As the 89th annual Academy Awards approach, we can’t help but tingle with anticipation for this year’s red carpet. Sometimes, the event’s arrivals are largely unremarkable; the actresses look pretty and safe, but that’s about it. Every so often, however, the Oscars carpet offers a dazzling departure from the ordinary, a moment so memorable it changes the landscape of fashion forever. Here are five of the most extraordinary ensembles to ever walk the red carpet, with a little backstory on all their buzz.
Nobody knew what to think of this dress—created by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski—when Björk strutted it down the red carpet, and it's lived on in infamy ever since. Ellen DeGeneres wore a version to the 53rd Emmys, Kevin James wore a version to the 2002 People's Choice Awards and the dress has been widely parodied across pop culture in programs like White Chicks and Archer. A reimagined version more recently showed up on the Valentino's Spring 2014 Haute Couture runway, while the original had a moment on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2015. "It’s great that we can celebrate it and talk about it still, after 15 years,” Pejoski told the New York Post last year. "That [the dress] made it into the MoMA … it’s just a spectacular and amazing thing that it came back full circle."
We'd hardly bat an eye at seeing this on the Grammys red carpet, but when Cher showed up to the 1986 Oscars wearing this Bob Mackie creation, heads definitely turned. The ensemble included a headdress made up of hundreds of rooster feathers, a cashmere cape, and not much else. At the time, Cher was rumored to be acting out for not having been nominated for her performance in Mask, but really, this look is just so her. Cher—in concert with Bob Mackie—has been responsible for many iconic moments over the years, but this look is arguably what cemented her place in fashion history.
Julia Roberts, 2001
When Julia appeared in this gown—a velvet and satin vintage Valentino design inspired by Old Hollywood glamour—to accept her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, the world collectively gasped. Valentino Garavani himself later told The Telegraph that he considered the moment to be the highlight of his career. It's since topped hundreds of best-dressed lists, and was even included in the book 50 Dresses That Changed the World.
Audrey Hepburn, 1954
Audrey considered designer Hubert de Givenchy to be her best friend, and the 26th Academy Awards marked the first occasion on which the public saw her dressed in his designs. When the two were originally set up to meet, Givenchy famously thought he was going to meet Katherine Hepburn, though Audrey quickly won him over. The cut of this dress, which hid her collarbone but accentuated her shoulders, became iconic over the years, and Time voted the Givenchy creation "the best Oscars dress of all time." The designer went on to dress Audrey in seven of her films, and remained close with her until her death in 1993.
Angelina Jolie, 2012
Although the red carpet has certainly seen more outlandish ensembles than this simple black dress worn by Angelina Jolie in 2012, no Oscars gown has been the subject of more memes. The Versace dress itself was not of much interest to the public, but the pose Jolie struck repeatedly on the carpet—with one leg jutting out—caused quite the sensation. Before long, the leg had its own Twitter account, Buzzfeed had dubbed it "the breakout star of this year's Academy Awards," and people around the world started imitating the pose in what was known as "Angelegging."