Preparing for the Academy Awards is not a cheap affair, especially if you’re a woman. According to a celebrity stylist, most gowns worn to the Oscars cost between $5,000 and $15,000, which is itself only a small part of preparation costs for the night. Many actresses wear millions of dollars worth of jewelry to the event, often diamond-based and – unsurprisingly – generally on loan. Stylists hired specifically for the purpose of dressing for the Oscars can cost between $1,500 to $6,000 per day.
One factor that blows dress prices through the roof is the value of advertising. In recent years, a thirty second advertising spot broadcast from the Academy Awards costs in the region of $1.7 million, meaning that a specific designer’s dress on the right actress could be worth millions of dollars in terms of advertising.
With these factors in mind, this article lists fifteen of the most expensive dresses ever worn to the Academy Awards. While for many dresses price are kept tightly under wraps — Lupita Nyong’o’s Prada periwinkle dress worn to this year’s Oscars, for example — others made headlines with their impressive costs, and more often than not their beautiful appearance.
15. Grace Kelly, 1955 — $4,000
Kicking off the list with some vintage fashion is the dress that was worn by Grace Kelly to the twenty-seventh Academy Awards in 1955. The dress, designed by Edith Head, was made of a pale green-blue silk, and was the gown in which Kelly collected her Oscar for Best Actress in movie The Country Girl. One of the most universally popular awards show dresses of all time, Head’s creation cost four thousand dollars to make in the 50s, making it reasonably priced for an Academy Awards dress by today’s standards but warranting a mention on this list for its being the most expensive Oscars gown ever made at the time.
14. Angelina Jolie, 2012 — $10,000+
Angelina Jolie made headlines after her appearance at the 2012 Academy Awards, at which she wore a daring angular black velvet gown with an impressive thigh-high split on the right side.
The gown was custom-made for Jolie by Atelier Versace, whose ‘ordinary’ dresses generally cost upwards of ten thousand dollars, so we can only imagine how much this gown will have cost. Dubbed one of the most expensive ‘little black dresses’ ever made, Jolie’s Versace creation had an asymmetrical neckline and an A-line skirt, and was strapless. As the dress was custom-made it perfectly accentuated Jolie’s physique, and positioned the thigh split in just such a way as to be classy as opposed to trashy.
13. Keira Knightley, 2006 — $39,094
Keira Knightley wore a bespoke Vera Wang showstopper for her appearance at the 2006 Academy Awards, which reportedly cost the equivalent of just over thirty-nine thousand dollars to make. The plum-coloured taffeta dress was beautifully set off by Knightley’s silver clutch and steely and smoky eye-makeup, and took the shape of a classic full fishtail gown with one artfully twisted shoulder strap. In an interesting move, Knightly later put the dress up for sale on Ebay, where it raised several thousand pounds which went to the charity Oxfam.
12. Sandra Bullock, 2014 — $40,000
The 2014 Academy Awards was a brilliant year for actresses in high end, high expense fashion. Among those was Sandra Bullock, who wore a midnight-blue Alexander McQueen gown which cost a staggering forty thousand dollars. Bullock, who was up for an Oscar for the movie Gravity, styled the dress with simple and classy earrings and cuff, navy blue nail polish and side-swept hair, in order to allow the draped dress with sweetheart neckline do the talking. It evidently paid off — she was named by many media outlets as the best dressed of the 2014 Academy Awards.
11. Cameron Diaz, 2010 — $62,500+
The 2010 Academy Awards saw Cameron Diaz dazzle in a heavily embellished Oscar de la Renta creation. While the exact price of his custom-made Oscars dresses remain unknown, de la Renta’s ‘off the rack’ dresses begin at the equivalent of almost nineteen thousand dollars, and his celebrity awards show dresses accordingly generally cost in excess of sixty-two and a half thousand dollars.
Diaz’s champagne-coloured gown was adorned with gold paillette embroidery, and was from the Oscar de la Renta Fall Collection 2010. The dress shone both literally and figuratively on its own, so Diaz went with minimal jewellry, sideswept hair and red lips to complete her outfit.
10. Anne Hathaway, 2011 — $80,000
At the 2011 Academy Awards, Anne Hathaway embodied the glamour of the Oscars in a lavish red gown worth a reported eighty thousand dollars. She hosted the Academy Awards in the pillar-box red gown by Valentino, made of silk faille.
Her choice of jewellry added significantly to the expense of her overall outfit, with her Tiffany & Co. ‘Lucinda’ necklace costing a staggering ten million dollars. Although she arrived at the Awards in the Valentino, Hathaway made no less than eight costume changes over the course of the night, which must have sent her clothing bill astronomically high.
9. Cate Blanchett, 2014 — $100,000
Cate Blanchett‘s ensemble for the 2014 Academy Awards saw her billed as having the most expensive Oscars outfit ever worn. Her entire outfit, including dress, shoes and jewelery, came to a staggering $18.1 million. While this incredible expense is mainly down to Blanchett’s showstopping jewellry, her dress alone — an Armani Privé creation — cost one hundred thousand dollars. The nude gown was sleeveless and featured hundreds of Swarovski crystals.
