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Oscars: The best dresses of all time

Updated 10:34 AM ET, Wed February 26, 2014
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Audrey Hepburn is a style classic, and with good reason. The elegantly simple item she wore to the 1954 Oscars is like the white version of the "little black dress" she'd popularize with "Breakfast at Tiffany's." At that year's ceremony, Hepburn accepted the best actress Oscar for "Roman Holiday." NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
The following year, it was Grace Kelly everyone wanted to dress like. The beautifully draped gown she wore to the 1955 ceremony, where she accepted the best actress Oscar for "The Country Girl," is the type of timeless formalwear that would be replicated today. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Elizabeth Taylor helped build her reputation as a style icon at the 1961 Oscars, when she pulled off a cheery yet sophisticated sleeveless dress with a floral motif. stringer/AFP/Getty Images
Taylor did it again in 1970, when the violet-eyed beauty wore a perfectly cut chiffon dress with a plunging neckline that matched the color of her irises. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Shirley MacLaine's pristine sparkling column gown was originally designed for her in the 1964 comedy "What A Way to Go." Considering that the dress took 78 fittings to get right, we don't blame MacLaine for dusting it off for the 1974 Oscars. Ron Galella/WireImage/GETTY IMAGES
Is this not the very picture of '70s glam? Part of that has to do with Lauren Hutton, who was one of the era's top models, but we can't discount her tastefully sexy Christian Dior gown. Ron Galella COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES
If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that less really can be more. In 1995, when Uma Thurman was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in "Pulp Fiction," she wore a lilac Prada slip dress that was so pale it was ethereal. Thurman lost out on the Oscar that year, but she helped give Prada a major boost. Jeff Kravitz/FILM MAGIC/GETTY IMAGES
If Nicole Kidman wore this John Galliano for Dior gown on the red carpet today, especially at the Oscars, she'd probably get eaten alive. But in 1997, when she attended the ceremony with her then-husband, Oscar nominee Tom Cruise, Kidman's haute-couture gown was a game-changer. Barry King/WireImage/GETTY IMAGES
On the opposite end of the dress spectrum in 1997 was Courtney Love, who caused double-takes up and down the red carpet as she walked in a classy, alluring white satin Versace gown. HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images
The beauty of Sharon Stone's 1998 Oscars outfit was its mix of the high and low: The actress took a white Gap button-down shirt out of then-husband Phil Bronstein's closet and paired it with a luxurious Vera Wang skirt. Mychal Watts/WireImage/getty images
There's something about wearing red on the red carpet that can help an actress stand out in a great way. In 1999, Catherine Zeta-Jones' silken strapless gown did just that, but what really helped the star land on best-dressed lists that year was the impeccable way it fit. Jim Smeal/WireImage/getty images
Renee Zellweger never needs to walk another red carpet again. The vintage '50s-era dress she wore to the Oscars in 2001 is hands-down one of the best Oscar dresses of all time. And it's little wonder why: Clearly, the butter-yellow piece was built to last. J. Vespa/WireImage/getty images
It's true that Julia Roberts had one heck of a great accessory at the 2001 Oscars -- the best actress statuette for "Erin Brockovich" -- but her striking vintage Valentino was exactly the type of high-end glamour fans expect to see at the event. Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Halle Berry won twice at the 2002 Oscars: She became the first black woman to take home the best actress award, and she did it in a Elie Saab dress that can still stop hearts. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
In 2002, Kate Winslet was no shrinking violet in a bright-red, form-fitting gown. But the delicate flowers that made up the strap helped soften and elevate the look. Vince Bucci/Getty Images
After getting skewered by the press for her Stella McCartney dress at the 2001 Oscars, Kate Hudson rebounded in 2003 in a champagne Versace dress that made the actress appear to float across the red carpet. Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez doesn't do traditional, but she does know how to do elegance. In 2003, the actress and singer was a breath of fresh air in a mint-green vintage Valentino dress that echoed an iconic gown once worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Before we'd even heard of a Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Garner was the virtual "Girl on Fire" at the 2004 Oscars. On someone else, the burnt-orange Valentino gown -- complete with 15 yards of taffeta -- would've been overwhelming, but Garner pulled it off with ease. Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
Charlize Theron has had her fair share of awards season misses, but when she was up for the best actress Oscar in 2004, she made sure she got it right. After undergoing a physical transformation for her role in "Monster," which won her the Academy Award, the actress oozed luxury and sparkled from head to toe. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Angelina Jolie has had some dark moments on the Oscars red carpet, but in 2004 she hit a high note with an old-Hollywood white satin gown that made us recall that other screen siren, Marilyn Monroe. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
When "Million Dollar Baby" actress Hilary Swank arrived at the Oscars in 2005, she was in a dress that, at first glance, appeared to be a fatal miss. It was long-sleeved, navy blue and didn't show a hint of decolletage. And then she turned around, and all those red-carpet rules were broken. It was fitting that she went on to win the best actress Oscar that night. Gerard BURKHART/AFP/Getty Images
Velvet is incredibly hard to pull off at an upscale event -- just ask Angelina Jolie. But Beyoncé being, well, Beyoncé, she made this finely cut Versace look "Flawless" at the 2005 Oscars. Dan MacMedan/WireImage/getty images
Natalie Portman didn't land the Oscar for best supporting actress at the 2005 ceremony, but that didn't stop her from looking like a winner in a Grecian-inspired sparkling Lanvin gown. Mark Mainz/Getty Images
