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A peek under Oscar’s skirt

The red carpet event at the Oscars, Hollywood's preeminent see-and-be-seen affair, is as much about celebrity pageantry as it is a chance for stylists to make their mark. Each year, designers prepare by studying successful looks from seasons past, searching for a gown that will inspire other designers for years to come.

Though similarities between classic looks are often coincidential, the references can be strategic, too. Jeffrey Monteiro, a fashion expert and former design director at such houses as Derek Lam and Bill Blass, explains that celebrity stylists and handlers borrow from one another "to place themselves [and actresses] in the Hollywood hierarchy," choosing particular dresses to announce a transformation in a star's career, or even to set the tone for an era of fashion.

Monteiro has hand-picked some of the most iconic dresses in Oscar history  — e.g.,  Grace Kelly's classic green gown, Lauren Hutton's 1975 Halston — and the frocks they would inspire years later. But a gown doesn't make the complete look: Though the differences between these styles may be subtle, one celebrity truly owns the look.

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