Ever since the inimitable Audrey Hepburn posed with her best actress Oscar (for 1953's "Roman Holiday") in an Edith Head dress tweaked to look like it was designed by Hubert de Givenchy (referred to as "Givenchy-fied"), designer frocks and the Academy Awards have belonged to together.
Here are our picks for the most memorable Oscar looks for the past decade: Halle Berry, 2002: Elie Saab's wine-colored gown featured a sheer bodice with strategically placed embroidered flowers and a satin train; Berry won best actress that year for "Monster's Ball" and raves for the gown, which showed her flawless figure and face to maximum advantage. Cate Blanchette, 2005: Valentino buttercup yellow asymmetric
dress with a burgundy belt. She was nominated for "The Aviator" and did not win. But her dress was seminal, in that it was the first time legendary designer Valentino Garavani designed a dress for a specific actress. Blanchette is one of the few actresses who never make a red carpet mistake -- hard to do with friends like Valentino. Hilary Swank, 2005: Swank won the best actress Oscar that night for "Million Dollar Baby" and the best dress award as well. The navy Guy Laroche dress is iconic for three things: It was long sleeved when most actresses wore sleeveless and strapless; it was navy silk jersey in a sea of black and sparkly bold color and it had no back, proving once and for all that your mom was right when she told you to stand up straight. Michelle Williams, 2006: Nominated for her role in "Brokeback Mountain," Williams had her breakout red carpet moment in a yellow Vera Wang. It was youthful and light as a feather, yet beautifully structured at the bodice with a flanged train, and most people say it was the bold, sunny color contrasted with her bright red lips and adorable side chignon that made this one work. But look at the whole thing; the fit of the dress, the lovely framing of the collar around the deep V neckline, the ruby lips, delicate tendrils of hair and that amazing color -- take away one of those things and it's just another pretty dress on a pretty actress. Nicole Kidman, 2007: Kidman made a splash in a red Balenciaga gown with the giant bow at the neck. Lots of people didn't love the dress, but it was a standout red carpet moment for the color, fit and the way she was styled around that bow: simple hair and glowing makeup. Five years later, another redhead, actress Emma Stone, wore a look-alike Giambattista Valli bow-necked dress, proving the skeptics wrong: This dress was no flash in the pan; it has staying power. Penelope Cruz, 2007: Nominated as best actress for "Volver," the lovely Cruz wore a blush Versace confection with a satin bustier bodice and full feathered skirt. The gown, fitted perfectly over her torso, was equal parts sexy and innocent and has been imitated over and over again. The color kicked off five years of blush or pale-colored gowns floating down the red carpet. Marion Cotillard, 2008: The actress won that year for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose." It was the world's first real look at Cotillard's red carpet style, and she treated us to the ultimate "mermaid" gown by wearing a white and silver Jean Paul Gaultier halter gown covered in glittering scales. Flawless, game-changing; Cotillard's choice set the tone for what would be one stunning and fashion-forward red carpet look after another. Tilda Swinton, 2008: This dress is not well-loved, but the look is iconic and all Tilda. The black washed silk Lanvin is a Frankenstein of a frock: all baggy and long-sleeved on one side and straight up and down sleeveless on the other side. But Tilda (somehow referring to her as "Swinton" seems too formal) wore it proudly with her red pompadour as she collected her best supporting actress Oscar for "Michael Clayton." Tilda will be forever remembered for the "Hefty bag" dress and for one unanswered question torturing fashionistas the world over: Why didn't she at least wear the cuff on the sleeveless arm? Gwyneth Paltrow, 2012: A transformational red carpet moment for its simplicity and drama. The modern white-on-white Tom Ford ensemble (she wore a gown, a matching cape and sheath ... it was a whole outfit!) was accented by two glittering, intricate, giant diamond and platinum cuffs and cocktail ring and simple hair -- perfection. Jennifer Lopez, 2012: This look personifies La Lopez. Delicate as it is, this white Zuhair Murad sheer spider web of a dress incorporates everything the diva requires in a dress -- deep V front and back, curve hugging and sparkly -- to maintain her status as the woman who brought old Hollywood glamour back.
Halle Berry, 2002: Elie Saab's wine colored gown featured a sheer bodice with strategically placed embroidered flowers and a satin train.
(Daniel A. Anderson/Orange County Register/MCT)