stockings-and-garters style and embraced the clean lines of the ’70s in a cashmere column and cardigan from Halston, the decade’s maestro of minimalism. The vivid canary color was the favorite of her famous father (and Oscar seatmate), director Vincente Minnelli. A multicolored choker was her main adornment.
  • Olivia de Havilland, best actress, 1947: 'To Each His Own' The ruffled sweetheart neckline, the cascading floral applique — de Havilland’s pale blue gown was the elegant work of Ann Lowe, a pioneering African-American designer. Six years later, Jacqueline Bouvier would wear a cap-sleeved Lowe creation for her wedding to John F. Kennedy.
  • Luise Rainer, best actress, 1937: 'The Great Ziegfeld' By Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images The Oscars are studded with garment gimmicks: costume designer Lizzie Gardiner’s 1995 dress of American Express gold cards, Bjork’s 2001 feathered swan frock. But Rainer’s choice of garb to receive her first Academy Award — her nightgown — only sounds gimmicky. In fact, “it was the nicest dress I owned,” the German-born Rainer, who at 102 is the oldest living Oscar winner, says in Bronwyn Cosgrave
  • Bette Davis, best actress, 1939: 'Jezebel' Bettmann/CORBIS Three years after winning her first Academy Award in a dowdy, navy-and-white floral outfit culled from her Housewife wardrobe, Davis glammed things up several notches with a dark, full-skirted, nipped-waist gown crowned by a dramatic white gossamer collar.
  • Halle Berry, best actress, 2002: 'Monster’s Ball' By Laura Rauch, AP 3/24/2002 It sounds like a Cher showgirl cheesefest: a sheer net bodice onto which flowers and vines have been strategically embroidered. Even the bellybutton shows through. But on Berry, Elie Saab’s sleeveless gown looked timeless, not tacky. A sweeping satin crimson skirt balanced out the flesh fest without swallowing her famously shapely figure.
  • Faye Dunaway, best actress, 1977: 'Network' Epitomizing the fashion-forward times, Dunaway eschewed the voluminous gowns of ceremonies past and opted for something “simple”: a black silk pants-and-top combo from Geoffrey Beene cinched with a black-and-white rope belt — “karate-style couture,” as Dunaway wrote in her 1995 autobiography, Looking for Gatsby. Her hair? Likewise long and loose.
  • Julia Roberts, best actress, 2001: 'Erin Brockovich' By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY 3/25/2001 Roberts’ black velvet and white-satin-piped showstopper is always described as “vintage,” which it is — except that Valentino premiered the dress nine years before Roberts catapulted it into the realm of Oscar classics. Which makes Valentino’s achievement — a modern interpretation of a golden-age movie siren — all the more remarkable. Roberts’ piled-high ponytail added to the decade-defying look.
  • Anjelica Huston, best supporting actress, 1986: 'Prizzi’s Honor' A.M.P.A.S. Huston summoned the luck of her childhood home, Ireland, in choosing her asymmetrical emerald gown. Designed by Hollywood costumer Tzetzi Ganev, it was sewn from four-ply, $100-a-yard silk, Cosgrave reports. Ganev added something unusual for Oscar garb then: a fanned fishtail hem (nominees typically fear negotiating those steps to the podium). But Huston’s background as a model kept the train tamed. In a decade of misbeg
  • Jessica Lange, best supporting actress, 1983: 'Tootsie' By Ron Galella, WireImage 4/11/1983 Lange’s covered-up cocktail dress became a bridge between Oscar’s casual ’70s vibe and the over-the-top togs that were to come. In glittering, minty Valentino (and cropped ’80s curls), the actress glowed.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow, best actress, 1999: 'Shakespeare in Love' L-R images by Vince Bucci, AFP/Getty Images; Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY On most other ingénues, bubblegum pink would have looked more prom queen than premiere star. But Paltrow’s Ralph Lauren confection came across as chic, not saccharine. Kicking up the sophistication quotient were the actress’ sleek chignon and borrowed Harry Winston 40-carat diamond choker — which, after the ceremony, her Oscar date dad, producer/director Bruce Paltr
  • Susan Sarandon, best actress, 1996: 'Dead Man Walking' By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY 3/25/1996 Stefano Gabbana, one-half of the pair behind Dolce & Gabbana, was inspired by Sarandon’s copper coif when concocting the bronze satin ballgown that’s now part of the permanent collection of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The groundbreaking Oscar moment proved that 49-year-olds can be fashionably fierce, too.
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The Oscars, of course, are as much about gowns as gold statues. Indeed, the history of the 83-year-old ceremony and of formal American fashion can be traced through the chiffon and crinoline, the sequins and spaghetti straps, and the expanding and shrinking swaths of skin that have sashayed down the red carpet and up to the stage. USA TODAY's Olivia Barker scoured the Oscar style archives for the two best dresses (and one trouser suit!) worn by winners from each decade, from the 1930s to 2000s.

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