In 1927, Louis B. Mayer, president of the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, came up with the idea of awarding prizes annually to the most outstanding films, directors and actors. I dare say he couldn't have scripted the eventual winner of Best Male Actor of 2022 slapping the compère in the face before collecting his award but then we live in stranger times than did Mr Mayer.
Either way, the Oscars have long been a wonderful spectacle of dressing up in grand dresses and elegant formalwear (without the red carpet is would possibly be one of the most innate few hours you could possibly spend in front of the TV). That said, there never fails to be a handful of shockers each year who seem to confuse elegance with self-infatuation and the need to be seen photographed whatever the cost (that's another article entirely!), but for the most part the Oscars brings out the best in designers, stylists and the movie industry. So we've dug out a few of our favourite menswear and womenswear looks this year and throughout the history of the awards who we feel champion elegance, sophistication and timelessness.
Michelle Yeoh, 2023
Winner of this year's Best Actress Award for her role in the brilliantly mind-bending Everything Everywhere All At Once, Michelle Yeoh - who is no stranger to out-there fashion looks, decided upon a more classical, ethereal look in a feathered white Dior Couture gown, made all the more heavenly with ears full of Moussaieff diamonds, and a Richard Mille watch.
Grace Kelly and Marlon Brando, 1954
Grace Kelly is an ever-present on just about every style list imaginable, so of course she features in an Oscars best-dressed. The American actress won an Oscar for her performance in The Country Girl while wearing an ice-blue gown by Edith Head. The gown was originally created for the movie's premiere and was cut from a single bolt of $4,000 French satin. Kelly is pictured here with Marlon Brando, wearing a beautiful satin shawl collar dinner jacket and pleated bib dress shirt. Note the narrow black bow tie which was certainly a trend at the time, and the understated shark fin white pocket square.
Elizabeth Taylor, 1961
Elizabeth Taylor won the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Manhattan call girl Gloria Wandrous in the film Butterfield 8 in 1961. Taylor collected her accolade wearing a colour-blocked sleeveless Christian Dior gown that was accented with a red rosette at the waist and a floral print skirt. The gown was from Dior's Spring-Summer 1961 Haute Couture collection, and was called the “Soiree a Rio” dress. Interestingly, the collection was the first of Marc Bohan's career at Dior after he took over from Yves Saint Laurent who was called for military service in 1960. Taylor ordered a dozen pieces from the collection, including this one, and this dress was one of them.
Cate Blanchett, 2014
Cate Blanchett would look elegant in a bin bag, so put her in Armani Prive haute couture and of course the result is going to be mesmeric. According to Vogue UK, the gown was worth $100,000 and her Chopard jewelry — including earrings with 62 opals, plus a diamond bracelet and ring — was in the region of $18 million. The bodyguards had their work cut out that night.
We're not sure which Oscars ceremony this image was taken at but suffice to say that Clint Eastwood looked as good in black tie as he did in a poncho and Stetson. The proportions of the lapels, bow tie and shirt collar are excellent, and that hair-do and beard are award-winning in themselves.
Cate Blanchett, 2011
We couldn't not include Cate Blanchett again because her 2011 couture Givenchy dress is simply out of this world. The floor-length chiffon gown featured an amazing architectural breast piece and contrast yellow beading along the back and shoulders. It references ancient Roman and Greek architecture while at the same time being incredibly contemporary, brilliantly complemented by Blanchett's short structural hairstyle.
Lupita Nyong'o, 2014
Some looks attempt to wow with bells and whistles, whereas others seek simple perfection. The latter is what Lupita Nyong'o achieved with her 'Nairobi blue' Prada ballgown, which went through five designs before determining the final look. Constructed from georgette soleil silk ballgown with a plunging v-neckline, a low-cut back, a blue belt, and an empire, flowing pleated skirt with subtle crystal trim, the beaded trimming of the gown was actually designed to resemble champagne bubbles. We're still fizzing about it eight years later.
