There have been so many memorable Oscars gowns over the last two decades, but for a definitive list of the best, we called in the experts: The Fug Girls. Writers Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are the brains behind the beloved style website GoFugYourself, a go-to destination for smart, funny and often snarky commentary on celebrity fashion since 2004. Here, they share their picks for the top 20 Oscar dresses of the last 20 years.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, Nicole Kidman delivered a knockout punch at the Academy Awards by wearing a heart-stopping chartreuse Dior; on Feb. 23, she will step onto that same red carpet as one of the consistently biggest and boldest dressers in a styling game her gown helped change forever. Will Kidman come fashion full-circle with a nod to the dress that put her on the map? That question is just one of a zillion reasons we’re spending the Oscars glued to the fashion parade, awash in snacks and bubbly.
1. Nicole Kidman in Dior, 1997
If you told us to close our eyes and imagine Nicole Kidman, two images would come to mind: a glorious mane of red curly hair and this photo. The dress was from John Galliano’s first Dior collection and, at the time, it felt wildly unusual for Hollywood’s big night. Even Tom Cruise is looking at her like he can hardly believe it, and he rode over in the limo with her.
2. Sharon Stone in Vera Wang ... and The Gap, 1998
Sharon Stone stunned everyone with this easy, breezy approach to what royal watchers now call “high fashion meets High Street" with her unexpected combo of a button-down Gap dress shirt and a Vera Wang skirt. Sure, the red carpet was less styled in the late ‘90s than it is these days, but most A-listers weren’t giving shoutouts to a mall chain, either.
Best of all, Stone made us all feel better about those identical Gap staples hanging in our own closets (which may then have spawned a whole generation of hoarders, but hoarding is underrated anyway).
3. Bjork in … a Swan, 2001
In the pantheon of crazy red carpet outfits, Bjork showing up at the Academy Awards wearing a bird has to rank among the absolute craziest. While this look is not wholly off-brand for Bjork as a human, it’s definitely, shall we say, unusual for the Oscars, where people don’t generally engage in interspecies cosplay.
Even people who weren’t alive yet when this happened have somehow never forgotten it and, more importantly, Bjork and her swan dress have become an easy shorthand to explain why red carpet watching is such a delightful sport.
4. Julia Roberts in Valentino, 2001
While this isn’t technically old enough to have been vintage, in that it dates from 1992, it did come straight from the Valentino archives rather than the runway — a thoroughly unexpected provenance. Its streamlined elegance is utterly timeless.
Valentino himself has said that watching Julia Roberts accept her best actress Oscar in this frock was the highlight of his career. It’s hard to argue with that; it was also possibly the highlight of hers.
5. Kate Winslet in Ben de Lisi, 2002
Prediction: This dress will appear in every magazine spread that’s ever created about Kate Winslet’s career. The bold, red neck detailing capped a simple, curve-hugging sheath that should have taught the industry then and there that fashion isn’t just for the size 00s of the world. The designer, American-born Ben De Lisi, has lived in London since the ‘80s; Can we negotiate a knighthood, Your Majesty?