Red Carpet Dresses Throughout History

Updated on October 24, 2016

The first reference to the red carpet was first recorded in the ancient Greek story of Agamemnon in 485 BC when he returned from Troy. In the story, Agamemnon was welcomed by his wife Clytemnestra on a red color path, but he declined because he felt only God was worthy to be greeted with such luxuries.

The red carpet was next seen at the New York Central Railroad in 1902 to welcome passengers directly boarding the 20th Century Limited train. It was also rolled out in 1821 to welcome then president, James Madison. In ancient times, the red carpet was seen as a way to tribute to the gods and for the elite to walk upon.

This concept has not changed much and today has transformed into a symbol of the Hollywood Oscars. The Academy Awards, now known as The Oscars, began in the "golden age" of movies in 1929. There have been 85 Oscar ceremonies and each year actresses dress in couture gowns adorned with priceless diamonds and gems as they walk the crimson threaded carpet. Below are 10 dresses that really signify the importance of red carpet fashion throughout the years.

Audrey Hepburn, 1954

Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for Best Actress in Roman Holiday wearing a very detailed, floral-embossed cream tea length gown by Hubert de Givenchy. The dress was originally designed by costume designer Edith Head but adapted for The Academy Awards by Givenchy. After the ceremony, Audrey requested all her costumes be solely created by Givenchy and referred to this specific dress as her ‘lucky dress’.

Grace Kelly, 1955

Grace Kelly won the Oscar for Best Actress in The Country Girl wearing an ice blue gown created by costume designer Edith Head. Edith Head designed the gown using $4000 French satin paired with a matching evening coat. It was the most expensive dress worn to The Academy Awards of the time. "Some people need sequins—others don't," Head was quoted at the ceremony, which she attended as Kelly's date.

Elizabeth Taylor, 1961

Elizabeth Taylor won the Oscar for Best Actress in Butterfield 8 wearing a solid chartreuse sleeveless silk top with a full ivory skirt designed by Christian Dior. The dress was adorned with a hunter-green sash and red silk rose. Rumor has it that right after she accepted the award, she went straight backstage into a bathroom and fainted.

Farrah Fawcett, 1978

Farrah Fawcett might have just been announcing Oscar nominees but she goes down in history for this liquid-gold dress designed by Stephen Burrows. The California girl kept to her signature hair and bright smile for this seriously high-voltage frock.

Nicole Kidman, 1997

Nicole Kidman accompanied Tom Cruise, nominated for best actor, for the 69th Academy Awards in this chartreuse John Galliano for Dior gown. Kidman had little input on the design of the dress and trusted him after just showing his first couture collection for Dior. This dress made Galliano a world-famous name.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, 1999

Although Catherine did not go home with an Oscar she made quite a scene in this iconic red dress by Donatella Versace. The dress was adorned with metallic gold horizontal details that emphasized her hourglass figure. It was the perfect dress to celebrate two nominations for her role in the film Zorro.

Halle Berry, 2002

Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress in Monsters Ball wearing a very sheer and satin Elie Saab burgundy gown complete with strategically placed floral embroidery. Her confidence and athletic physic launched Elie Saab’s fashion career.

Hilary Swank, 2005

Hilary Swank won the Oscar for Best Actress in Million Dollar Baby wearing a long-sleeved navy blue dress designed by Guy Laroche. This dress was made memorable because it was unexpectedly backless.

Amy Adams, 2008

Amy Adams wore a strapless green dress designed by Proenza Schouler to the 81st annual Oscars. This elegant corset bodice dress was paired with a gilded purse that the actress admitted was all fashion and no function when she said, “There’s nothing in it!” This was a great choice for Adams as it matched her eyes.

Anne Hathaway, 2013

Anne Hathaway won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Les Miserables wearing a plush pink, high-neck gown designed by Prada. The controversial dress caused quite a stir because Hathaway was to wear a Valentino but changed to the Prada when it was brought to her attention that Amanda Seyfried would be wearing a similar dress. The apologetic Hathaway did offer a public apology to Valentino regarding the last minute change.

Oscars Fashionable Facts

  • Gone With The Wind is the longest Best Picture winner, clocking in at a languorous 234 minutes. You could watch the shortest winner, Marty, two and a half times before Scarlett hangs up her ball gown.


  • Only one actress has won an Oscar for playing a member of the opposite sex: Linda Hunt in The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982).


  • Famously, Meryl Streep has accrued the most Best Actress nominations with 14 to date, but Katharine Hepburn holds the record for the most wins with four. On Golden Pond, The Lion in Winter, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Morning Glory were her award-winning films.


  • The only sequel to have won Best Picture is The Godfather: Part II.


  • Three animated films have received Best Picture nominations: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2010) and Toy Story 3 (2011). Note that two of those squeaked in after the nominees for Best Picture increased to ten.

Questions & Answers

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      • amandajoyshapiro profile image

        amandajoyshapiro 

        5 years ago

        Grace Kelly had the best fashion sense of any actress. Her style was classic and she made everything look effortless. Anne Hathaway must have been so angry to find out her co-star Amanda Seyfried upstaged her dress.

      • profile image

        Tasneem 

        5 years ago

        Interesting take on a Oscars fashion article! voted up, thanks for the hub!

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