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The Top 10 Best-Dressed Stars At The 2016 Oscars

Last night’s Oscars awards ceremony was marked by a great deal of sociopolitical discourse, primarily in response to widespread criticism regarding the Academy’s failure to acknowledge great performances by actors of color (as summarized by the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign) and, moreover, the overarching issue of institutionalized racism within the film industry. And while the discourse throughout the ceremony oftentimes took on a  serious tone (despite being wrapped in humor), those tuning into the Oscars to enjoy the glamour, the fantasy, the glitz — and yes, the dresses! — certainly got their fair share of escapist magic. Below, you’ll find a list of my favorite looks of the evening. The first five looks are, without a doubt, my favorites whereas the latter five looks fall into the “lovely but not surreal” realm. Here are the looks that dazzled on the red carpet at the 2016 Oscars!

BRIE LARSON

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The reigning queen of the evening, Best Actress winner Brie Larson, must have visualized her victory when choosing the royal blue color of her Gucci gown. The Room star looked glorious in the sleeveless gown, which featured a fitted bodice with a  modest “V” neckline and a floor-sweeping skirt with S-shaped ruffled strips, each featuring micro pleats to create more texture and movement. The jeweled belt, meanwhile, added the perfect amount of glitz to the gown, as did the  barrette in her hair.

OLIVIA WILDE

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The star of HBO’s Vinyl looked heavenly in a pleated ivory Valentino gown that featured a plunging neckline that, somehow, managed to reveal some serious side boob in a tasteful fashion. The Victorian feel of Wilde’s choker necklace and the edgy but elegant vibe of her pearl-and-diamond stud earrings, meanwhile, made the look feel contemporary while maintaining the sweeping romance intrinsic to the gown.

NAOMI WATTS

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Simple sequined dresses in solid colors (silver, gold, navy blue, or emerald green) usually play well on the red carpet — think Anne Hathaway at the 2009 Oscars or Amy Adams at the 2011 Oscars — but they tend to feel predictable and, hence, boring. This year, for instance, Saiorsie Ronan wore a custom sequined Calvin Klein gown in an emerald green hue and, while she looked pretty, she didn’t make it onto this Top 10 list precisely because there was nothing exciting or novel about the gown. It was just a pretty, shiny dress. In contrast, Naomi Watts rocked a sequined gown that did more than sparkle thanks to the ombré color scheme along the strapless bodice and the zigzagging  horizontal stripes along the column skirt. The dress, combined with the statement necklace and that bold lip, made quite the statement and felt like a really clever and unexpected spin on the sequined gown.

CHARLIZE THERON

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Yes, Charlize is a goddess and, yes, she’d probably look great in a burlap bag, but the South African star never just mails it in. She always puts in the effort to wow on the red carpet, and she certainly pulled off the feat this year in a minimalist red Dior gown with a deep V-neckline and a graceful train. The bright color of this dress, along with the impeccable fit, didn’t call for a ton of accessories, so Charlize played it perfectly by relying primarily on a navel-grazing diamond necklace that emphasized that risqué neckline.

CATE BLANCHETT

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This was one of the most divisive dresses of the evening — some, like myself, swooned over the dreamy seafoam color and the floral appliqués on Cate Blanchett’s Armani Privé gown, while others absolutely loathed the look. I marveled at the way the flowers accentuated Blanchett’s shoulders and her neckline, making her look like she’d risen from a bed of flowers, at how they then began to diminish in number so that they appeared scattered as ones gaze moved down the length of the skirt. Close-up shots of the dress just magnified my enchantment as the floral appliqués were so beautifully dip-dyed and the petals so precisely layered that they really added dimension and texture to the gown. This dress came alive, and the dewiness of the color just intensified the effect.

PRIYANKA CHOPRA

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The Quantico star took a page from Jennifer Lopez’s playbook in this white semi-sheer Zuhair Murad gown (even the pattern resembled that of Jennifer Lopez’s 2013 Golden Globes gown!) but, hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Chopra stunned in the strapless gown, flaunting her cleavage with the sweetheart necklace and showing off her hourglass figure with the belted waist and hip-hugging fabric. If you’re going to follow in JLo’s footsteps, you’d better do it right — and Chopra did.

JENNIFER GARNER

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Eat your heart out, Ben Affleck! Jennifer Garner was the picture of elegance last night in a one-shoulder Atelier Versace gown and Rene Caovilla platform sandals. While black gowns can sometimes feel too safe, Garner’s dress featured all the right embellishments to make it stand out — from the single off-the-shoulder sleeve to the fabric with which the sleeve was made, which features delicate pin tucks and a silky sheen and which was beautifully draped to trace the bustline, then work its way down the bodice, culminating in a ruffled detail along the side of the skirt. The beadwork on the other side of the bodice, meanwhile, worked to balance the design and to provide yet another interesting texture.

LADY GAGA

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After hitting a home run at the Golden Globes, when she channeled Marilyn Monroe in a simple black dress, Lady Gaga once again wowed on the red carpet — this time in a strapless Brandon Maxwell jumpsuit with a pleated half skirt. The sculptural folds that accentuate the neckline make the design have an almost architectural feel, as do the precise and angled pleats that accentuate the half skirt’s opening at the waistline. Part of what makes this ensemble stand out is how it combines masculine and feminine elements (the strapless cut and the flowing skirt versus the pants), and also plays with notions of strength and softness. Given the powerful message Gaga delivered during her performance, the ensemble almost seemed to work as a prelude to that moment, making it all the more worthy of a nod.

RACHEL MCADAMS

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At first glance, this August Getty Atelier halter gown did absolutely nothing for me. Yes, I loved the the hunter green color and the audacious side slit, but it didn’t necessarily feel magical — that is, until Rachel McAdams turned around and I saw the gown from behind. Accentuating every curve of McAdams’ back, down to her tailbone, the backless design was so sultry that it instantly catapulted the dress to another echelon. The pleats along the train also added a nice touch to an otherwise minimalist design.

ALICIA VIKANDER

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I have a love-hate relationship with this gown, so it barely made the cut on this particular Top 10 list. Twitter users instantly compared Alicia Vikander to Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a likeness meant as a compliment, but which I found perplexing. I mean, do you really want to look like a cartoon princess? My reservations stem primarily from the bubble skirt — yes, the high-low cut makes it a bit more passable, but I simply detest those ballooning hemlines. On the other hand, the pale yellow color of this strapless Louis Vuitton gown captured a joy and an innocence that seemed to match Vikander’s enchanting personality.  On anyone else, this dress would have been an epic fail, but Vikander somehow made it feel darling.

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