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InStyle's 10 best Oscar gowns ever

By Hal Rubenstein, InStyle
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • InStyle takes a look at some of the best gowns from the Academy Awards
  • InStyle caught up with the designers of the dresses to ask them about their inspiration
  • Top designers were matched with top talent to make unforgettable combinations
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(InStyle) -- Inspired by this year's Academy Awards, with its new 10 best picture nominees, we picked an equal number of unforgettable gowns from years past. Here are our 10 all-time favorites, with behind-the-seams stories from the designers who created them.

Renee Zellweger in Carolina Herrera, 2004

"Renée doesn't use a stylist, so our discussions were as much a part of the design process as the sketches," said Herrera. "The bow in the back--eight yards of silk faille--was the perfect surprise."

Penelope Cruz in Chanel Haute Couture, 2008

"I designed this dress in a flash," said Karl Lagerfeld. "I had already had a vision of her in it for Oscar night -- all feathers and organza in navy blue, the ultimate chic color for Penélope. It took 200 hours to create the dress -- and five fittings -- to ensure it was perfection."

InStyle: The Oscars' 17 most unforgettable looks

Anne Hathaway in Giorgio Armani Prive, 2009

"Anne is so lovely and ethereal," said Armani. "For this reason I dressed her as a type of fairy-mermaid, pure and sparkling. She looked truly breathtaking."

Jennifer Garner in Valentino, 2004

"Jennifer is so comfortable in her own skin, she can wear a gown this complex," said Valentino. "Fifteen yards of taffeta -- I lost count of the amount of silk chiffon! Jennifer handled herself on the red carpet as if she were greeting people in the back garden of her home. She has an easy grace that makes her so beautiful."

Marion Cotillard in Jean Paul Gaultier, 2008

"Marion initially requested something simple, but I wanted everyone to see the woman I saw," said Gaultier. "I showed her sketches for this mermaid-inspired dress, and she loved it. She was travelling everywhere promoting "La Vie en Rose," so we had to follow her for fittings. What a mad dash!"

InStyle: Where Academy Award winners keep their statue

Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace, 2003

"I love Kate. She's a real Versace girl," said Donatella Versace. "She wanted something that sparkled, but it had to be light and easy. From the first fitting, the dress belonged only to her."

Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein, 1996

"A love of sensual simplicity brought me and Gwyneth together on this dress," said Klein. "She showed up alone and went through the fabric bolts with me and chose the pink charmeuse. Two fittings and we were done."

Charlize Theron in Vera Wang, 2000

"I think a plunging back is always sexier than a plunging décolletage," says Wang. "It's more unexpected and more erotic. I designed it with no side seams, which makes a dress sleek -- especially if you have the right body, which Charlize does."

InStyle: What the stars should wear to the Oscars

Diane Lane in Oscar de la Renta, 2003

"The idea for the gown came from two dresses," said de la Renta. "The top was inspired by an off-the-shoulder cocktail dress; the bottom, a gown with fantastic feather embroidery from the hip down. The combination worked very well -- it's seven years later and we are still telling its story -- and admiring Diane's beauty."

Nicole Kidman in Dior, 1997

"I was the new boy at the big House of Dior," said John Galliano. "Nicole trusted us and let us suggest a new direction and the striking chartreuse color. She looked incredible -- and even all this time later, she remains timelessly elegant and yet still directional."

See the original gallery at Instyle.com.

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