8. Charlize Theron, 2013 — $100,000
While Charlize Theron‘s jewellry at the 2014 Academy Awards brought the price of her outfit up considerably — her Harry Winston diamond cuffs added around four million dollars to the cost of the ensemble — her simple and unfussy white gown didn’t come cheap either, costing around one hundred thousand dollars to produce. The dress was Dior Couture and was custom-made, with clean, angular lines and all over crystal embellishment. This year’s Academy Awards ceremony marked the second year in a row Theron has stunned at the Oscars in Dior, contrasting her snow white 2013 gown with a structurally similar black Dior dress at this year’s Awards.
7. Jessica Biel, 2014 — $100,000
Another dress coming in at around the one hundred thousand dollar mark is the Chanel creation worn by Jessica Biel to this year’s Academy Awards. While the dress received mixed reviews from the media, with some enchanted by its simplicity and some deeming it boring, the dress was undoubtedly sleek and chic enough for an appearance on the red carpet.
The material was a shimmery, soft blush in hue, and almost gave the impression of liquidity in the way its train pooled at the bottom. Enhanced by simple Tiffany & Co. necklace, bracelets and earrings, the sleeveless dress fell column-like on Biel and looked just as stunning from behind as from the front, thanks to the addition of a row of buttons on the back.
6. Kate Winslet, 2007 — $100,000
Kate Winslet went for an unusual colour choice at the 2007 Academy Awards, wearing a mint-green Valentino creation worth around a hundred thousand dollars. Her gamble paid off, however, and she was voted best dressed at the 2007 Oscars by numerous magazines and websites.
The dress had a draped bodice which fell into an over-the-shoulder train, and was figure-hugging to the knees, with a subtle flare at the bottom. While her unusual clutch bag was a point of contention, her chic up-do and almost regal appearance in the dress more than made up for it.
5. Audrey Hepburn, 1954 — auctioned for $131,292
Some more vintage fashion comes in the form of Audrey Hepburn‘s dress worn to the Academy Awards in 1954. Hepburn won an Oscar for her role in the movie Roman Holiday that year, appropriately while wearing a customized version of her final dress worn in the film. The original cost of the dress is unknown, but it auctioned in 2011 for just over a hundred and thirty-one thousand dollars.
The ivory lace gown was designed by Edith Head, who was Hepburn’s primary designer before Givenchy, and was altered for the Academy Awards by cutting the bodice of the dress straight across at the front, and including a plunging back and thin spaghetti straps.
4. Elizabeth Taylor, 1970 — auctioned for $167,500
The periwinkle and violet chiffon dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor to the 1970 Academy Awards takes its place amongst the most iconic dresses worn to the Oscars. The dress was another designed by Edith Head, who had the pleasure of designing for some of the most famous actresses ever. While it’s again unclear exactly how much the dress cost to make, it’s certainly worth a substantial amount now, having been auctioned off in 1999 for close to one hundred and seventy thousand dollars.
One of Taylor’s most notable trademarks were her arresting violet-coloured eyes, which Head had in mind with her design of this dress. The matching of the dress to the eyes was accentuated further with violet eyeshadow, and Taylor completed the outfit with a sixty-nine carat diamond necklace which was a present from her husband, Richard Burton.
3. Cate Blanchett, 2007 — $200,000
Cate Blanchett is evidently no stranger to a stellar red carpet look, resulting in her second mention on this list. Her appearance at the seventy-ninth Academy Awards saw her dress choice draw attention for its incredible price as well as its unique aesthetic.
At the 2007 Oscars, Blanchett wore an Armani Privé dress which cost two hundred thousand dollars. The dress was a one shouldered, teal/silver mesh gown covered with Swarovski crystals, and also had a black clustered spangle floral motif and a tulle overlay.
2. Nicole Kidman, 1997 — $2 million
A bit of a strange way to categorize the value of a dress, but a valid one nonetheless, is to see how much money brands are willing to put into their being seen at one of the biggest celebrity events in the world. Nicole Kidman wore Christian Dior Haute Couture to the 1997 Academy Awards, and was apparently paid two million dollars to do so, putting the price of the gown astronomically high when the amount it would have taken to make, certainly in the hundreds of thousands, is taken into account.
The Couture shift dress was striking, in a gold-green with intricate embroidery, a high neck and a slit at the right side. It has since become one of the most iconic Oscars dresses of all time.
1. Jennifer Lawrence, 2013 —$4 million
Another curve ball in terms of cost is the Dior Couture gown worn by Jennifer Lawrence at the 2013 Academy Awards. The blush-pink ballgown was on lend to the actress for being the face of Miss Dior, in order to nail exposure for the brand.
One of the most infamous Oscar moments in history was when Lawrence tripped on the stairs on her way to collect her Oscar for Best Actress in the movie Silver Linings Playbook, which drew the attention of the world over.
Fortunately for Dior, this mishap gave the brand extra airtime and resulted in enormous publicity which would have cost over four million dollars to achieve otherwise, making the value of the already undoubtedly expensive gown skyrocket. Lawrence’s dress was strapless, made of luxuriously thick fabric and complete with a train.