The Red Carpet Rebels Through The Ages Keeping The Oscars Alive

The game-changers, the darers, the be-different-ers...

It could be said that the Academy Awards bring a less-inventive red carpet, offering less interesting fashion than other award ceremonies like The Met Gala. There is a prestige that comes with The Academy Awards and with that comes a perception of what attendees ought to look like: well-polished ladies, graceful, poised, near-perfection, diamonds, satin. But there have been some pretty outrageous and ostentatious outfits over the years worth remembering. So, from swan dresses that lay golden eggs to headdresses made with over 800 rooster feathers, below are some of the most iconic and rebellious red carpet moments from the Oscars.

Barbra Streisand, 1969

Barbra Streisand caused a stir without meaning to at the 1969 Oscars wearing a dazzling (and see-through) sequined Scaasi pyjama-style set for her red carpet walk. "I didn't realise the outfit was so see-through; you couldn't tell that in the dressing room", she famously commented. In fairness, that would be our perfect excuse too. That year she nabbed the best accessory on the night for Best Actress Oscar for her role in Funny Girl.


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Diana Ross, 1973

Legend Diana Ross arrived at the 1973 Oscars wearing a custom satin tuxedo suit by Bob Mackie (who is most famously known for creating Cher's iconic looks. Scroll below). "Diana had a little boy's body," Mackie told the Los Angeles Times of their choice to go menswear. "She was bone thin and looked wonderful in pants." We reckon the masculine approach to red-carpet style will be a prominent feature during this year's red-carpet. It's very Janelle Monae, right?

Photo credit: Globe Photos/

Cher, 1986


In 1986, pop icon Cher arrived wearing a two-foot black glittery headpiece (made of more than 800 rooster feathers), a beaded bra top with web-like detailing, a low-cut matching full-length skirt and equally dazzling accessories. The abstract look was created by her long-time designer Bob Mackie, who continues to create rhinestone-glistening, spandex-stretching costumes for her Las Vegas residency. That year she collected an Oscar for her role in Moonstruck.

The legend that is Cher owning it at the 1986 Oscars

Kim Basinger, 1990

I think what the Oscars red carpet needs is less caricature and more character. The difficulty of dressing for a black tie event (for any woman, celebrity or otherwise) is that we tend to have an image of what we think we should look like and usually that visual is something vaguely princessy. Kim Basinger's crazy looking half-bridal gown, half one-armed tuxedo in 1990 fell into this category. The dress was utterly confused but nonetheless stood out and made an impression. The full-skirted gown was topped with a half-jacket that featured cryptic lettering down its single sleeve. Perhaps a tribute to her symbol-loving then-beau Prince?

Whoopi Goldberg, 1993


Less-known for her fashion choices, Whoopi Goldberg certainly turned heads in this purple satin frock coat that opened to reveal a vibrant green lining and slim brocade trousers beneath. It strangely works, though I'd like to change the colour combination so that it's less Halloween-costume-y.

Celine Dion, 1999

In true avant-garde style, Celine Dion turned things around in a reversed custom John Galliano for Dior tuxedo suit during the 71st Academy Awards in 1999. The ensemble was accented with a Dior by Stephen Jones topper and Ray-Bans studded with diamonds by Martin Katz. "Ray-Ban said if I wore these they would give $50,000 to my cystic fibrosis charity, so you better believe I wore them," said the singer to People magazine.

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Bjork, 2001


Icelandic singer Bjork raised eyebrows in her swan dress in 2001 (just to be clear the dress wasn't swan-inspired, it was literally the head and neck of a fake'swan draped bizarrely around the singer's neck - plus it laid eggs.) It's inventive we'll give her that, but it's no Lady Gaga meat dress.

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Diane Keaton, 2002

Diane Keaton missed out on a big opportunity at the 2002 Oscars. Did nobody show her a picture of Diana Ross at the 1973 Oscars? We commend her for taking the risk wearing a bowler hat and tails, spats and spectacles, but this is a lesson on how to not do masculine chic.

Sarah Jessica Parker, 2010


Ah, SJP. The seasoned vet arrived at the 2010 red carpet wearing Chanel Couture, Fred Leighton jewellery and Nicholas Kirkwood shoes and nailed it in the process. Elegance and innovation wrapped up into one beautiful look.

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Lady Gaga, 2016

Gaga took us all by surprise in a cream strapless white jumpsuit with a long skirt attachment from stylist-turned-designer Brandon Maxwell's fall line. Pairing it with old Hollywood curls, she looked undeniably elegant. Since her acclaim for her acting abilities, there's no doubt that the singer's style has changed; it's less about shock value and more centred around classic, albeit high fashion. And it suits her.

Photo credit: Getty Images


Ruth Negga, 2017

Unlike the very modern metallic Louis Vuitton gown Irish Academy Award-nominee Ruth Negga wore at a previous awards ceremony, this red Valentino lace dress was more of a fantasy red carpet gown. It provided a hint of much-needed drama to the 2017 red carpet. And I imagine most women who are given the opportunity to wear a custom-made Valentino gown would probably take it.

Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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