I've already offered my opinion regarding the best dressed celebrity of the last ten years: Ms. Diane Kruger. This list features my favorite red carpet dresses (and one film costume) of 2000-2009. You'll notice that a few of the classics have been left off the list. For example: Renee Zellweger's lemony vintage dress from the 2002 Oscars, Julia Roberts' iconic vintage Valentino that she wore while accepting her Academy Award, and the blush Versace confection that Penelope Cruz wore to the Academy Awards in 2007. These are all gorgeous gowns, but this list is more geared toward my personal favorites. When I close my eyes and try to remember my favorite dresses from the past decade, these are the looks that spring into my mind.
Michelle Williams in Vera Wang at the 2006 Academy Awards: Although the dresses featured on this list are technically in no particular order, I had to lead with this gown. The color, the details, the accessories, the cherry bomb lipstick, it all works so well together. The combination appeals to those with vintage sensibilities, but it still feels completely modern.
Kirsten Dunst in Rochas at the 2006 Cannes premiere of Marie Antoinette: This dress was panned for being dowdy and matronly, but to those people I say, "It's Rochas! ROCHAS!" I loved what Olivier Theyskens did at Rochas, and this gown was the perfect swan song for the end of his tenure. It's so elegant and beautifully made. Plus, Jason Schwarzman is a fantastic accessory.
Nicole Kidman in Christian Dior at the 2000 Academy Awards: I can hardly believe that this photograph was taken within the last ten years, but there she is, Ms. Nicole Kidman on the arm of Mr. Tom Cruise. I'd already become a bit of a fan of Nicole Kidman in her own right due to the Gus Van Sant-directed To Die For and that badass chartreuse John Galliano gown that she wore to the Oscars in 1996, but it was this Galliano-designed gown that made me fall in love with her. The Grecian hairstyle is stunning, as are the gold mesh fingerless gloves. I'm a little iffy on the shoes, but I'll let them slide because GOLD MESH FINGERLESS GLOVES!
Jennifer Connelly in Balmain at the 2009 Los Angeles premiere of He's Just Not That Into You: And so Balmainia began and a tiny machine hatched a nefarious scheme to steal Jennifer Connelly's legs.Keira Knightley in Valentino at the 2008 BAFTA Awards: Despite the tiered skirt and the thousands of sequins, there is still a sort of understated simplicity to this gown that I adore. Though Valentino Garavani is not my favorite designer, he is certainly a visionary that understands romance, perhaps better than any other designer in the past ten years.
Jennifer Lopez in Chanel at the 2001 Academy Awards: Nipple jokes aside, I love this entire look. The minimal hair and makeup are the perfect compliment to this elegant gown. I prefer my Jennifer Lopez in couture (as opposed to corduroy) and I'm always excited when she shows up to events in labels like Marchesa, Versace, and of course, Chanel.
Reese Witherspoon in Chanel at the 2006 Golden Globes: God, I want to wear this dress out for New Year's Eve tonight, but with very different shoes.
Kirsten Dunst in Chanel at the 2005 Academy Awards: Ms. Kiki D gets a lot of criticism for her red carpet choices (a couple other Chanel Couture pieces come to mind, though personally I loved most of them), but even when I don't agree with her taste, I love that she makes such a point to regularly wear and promote couture. This Chanel number is both sexy and conservative, one of my favorite sartorial combinations.Sarah Jessica Parker in Christian Dior at the 2009 Academy Awards: I know that Sarah Jessica's heaving bosom was a bit distracting, but this gown is such a true masterpiece. The design and construction are beautiful, but what really gets me is the belt. I LOVE that John Galliano added the belt. It takes this dress from potentially just another ballgown to some far more sophisticated and chic.
Portia de Rossi in Zac Posen at the 2007 Academy Awards: I know that some critics found the fringe on this Zac Posen gown to be rather garish, but I don't find them to be at odds with the rest of this elegant dress at all. I think it's a great interesting detail to what would have been an otherwise (beautiful) plain backless gown. And the navy really works on Portia de Rossi. I mean, she looks great in anything, but in this dress she positively glows.
I had to include a photo of the back of this gown.
Ashley Olsen in The Row at the 2009 Costume Institute Gala: This dress may be extraordinarily simple, but whenever I think about my favorite dresses from the last few years, this is always the first gown that comes to mind. The dress is smartly-designed and the entire look is beautifully executed.
Sienna Miller in Matthew Williamson at the 2004 Venice Film Festival: I'm sure a lot of people disagree with me on this choice, but I LOVED this Matthew Williamson collection and was so happy when Sienna Miller wore this gown to such a high profile event. The details are so interesting, and the juxtaposition of the romantic pastel chiffon and the harsh strips of black feels so fresh and clever (even five years later) . I'm not usually a fan of a lot of Miller's red carpet looks, but in this case, everything works for me. The messy hair, the over-application of bronzer, the sweet little purse, it all makes me wish she were wearing this in Nice or Monaco as opposed to Venice.