Sidney Poitier, 1964
Always the height of sartorial sophistication, Poitier wore a classic white tie outfit to collect his award for Best Actor in 1964. Everything about the man was simply immaculate, but the way he was able to carry formalwear was second to none. His white tie look was as classic as they come, because when you look as charming as Sidney Poitier, why go off-piste (a lesson many of today's actors could learn from)?
Fan Bingbing, 2023
The Chinese actress Fan Bingbing made quite the entrance in this amazing Tony Ward Couture dress with a voluminous sleeved cape and sparkling body. The vintage aesthetic was further accentuated by her make-p which was a nod to the glamorous actresses of the golden age of cinema.
Audrey Hepburn, 1954
Known by Hepburn as her "lucky dress", the ivory full-skirted look was originally worn by the star in the film Roman Holiday. She loved it so much that she decided to wear it to the Oscars in 1954. Designed by Edith Head, Hepburn had the bodice altered just before the ceremony, to accentuate her diminutive figure. Incidentally, the dress was eventually given to Hepburn's mother, Ella van Heemstra, who in turn gave it to a friend. It had been stored away in a box in a wardrobe until 2011 when it fetched £84,000 at auction.
Lauren Hutton, 1975
In 1975, Lauren Hutton arrived at the Academy Awards wearing a waist-length mink coat over a rainbow-colored Greek goddess ball gown designed by her good friend Halston. Everything about the look screams glamour and hedonism You would certainly struggle to get away with the mink coat in 2022, but the diaphanous dress is a dream that would still mesmerise today.
Austin Butler, 2023
Although he came up short for the Best Actor gong for his brilliant turnout as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann's biopic, Austin Butler was a winner in the style stakes, hitting the champagne carpet in a classic black tuxedo with epic lapels (probably a bit too epic given his slender proportions, if we're going to be picky), by Saint Laurent. We especially enjoyed the patent leather Cubans - Elvis himself would have been proud.
Helen Mirren, 2007
Romanticism writ large was the theme to the Christian Lacroix dress worn by the always impressive Helen Mirren to the 2007 Oscars ceremony. The nude-colored dress was embellished with detailed beading and lace, while the diapanousskirt was perfectly fluid and romantic, accentuating Mirren's waistline. The diamonds and ivory clutch were the cherries on the cake.
Cara Delevigne, 2023
Shortly after the red carpet had emptied (ok, so it was a 'champagne carpet' this year), the internet placed its votes and one of the resounding winners of the night was model and actress Cara Delevigne for this stunning blood red satin couture gown with oversized bow-tied shoulder embellishment and dramatic split, by Elie Saab. We're not arguing with the internet.
Amanda Seyfried, 2021
Vogue ran an entire feature of Amanda Seyfried getting ready for the 2021 Oscars and it's not hard to see why. The finely pleated hibiscus red ball gown was designed by Giorgio Armani Privé and took the awards by storm. Armani's inspiration was the shape of a petal, albeit upside down. While incredibly complicated the gown must have been, there is a delightful simplicity in Seyfried's look, which she embellishes with subtle jewellery details, lipstick and the perfect complementary hairstyle for the dress.
It's hard not to look anything but stunning when you have the face and figure of Zendaya, but her natural features are exemplified even more by the vivid fluoro yellow dress she wore to the 2021 Academy Awards. The dress consisted of a bandeau top and cut-away bodice, before descending into a flowing full-length skirt, bookended by a pair of matching yellow platform heels by Jimmy Choo.
Michael B. Jordan, 2019
It's a case of who wore the navy velvet jacket best? Chris Rock in 2022 or Michael B. Jordan in 2019? The latter paired his with a black velvet bow tie rather than a silk version, which is a nice touch, while the diamond lapel jewellery is a stunning addition.
Michael B. Jordan, 2023
Michael B. Jordan rightly deserves a second entry in this list for another splendid turnout on the red carpet, this time opting for a beautiful double-breasted black dinner jacket by Louis Vuitton, with not one but two brooches on the lapel. In fact, brooches were something of a thing this year, with a number of male stars opting for the embellishment. Perhaps it will catch on?
(Red carpet images by Getty)