At the who’s who of the Oscars red carpet, who wins best actress is just as important as “who” that actress is wearing. But what if just the dress–shed of the actress strapped inside–accepted the Best Actress Oscar? If so, the history of Best Actress Academy Award winners would look like this at a glance.
To mark the occasion of Sunday’s Academy Awards, UK consultancy Media Run Digital has put together this fun chart of Oscar Dresses from 1929 to 2013. Everyone from Bette Davis to Jennifer Lawrence, from Irene to Armani, is represented. It’s a palette of glamorous dresses from some of the 20th and 21st century’s most famous designers.
But you’ll note that many actresses opted to wear dresses from non-famous designers. In 1929, the very first Best Actress Award was handed over to Janet Gaynor who wore a demure off-the-rack number. In 1989, when Jodie Foster won an Academy Award for The Accused, she supposedly wore a mass-produced gown.
Sadly, designers whose names have been lost to history created many of the dresses represented in this chart. The first Best Actress dress created by a known designer is Irene’s gown for Vivien Leigh, who won in 1940 for Gone With The Wind. After that, 14 years passed before another known designer appeared. Hubert de Givenchy sewed Audrey Hepburn a slip of white silk to accept her Academy Award for 1954’s Sabrina.
There are design crimes in this virtual closet of Oscar dresses, to be sure. Marlee Matlin opted to wear puff sleeves to accept her Oscar in 1987 for Children of a Lesser God; in 1981, Sissy Spacek accepted her Academy Award for Coal Miner’s Daughter in a polyester jumpsuit. The less said about the watermelon-sized bow on Loretta Young’s 1948 dress, the better.
Cattiness aside, Media Run Digital’s chart of Best Actress Oscar Dresses does remind us that–even if they are a questionable judge of the best films, actors, screenplays, and directors of the past year–the Academy Awards are, at least, a consistently compelling showcase for the greatest contemporary minds in fashion. Maybe we should just start giving Oscars to the dresses and call it a day.