One of Janelle Monáe’s gowns took 600 hours to embroider, and it was worth every second.
Rita Moreno wore the same dress to the 2018 Oscars that she had worn 56 years prior to the 1962 ceremony, where she was presented with the Best Supporting Actress award for playing Anita in West Side Story.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the dress was slightly altered to make the neckline strapless. In a red carpet interview, Moreno said some of the fabric used in the skirt was sourced from an obi, the sash of a Japanese kimono.
Despite appearances, the elaborate bodice of the Alexander McQueen gown that Viola Davis wore to the 2021 Oscars didn’t actually show any of the actor’s skin.
Stylist Elizabeth Stewart told People, “It’s actually a corset dyed to match Viola’s skin tone, achieved by trying about 20 swatches and also with the help of her makeup artist Autumn Moultrie, who gave the atelier makeup base colors she uses on Viola.”
The swan dress that singer Björk wore to the 2001 Oscars became instantly famous (or infamous, if you, unlike me, aren’t a fan of bird couture). Naturally, it was accessorized with a fake bird egg, and while the dress was designed by Marjan Pejoski, Björk herself came up with the egg.
Pejoski told Vogue, “I really laughed when I heard that. It was fantastic of her. So rebellious, at a traditional occasion like the Oscars. I respect tradition of course, but everybody and everything deserves to be laughed at from time to time.”
The Bob Mackie “Vegas showgirl, but make it red carpet” ensemble that Cher wore to the 1986 Oscars was designed at least in part as a response to the actor feeling that she had been snubbed by the Academy.
Mackie told the Toronto Star, “She hadn’t been nominated that year, even though most people thought she should have been. It was a great performance, but the Academy went, ‘Oh, you know, it’s just Cher.’ She was kinda pissed off, so when they asked her to be a presenter, she wanted to stick it to them a bit. I’m much more conservative than she is, but she always pushes me to go further.”
Angelina Jolie transfixed the viewing public when she stuck her leg out of a high slit in the black Versace gown she wore to the 2012 Oscars, but that instantly memeable moment may not have happened at all, because Jolie wasn’t originally supposed to wear that dress.
At the 2019 premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Jolie told Extra, “There’s a whole longer story behind that, that I had a more complicated dress and I wore the more comfortable dress, which was that one.” She went on, “I think when you feel comfortable, when you feel yourself, which is very much the theme of the film, and we know this in life, you embrace it. And then sometimes it maybe appears to be a thing, I don’t know.”
Lupita Nyong’o’s stylist Micaela Erlanger told the Telegraph that the custom Prada gown her client wore to the 2014 Oscars, where Nyong’o won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, was a “true collaboration.” She went on, “We worked with Prada on developing the sketches and it was a culmination of ideas and different sentiments which were translated into her look.”
Erlanger revealed that the beaded hem was inspired by “Champagne bubbles,” and that the distinctive color was a reference to Nyong’o’s “family heritage” in her hometown of Nairobi. The frog is the Nyong’o family totem, and thus it was featured twice in the look: one on a pinkie ring, and the other on a tag hidden within the dress.
Lady Gaga accessorized the black Brandon Maxwell ballgown she wore to the 2019 Oscars, where she won an Academy Award for Best Song for A Star Is Born‘s “Shallow,” with an impressively massive diamond that has a storied history. Gaga told Vogue, “I remember I also had to be in charge of taking care of that Tiffany’s diamond that Audrey Hepburn wore. No one had worn it since she wore it for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so I was the first person to wear it.”
She went on, “I left the Oscars to go to a party and I left security behind and everybody was mad at me. Sorry. Sorry, Tiffany’s. I love you and you got your diamond back!”
The yellow Valentino gown Zendaya wore to the 2021 Oscars would already be one of the most vivid on the red carpet…
…but an Instagram posted by Zendaya’s stylist Law Roach revealed that the dress literally glowed in the dark.
The bejeweled Ralph Lauren ensemble that Janelle Monáe wore to the 2020 ceremony featured 168,000 crystals that took embroiderers a grand total of 600 hours to attach by hand, according to Marie Claire.
Gemma Chan revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that she stored cookies in one pocket and rice crackers in the other of the pink Valentino gown she wore to the 2019 ceremony.
During the interview, Chan said, “You know, it’s a long ceremony… You don’t get dinner, so yeah!” She later retweeted the video with the caption, “The hunger is real.”
In an essay for Vogue, Billy Porter wrote that he personally asked Christian Siriano to design his 2019 Oscars gown at a party following one of Siriano’s runway shows. Porter had admired the designer since his victorious run on Project Runway, and wrote that Siriano was “the first person who understood that everybody wears clothes — not just size zeros.”
Siriano enthusiastically accepted the job. Porter wrote, “We wanted to play between the masculine and the feminine. This look was interesting because it’s not drag. I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress. He came up with a tux on the top, and a ballgown that bursts out at the bottom.” He went on, “People are going to be really uncomfortable with my Black ass in a ball gown — but it’s not anybody’s business but mine.”
Jennifer Lawrence tried on the cream Dior ball gown she wore to the 2013 Oscars for the first time the morning of the ceremony, where she won Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook (and famously tripped on her way up to retrieve it). This is an unusual choice for a red carpet look, as they are generally chosen far in advance.
Lawrence told Vogue, “I just woke up and tried on the dress, and it fit, thank god! Then I took a shower — that’s what I did. And I got my hair and makeup done. And then I came to the Oscars.”
The blue gown Regina King wore to the 2021 ceremony incorporated more Swarovski crystals than Louis Vuitton had ever used before in a single garment. The dress’s design included “62,000 sequins, 3,900 pale sparkling stones, [and] 4,500 in darker tones” in total, according to Vogue. It took 140 hours to construct.
Wayman Bannerman, one of King’s stylists, told the magazine, “We wanted to keep that element of fantasy. For Regina, this is a new move in terms of the look’s architecture and silhouette.”
Gwyneth Paltrow wore a pink Ralph Lauren ball gown to the 1999 ceremony, where she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love. She paired the look with two borrowed pieces from the famed jeweler Harry Winston: diamond earrings and a diamond necklace. Paltrow told Vogue that following her win, her father purchased her the jewelry as a surprise.
Paltrow said, “So, that was very sweet. And I wore the earrings and necklace when I got married to Brad in homage to my Dad, and as a way of keeping him there with us.”
And finally: Lizzy Gardiner wore a gown constructed from 254 golden American Express credit cards to the 1994 ceremony where she picked up an Oscar for — what else? — Best Costume Design for her work on the Australian drag classic, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
That gown was originally supposed to be worn by one of the film’s three drag queen protagonists, but according to the Canberra Times, multiple major credit card companies refused to give permission to allow their cards to be featured. Gardiner and her co-costumer Tim Chappel decided to construct a dress out of flip-flops for a grand total of $7 AUD instead.
(The costume budget for the film as a whole was only $20,000.)
The Times wrote that when Priscilla became an Oscar contender, American Express was “suddenly only too willing to dole out” their cards for Gardiner’s gown.