1 Taylor Swift in Elie Saab
This dress, which Taylor wore to the Grammys, boasts a collection of details that could easily turn tragic – a miniskirt shrouded by a gown, strange double straps on the bodice – but on Taylor, they coalesce into something stunning (thanks in no small part to the fact that she can work that much dress without getting lost in it). In her album parlance: we had a blank space, baby, and she wrote her name.
2 Laverne Cox in Calvin Klein
Perfection. From top to toe. The colour, the fit, the unexpected peek of yellow in her shoes (you can’t see them here, but they match her nails) … it’s all as inspired and inspiring as she is.
3 Hailee Steinfeld in Andrew Gn
Everything about this is perfect, from her head to her bracelet to an insane pattern combination that shouldn’t work but does. It’s vibrant and confident – and she’s at an Oscar party, too, which tend to be more buttoned-up than their brethren. She is so self-possessed it’s almost otherworldly.
4 Lupita Nyong’o in Gucci
This is light as air and utterly unforgettable. We defy anyone to look at this photo, and not want to put on something floaty and twirl.
5 Teyonah Parris in Francesca Miranda
A quick way to the top of the Best Dressed list, as evidenced by Lupita above as well, is to work a giant gown like it’s your job. This confection is charming on its own, but Mad Men‘s Teyonah is giving it life. Can it be that we’ve finally reached a point where celebrities allow themselves to enjoy the red carpet pageantry? Thank God for that.
6 Zoe Kazan in Miu Miu
She’s our One To Watch. Zoe hit the Emmys red carpet as a first-time nominee, which is usually when starlets fall into one of two traps: basic black or sparkly beige/nude. This red stripe was both refreshing and immaculately styled. We can’t wait to see what she wears next.
7 Julianne Moore in Givenchy
She had all the Best Actress categories sewn up before awards season even began, making early 2015 one very long victory lap. But Julianne’s first stop, the Golden Globes, was arguably her most beautiful. Too often we see custom gowns that let down the wearer either in fit or in style, but this one elevated Julianne, making her into the jewel in its very sparkly, very glamorous crown.
Related: Eddie Redmayne’s Red Carpet Nerves
8 Solange Knowles in Giles
So this is FULLY CRAZY. We realise that. It’s so crazy that actual crazy people are giving it a wide berth. But Solange wore it to the Met Gala, the unofficial theme of which is always Go Big or Go home, so its excess is both appropriate and appreciated. And given that the theme this year was ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’, showing up as a human hand fan – replicating something of which the Met owns a whopping 500 – was on point and considerably less fraught than what some other attendees did. So points for creativity, care and, yes, a well-considered dash of crazy.
9 Fan Bingbing in Christopher Bu
If Solange takes home the award for the Best WTF at the Met Gala, Fan Bingbing may have earned the Very Best Look At The Met, Period, wearing something that, in terms of pure unfiltered majesty, would hold its own on any red carpet anywhere. Heck, this might be the best look of the year. How sad that these gowns rarely see the light of day twice. If we were her, we’d pull this out of the closet and wear it around the house, just to experience it all over again.
10 Janelle Monae in Tadashi Shoji
Apparently we had a cape fetish this year. But it’s totally earned, right?
11 Kim Kardashian in Valentino
It seems that even Kim is super-excited about the new Star Wars, except in a way chicer way than we are. We just bought movie tickets; she went out and procured a cape that nearly puts Princess Leia’s famous whites to shame. It’s the best she’s looked in a long time, and let’s be real: putting herself in a pantheon of Great Hollywood Capes that also includes Gwyneth and Lupita is a smart move on her part.
12 Jaimie Alexander in Armani Prive
The Emmys were held mere days before her now-hit show Blindspot premiered, and there’s no better way to announce that you’re about to be a really big deal than showing up at a major awards show in an even more major dress. Even smarter? Looking totally smashing in it, as if you do this sort of thing every day.
13 Mindy Kaling in Salvador Perez
Add another one to the hall of fame. The beauty of having your own personal designer – Perez does the costumes for The Mindy Project – is that his livelihood genuinely does depend on how you look. And he drapes Mindy with love. This cape gown is the best thing she’s worn in a year studded with highs, and we find it immensely satisfying to imagine her wearing this while dropping a truth bomb on, say, BJ Novak, before swirling out of the room in a divatastic cloud of red fabric and righteousness. In other words, this dress is soap opera at its finest.
14 Caitlyn Jenner in Versace
The ESPYs marked Caitlyn’s first public appearance since her history-making Vanity Fair cover. And while her outfit certainly wasn’t the most important detail about her Arthur Ashe Courage Award – which she deserved in part for just having the guts to go out there in front of an industry that’s historically uber-macho and not particularly nuanced about it – it would be remiss of us not to note that she also looked freaking great when she accepted it.
15 Lily James in Elie Saab
When you’re starring as the title character in Cinderella, people are going to have high expectations for your personal appearances at the premieres. Lily James lived up to them and then some in this transcendent Elie Saab gown. Fairy tale, indeed – and bonus points for wearing custom crystal Louboutins. We love adherence to theme.
16 Naomie Harris in Stella McCartney
Sometimes, perfection comes from simplicity. Naomie Harris looked great almost without exception throughout the press tour for Spectre, but this slinky Stella McCartney – also the best thing Stella has produced in years – was an obvious high point. It’s as flawless as Moneypenny is indispensable. When can she get her own movie?
17 Elizabeth Banks in Elie Saab
Let’s pour some out for the end of the Hunger Games film franchise. Not just because we’re going to miss it but because those premieres always brought out the most dramatic side of star Elizabeth Banks. At these events, Elizabeth always seemed brilliantly inspired by the sartorial memory of Effie Trinket and regularly brought her fearless best. Look, she’s even managing to make a potentially corny crown-like headpiece look covetable. Long may she reign.
18 Uzo Aduba in Randi Rahm
Uzo Aduba made the transition from unknown to unbelievably glam so smoothly that you might think it’s easy. It isn’t. And yet somehow, she can work a day dress as well as an evening gown. This shimmery, chic column was a high point in an all-around smashing year: it’s unusual but not so experimental as to steal the limelight from her, her lipstick is perfect and frankly – this is one of our favourite compliments – we want to wrap all our holiday presents in it.
19 Diane Kruger in Prabal Gurung
Diane just has a way of bringing out the best in her designer pals, and this is the second red-and-black Prabal she’s worn in recent years that has knocked us flat. It’s slinky, it’s bold, it’s flattering, it’s cool and it makes her look soooo tall. It makes us want to break into her closet. Excuse us while we figure out our alibis.
20 Rihanna in Guo Pei
For our money, this was the moment of the year. It is impossible to argue with the impact of this resplendent confection, which took the 45-year-old Chinese couturier two whole years to make. (Had Anna Wintour even picked the Met Gala theme yet when Guo Pei started?) It takes a unique dress to steal the spotlight from Beyoncé at an event where she essentially showed up naked, but this one did. Because it is everything: it is glamour, it is the apex of regal, it is Dynasty, it is the most sumptuous bathrobe. We should immediately deliver it to a time capsule, so that our progeny in 100 years can be misled into thinking everybody wore these all the time. Unforgettable.
This article was originally published in Cosmopolitan.com