When Keira Knightley was nominated for best actress in 2006 for her role in "Pride and Prejudice," she followed the red-dress rule with a twist. Opting for a deeper, darker red and a flared mermaid hem helped Knightley win the red carpet, even if she ended up losing out on the Oscar. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
When an Oscar dress in yellow is done right, it becomes unforgettable. The canary gown Michelle Williams wore to the 2006 Oscars, when she was nominated for best supporting actress for "Brokeback Mountain," was as buzzed-about as the groundbreaking film. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Helen Mirren at the 2007 Oscars was proof that Hollywood ageists have it all wrong. We'll take a sassy sexagenarian in a flowing, perfectly tailored Christian Lacroix dress over a younger ill-dressed starlet any day. Kevin Winter/Getty Images
At the 2007 Oscars, when Penelope Cruz was nominated for best actress in "Volver," the star took a risk with a floor-length feathered gown from Versace. With its blush color, the dress won everyone over with its combination of drama and romance. Vince Bucci/Getty Images
Katherine Heigl became yet another ace lady in red at the 2008 Oscars, when she followed in the footsteps of Kate Winslet before her and slipped into a single-strap dress with a sleek silhouette. Vince Bucci/Getty Images
Ever notice how actresses tend to wear the most amazing dress on the night they just so happen to win the Oscar? That was the case with Marion Cotillard in 2008, when she won the best actress honor with "La Vie en Rose" while wearing an enviable Gaultier dress covered in a fish-scale print. Vince Bucci/Getty Images
Anne Hathaway came to the 2009 Oscars ready to stop traffic. In a shimmering Armani Privé gown, the actress didn't even need to win the best actress title for "Rachel Getting Married" -- she already looked better than Oscar himself. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
We've gotten used to seeing Cameron Diaz in more body-conscious looks, so this glittering Oscar de la Renta gown from the 2010 Oscars, with its classic Hollywood cut, was a welcome change of pace. Jason Merritt/Getty Images
It was Sandra Bullock's night at the 2010 Oscars, and the actress came looking like the woman to beat. When she accepted her best actress award for "The Blind Side," everyone could see that she'd picked the perfect dress to do it in. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
The ombre hue of Zoe Saldana's 2010 Oscars gown wasn't the only thing unusual: There was the glittering bodice and the skirt that held layer upon layer of ruffles, plus a thigh-high slit. The Givenchy couture number was the very definition of "risk," but it paid off handsomely in praise for the actress. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
We fell in such head-over-heels, at-first-sight love with Amy Adams' 2011 Oscars dress, we're not sure if she can ever top it in our book. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
You know how there was the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" movie in 2011? At that year's Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence was "The Girl in the Red Calvin Klein." Who else but J. Law could wear what is essentially a very long tank top and look this amazing? John Shearer/Getty Images
Pregnant or not, actress Natalie Portman was ready to collect her best actress Oscar for "Black Swan" at the 2011 Oscars. The fact that she did so in a violet, exceptionally tailored Rodarte gown was the icing on a very gilded cake. Jason Merritt/Getty Images
We don't envy young actresses who have to find formalwear that is sophisticated enough for the Academy Awards but also doesn't age them 10 years. They should all take notes from Hailee Steinfeld, who, as a 15-year-old Oscar nominee in 2011, showed everyone how it's done with an age-appropriate but elegant Marchesa dress that she helped design. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Mila Kunis didn't get an Oscar nod for her work with Natalie Portman in 2010's "Black Swan," but that didn't stop her from arriving at the 2011 event ready to work a delicate lingerie-inspired gown. Jason Merritt/Getty Images
With her side-swept hair and curve-hugging column gown, Octavia Spencer was the very picture of classy glamour as she accepted the best supporting actress Oscar at the 2012 ceremony. VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
As Milla Jovovich proved at the 2012 Oscars, you don't need to be a nominee to steal the show. The "Resident Evil" actress looked like she'd been poured into her white Elie Saab gown, and her retro hairdo recalled old Hollywood at its finest. JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images
Gwyneth Paltrow has hit some noticeable bumps on the Oscars red carpet, but in 2012 the "Goop" founder got it right. Her structured white Tom Ford dress came with a cape, making it classic enough to fit in to the show but daring enough to stand apart as one of the best sartorial moves that night. Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Jennifer Lawrence is two for two with her Oscar appearances. After slinking into the 2011 ceremony in an impossible-to-miss gown, Lawrence opted for a less body-conscious style in 2013. The voluminous Dior Couture dress was buoyant without swallowing the actress whole -- even though it did trip her up as she went to accept the best actress Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook." Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Some actresses rely on their hair to help tell their fashion story at the Oscars, but Charlize Theron didn't need much assistance in 2013. The actress, who'd cut her locks super-short to film "Mad Max: Fury Road," rocked the haircut at the awards show with a white strapless dress that was just as architecturally chic. Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Kerry Washington's 2013 Oscars dress wasn't quite red, but it was just as show-stopping. The coral dress from Miu Miu was accented with a gold bodice, which helped the "Django Unchained" actress steal the spotlight, Oscar nod or no. Jason Merritt/Getty Images
You might say calling Georgina Chapman best-dressed is biased because she's a model and co-founder of the fashion label Marchesa. But we were smitten with the dreamy ivory gown she wore while pregnant at the 2013 Oscars. Jason Merritt/Getty Images