Best-Dressed of the BAFTAs: A Retrospective

Since the first award ceremony in 1949, the British Academy Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs for short) have accrued prestige and column inches year on year. An inevitable consequence of this increased media attention has been that the outfits of ceremony attendees have risen in caliber to satisfy the hungry cameras of the press photographers that stalk the red carpet. Not that this is a bad thing: the BAFTAs, and its sister awards ceremonies, the Oscars and the Golden Globes, are a chance to see some fabulous, totally one-of-a-kind outfits, often fresh from January’s captivating couture catwalks.

Award ceremonies of this ilk are now major fashion events as much as they are major film events, and winning on the red carpet is an achievement equal to, if not greater than, receiving the recognition of a golden statuette. After all, any old […] can play a leading role in an internationally acclaimed motion picture, but it takes a special kind of woman to rock a backless Oscar de la Renta gown in 6-inch stilettos with the eyes of the world upon her. To all those glamorous goddesses past who have donned a tiara and spent the evening swigging the Academy’s complimentary champagne to forget the pain at the back of their heels so that we could marvel at their stunning outfits: we salute you!

To pay tribute to some of these actresses-cum-fashion-queens, we’ve picked out a selection of the best-dressed women in BAFTA history. Though they may not have won awards in each case, or even have been nominated, they have all earned something far more valuable: our undying admiration. Award ceremonies come and go each year, and their credibility often wanes (see #OscarsSoWhite in 2016), but the looks sported by these women will never fade. Alongside breathtakingly unique luxury dresses that would look great on bold fashionistas like Harper, we’ve also picked out some understated glam looks that would appeal to minimalist dressers like Blake.

Harper’s Picks

Maggie Gyllenhaal 2014 Lanvin (E News)
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Lanvin – 2014 – E News

Maggie Gyllenhaal wowed showgoers and photographers alike in 2014 with the multi-layered magnificence of this full-length navy gown by Lanvin. From the expertly draped tulle covering on the ruffled skirt, to the precision embroidery on the torso, to the fine needlework on the sheer sleeves, everything about this gown bespeaks the care and craftsmanship that went into it.

Cate Blanchett 2016
Cate Blanchett in Alexander McQueen – 2016 – Vogue

Wearing a similarly stunning embellished gown, Cate Blanchett rocked the red carpet in Alexander McQueen for the 2016 ceremony. We think the asymmetric hemlines and the feather and fur combination on the skirt is a delightfully glamorous touch.

Kate Middleton 2011 McQueen (Evening Standard)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, then Kate Middleton, in Alexander McQueen – 2011 – Evening Standard

Her royal highness turned heads at one of her first public appearances after getting engaged to Prince William, wearing a custom Alexander McQueen gown. The design house also designed her wedding dress later in the year.

Dame Helen Mirren 2013 (telegraph)
Dame Helen Mirren in Nicholas Oakwell – 2013 – Telegraph

Dame Helen has been decorated with the title of dame, as well as almost every acting award going. More importantly, she was also literally decorated with this stunning Nicholas Oakwell gown for the 2013 Oscars, proving you don’t need to be young to be fabulous. The full-length lavender look was perhaps inspired by that other titled ceremony attendee, the Duchess of Cambridge (see above). This unlikely fashion rebel also died her hair pink for the occasion, after being inspired by an encounter with Little Mix on the Graham Norton Show.

Lupita Nyongo 2014 Christian Dior (telegraph)
Lupita Nyong’o in Christian Dior – 2014 – Telegraph

Lupita Nyong’o may not have won the supporting actress BAFTA she richly deserved for her role in 12 Years a Slave, but she certainly won universal approbation for her full-length Christian Dior gown. Instead of wearing the usual black, red, or soft pastel shades, Lupita wore this off-the-shoulder number in an admirably bold green.

Tilda Swinton 2005 (Telegraph)
Tilda Swinton in Christian Dior – 2008 – Telegraph

We don’t know if we love Tilda Swinton more for her superb acting abilities or her avant-garde fashion choices. This golden Christian Dior dress makes us incline towards the latter. When asked how she decided what to wear to the 2008 BAFTAs (where she won Best Supporting Actress), she told reporters “I put this on and simply couldn’t take it off.”


Saoirse Ronan 2016 Burberry (Vogue)
Saoirse Ronan in Burberry – 2016 – Vogue

Saoirse Ronan, who has been described as the ‘new Meryl Streep’ for her recent performance in the film Lady Bird, showed she knew how to walk the red carpet with gravitas in an embroidered floral Burberry dress, which she wore with a colourful jewel neck piece.

Blake’s Picks

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie in St. Laurent – 2014 – Vogue

2014 was a stellar year for jaw-dropping, floor-sweeping gowns, but Angelina Jolie proved that timelessly chic monochrome minimalism can compete with couture, sporting a Le Smoking style St. Laurent tuxedo.

Laura Bailey 2015 Emilia Wickstead (Vogue)
Laura Bailey in Emilia Wickstead – 2015 – Vogue

Laura Bailey gave a masterclass in minimalist evening wear, styling this full-length, short-sleeved Emilia Wickstead dress with just a pair of earrings. The crisp whiteness of the gown brings out its unique texture.

Michelle Williams 2012 H&M (telegraph)
Michelle Williams in H&M – 2012 – Telegraph

Michelle Williams used sartorial simplicity to make a statement at the 2012 Awards. What made this statement even more impressive, however, was that all the clothes were from H&M, proving true glamour is less about what you wear, and more about how you wear it.

Naomi Campbell 2000 (Telegraph)
Naomi Campbell – 2000 – Telegraph

The effervescent supermodel Naomi Campbell proved once again the power of the humble LBD in a sleek dress with a crossed-over neckline, which she used to set off her silver jewelry.

Nicole Kidman 2003 Emanuel Ungaro strapless pale pink satin gown (Glamour)
Nicole Kidman in Emanuel Ungaro – 2003 – Glamour

The perfectly figure-hugging, pale pink strapless satin dress by Emanuel Ungaro that Nicole Kidman wore to the 2003 BAFTAs was an instant classic and the perfect outfit in which to receive her Best Supporting Actress BAFTA for her role as Virginia Woolf in the multi-award-winning film, The Hours.

Special Mention…


Audrey Hepburn 1955 (InStyle)
Audrey Hepburn – 1955 – InStyle

Audrey Hepburn, doubtlessly one of the most iconic women of all time, took the BAFTAs by storm in this timeless white dress, wearing her trademark opera gloves. No one knew better than this acclaimed actress how to marry luxurious glamour with elegant simplicity. Let her example be a shining light for future BAFTA ceremony-goers.


Article Written By: Desmond Huthwaite


Featured Image: Nicole Kidman – BAFTAS 2017 – The Fix 


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