January Jones in Versace at the 2009 Emmy Awards: January Jones has begun to emerge as a fashion icon over the past two years, and for me it was this gown that sealed the deal. This dress somehow manages to balance hard-edged design with...prettiness? Is that the word I want?
Keira Knightley's green gown in Atonement: Okay, this dress is from a film, but it simply must be mentioned. In only a couple of years, it has become one of the most iconic looks in cinema. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran made beautiful choices with the fabric, the color and the cut, creating a dress that's feminine, sensual, but unmistakably strong.
Zoe Saldana in RM by Roland Mouret at the London premiere of Avatar in 2009: This is quite a recent addition to this list considering it was worn less than a month ago, but this otherworldly Roland Mouret stunner was a perfect choice for both the actress and the occasion. Saldana definitely has the look and the attitude to pull off such an architectural gown. I actually think that this look should automatically make her the face of Thierry Mugler's Alien, one of the most avant garde and unearthly fragrances ever made. Who knew our little Eva from Center Stage would come so far?
Ellen Pompeo in Versace at the 2008 Golden Globes: Like Ashley Olsen's The Row dress from the Costume Institute Gala, this simple white gown stood out on the red carpet with the help of just a few extra details. The draping in the back and the silver accents on the sides make Ellen Pompeo look like some sort of alien superhero. The look is still minimalist, but with a decidedly avant garde edge.
Kate Hudson in Balmain at the SAG Awards 2008: Okay, it pains me to include this gown on this list, because I am not a fan of how Kate Hudson wore her hair and I am also not a fan of Kate Hudson in general. I'm trying to think of one of her movies other than Almost Famous that I can sit through.....The Skeleton Key? That was kind of creepy and Peter Sarsgaard was in it....yep, that's all I've got. But I digress. Insipid romantic comedies and lackluster hair aside, I adore this strapless Balmain gown. I've often heard it described as "hippie chic" and "bohemian," terms that make me shudder when it comes to fashion. But I always thought of this dress as a little more rock and roll than hippie. I would love to wear this out with a fitted leather jacket and my Frye black motorcycle boots.
Michelle Obama in Jason Wu at the 2009 Inaugural Ball: After all the messages of change, it was appropriate that the United States' new First Lady attended the ball wearing a dress by young designer Jason Wu, as opposed to a more established conservative designer (ahem, Oscar de la Renta, who I'm fairly certain is still bitter about that).Reese Witherspoon in Nina Ricci at the 2007 Golden Globes: I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but Reese Witherspoon is featured three times on this list. I have nothing against her and often like what she chooses for events, but I certainly wouldn't have pegged her as such a favorite of mine. Yet here she is, looking fantastic again in canary yellow with kicky red lips and heels.
Thandie Newton in Biba at the Serpentine Summer Party in 2007: This dress may not be as iconic as some of the other gowns on this list, but when I first saw this photograph it took my breath away. Thandie Newton is a phenomenally gorgeous women to begin with, but this Biba gown managed to transform her into an even more regal beauty. Forget the Disney Bridal Collection. In my mind, this is what a fantasy princess bride would wear.
Emma Watson in vintage Ossie Clark at the 2009 London premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Emma Watson has really come into her own over the past few years and it was this dress that convinced me that she actually has a very innate sense of style. She's been rocking some great Chanel frocks at Harry Potter premieres over the years, but it was really this vintage Ossie Clark that proved that her style was more than just recreating sweet looks from the Chanel runway.
Natalie Portman in Lanvin at the 2005 Academy Awards: A friend and I recently had a discussion about how whether or not you love Lanvin (full disclosure: we both decidedly do), you have to admit that few people love clothing more than designer Alber Elbaz. I can just imagine him sketching this dress and experimenting with the fabric. Natalie Portman looks amazing here. Now if only we can convince her to remove her name from that pesky Roman Polanski petition.
Keira Knightley in Valentino at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards: Although Keira Knightley is a gorgeous young woman who's worn many a beautiful gown, I don't usually consider her one of my fashion favorites. Her red carpet choices often feel a little bit forced and/or over-styled to me. This, however, is such a stunning simple gown, and it's such a natural choice for her. A great example of not over-thinking and just letting the gown do all the heavy lifting.
Jennifer Connelly in Balenciaga at the 2007 Los Angeles premiere of Reservation Road: I was a huge fan of this Balenciaga collection. The dresses, the boots, the campaign (starring Connelly, of course), I was enamored with all of it. So I loved seeing Ms. Connelly rock the dress AND the shoes at this event, with a sleek, almost stark chignon to boot. I don't know what she did in a previous life to earn those legs (and all of her DNA, really). Girl must have been a saint.
Diane Kruger in Marchesa at the 2009 Inglourious Basterds premiere at Cannes: This is one of my favorite dresses from the past year, but it's not a stretch to say that in a few years, it'll still be one of the gowns from 2000-2009 that I remember most.