Iconic Dresses That Put Hollywood Stars On The Map

Photo By: Dee Cercone/Everett Collection

For most celebrities, there’s a certain red carpet moment that will always be remembered as their most iconic of all time. Sometimes this is because the dress they wore broke fashion boundaries and made a statement, or because the red carpet moment marked a milestone in their career. Whatever the reason, certain dresses have stood the test of time and will always be remembered as the ones that put a select few Hollywood stars on the map. Follow along as we retrace 15 iconic dresses that launched these celebrities into stardom:

15. Julia Roberts — 2001

In 2001, Julia Roberts accepted her award for Best Actress wearing a vintage Valentino dress from 1982. After three nominations, she finally accepted the award for Best Actress for her performance in Erin Brokovitch. This night was monumental in Roberts’ career, which is why her dress is one that no one could forget. The sleek shape, monochromatic detailing, and dramatic tulle skirt are truly iconic.

14. Halle Berry — 2002

Halle Berry has become known for her sultry dresses over the years, but this burgundy gown from the 2002 Academy Awards is definitely her most iconic. The dress marked an exciting night in her career where she became the first Black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. She won the well-deserved award for her role in Monster’s Ball. 

13. Natalie Portman — 2005

Natalie Portman has been in the spotlight since she was a child, so her transition from girl to woman was quite obvious when retracing her red carpet moments. The most notable time was likely when she stepped out at the 2005 Oscars where she was nominated for her role in Closer. She stepped out looking surprisingly grown up in a tulle Lanvin charcoal gown with bronze detailing along the waist and hip. The dress was so well-received on Portman that the night marked the inauguration of a longtime partnership with the Lanvin fashion house for her red carpet appearances going forward.

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12. Hilary Swank — 2006

Heads turned when Hilary Swank took the Oscar red carpet in 2006 wearing a completely backless dress that showed off her toned figure. That evening Swank took home the Oscar for her role in Million Dollar Baby, which required months of intense training leading up and during filming. Clearly, all her hard work paid off, both in the results of her trim and muscular figure and in the fact that she took home the Oscar that night.

Photo: ABC/Craig Sjodin/Courtesy Everett Collection.

11. Jennifer Lawrence — 2014

If you didn’t know who Jennifer Lawrence was, you most definitely knew her name after the 2014 Academy Awards. The star is known for her relatable and hilarious personality, which came to its peak when she tripped up the stairs to accept her award for Best Actress for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. The voluminous Haute Couture Dior number will always be one of Lawrence’s most memorable fashion moments for this reason!

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10. Michelle Williams — 2006

Canary yellow is a rare color to see on the red carpet, mostly because it’s such a difficult color to pull off. Michelle Williams, however, looked absolutely stunning in the color at the 2006 Academy Awards. This night marked a transitional night in her life where Williams had a new baby, a relationship with co-star Heath Ledger and a starring role in the hit film Brokeback Mountain.

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9. Rihanna — 2013

When Rihanna first came into the Hollywood scene, she was a young pop star who had the potential to fizzle out with a few one-hit wonders or stand her ground in the music industry. The 2013 Grammy awards was a memorable moment in Rihanna’s career where she began to present herself as a mature musician who wasn’t going anywhere. She wore a floor-length red gown with a bright red lip and her caramel hair styled in soft waves. The look was one that will go down in Grammy history as one of the most memorable and marked a turning point in Rihanna’s career!

9. Jessica Chastain — 2012

Jessica Chastain made heads turn on the 2012 Academy Awards red carpet where she was recognized and nominated for her role in the hit 2011 film, The Help. Her look for the event was a black McQueen number that featured intricate gold detailing unlike any other. “There was something about the embroidery of this dress. It felt larger than life — and this is a larger-than-life moment. I always wanted to be an actor. Most little girls dream of their wedding dresses; I grew up dreaming of my Oscar dress,” she told The Hollywood Reporter of her monumental evening.

8. Anne Hathaway — 2011

There was a period of time where Anne Hathaway was most known for her role in the teen film series The Princess Diaries. In 2011, however, she stepped out wearing a sultry sequined gold dress that proved she was an established actress as she was nominated for her mature role in Love and Other Drugs. The dress and nomination made the 2011 Golden Globes a huge turning point in Hathaway’s career.

Photo By: Dee Cercone/Everett Collection

6. Kate Hudson — 2002

Kate Hudson was born into the spotlight by having Goldie Hawn as a famous mother. While becoming an actress was likely much easier having a mother in the Hollywood scene, being taken seriously is a whole other challenge. After her role in the film Almost Famous, Hudson proved her talent and was thrust into her own stardom aside from her mother. This night in 2002 at the Golden Globes where she wore a revealing Versace dress which further confirmed this.

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5. Lupita Nyong’o — 2014

Lupita Nyong’o became an immediate fashion icon when she stepped out at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards wearing this jaw-dropping scarlet dress that featured a cape trailing behind her. This night was obviously pivotal in Nyong’o’s career because of her new fashion status, but also because she blew away critics who watched her debut in 12 Years a Slave. 

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4. Beyonce — 2007

Beyonce has obviously had an endless list of memorable fashion moments, but perhaps the most iconic of them all is the look she wore to the 2007 Golden Globes where she was nominated for her role in Dream Girls. Not only was the golden dress absolutely stunning and statement-making, but this debut also marked her establishment as a solo artist a year following her split from Destiny’s Child.

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3. Jennifer Lopez — 2000

Back in the 2000s Jennifer Lopez was one of the most buzzed about stars, but especially after she stepped out at the Grammys wearing this plunging Versace dress. The number has gone down in history as one of the most iconic celebrity looks of all time. It is believed to have even been the trigger behind creating Google Image Search since so many people were racking the Internet trying to track down an image of the dress following the awards show.

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2. Penelope Cruz — 2007

Back in 2007, Penelope Cruz took to the red carpet wearing a soft pink feathered dress that no one could forget! This red carpet moment marked a peak in her career for one of her most acclaimed roles in the film Volver. She was even nominated for the Best Supporting Actress role which made her debut on the red carpet even more exciting.

1. Elizabeth Hurley — 1994

Hugh Grant stepped out for the premiere of his film Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994 with his date Elizabeth Hurley on his arm. Little did Hurley know that this night would change her career forever all because of her choice of a little black Versace dress! Her look featured a plunging neckline, thigh-high slit and a bodice held together with oversized gold safety pins. Years later she admitted that her choice of dress dictated the course of her career and prohibited her ability to be cast in any mature, serious roles.

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Olivia Di Pede

Olivia Di Pede

Olivia loves all things fashion, beauty, and entertainment. In her free time, she can be found taking yoga classes, reading thriller novels, and styling outfits on Instagram.