1. Most Successfully On-Brand: Ruth Negga in Valentino
If you asked us to predict what Ruth would wear, we’d have called the prim high neck and long sleeves. Less obvious? The striking hue of this demure, bold custom gown, which is stunning on her and makes her ACLU pin stand out that much brighter. (Twitter quickly dubbed that the accessory of the night; we saw it with increasing frequency as the evening progressed.)
2. Best Dress That Defied Description: Naomie Harris in Calvin Klein
The scuttlebutt before Naomie showed up on the red carpet was merely that she was in a sleek, white sequined Calvin Klein. And while technically that is true, said scuttlebutt failed to mention that her dress was cocktail length and also incorporated a cape. We’ll be honest: As surprises go, this one was kinda fun, made spicier by the mixed-up shoes.
3. Boldest Runway to Red Carpet Move: Hailee Steinfeld in Ralph & Russo
There’s no better way to confirm that you’re a Grown-Up Actress than by sporting this very adult Ralph & Russo confection, straight from the Paris runways — and no better get for Ralph & Russo than landing on someone as generationally appealing and talented as Hailee. We’ve been wailing throughout this awards season that this brand should be getting way more play on the red carpet, and we’re glad it did. With one caveat: We wish she’d lined it, because everyone got an eyeful in this thing. No need to be that adult.
4. Best Old Hollywood Style: Taraji P Henson in Alberta Ferretti
This is utterly timeless glamour, from the major jewels to the flawless fit. It all comes together for a look that’s going to be on every single best-dressed list, and with good reason. It’s amazing. We’re still sputtering, frankly. Words can’t capture it.
8. Best Red: Viola Davis in Armani
Honestly, does she ever get it wrong? From head to toe, this is elegant, eye-catching perfection. We’d say she should teach a class, but she plays a professor every week on TV, and that’s ended badly for just about all of her students. Perhaps she could put out an instructional pamphlet instead.
9. Best Ruffles: Brie Larson in Oscar de la Renta
OdlR is another brand that changed creative directors recently, and this is an excellent re-entry into the red-carpet realm. It’s dramatic without veering into corny, and striking without being too showy. In short, Brie looks like the Major Movie Star she is.
10. Most Dramatic: Janelle Monae in Elie Saab Couture
Gosh, why so understated, Janelle? (ZING.) As ever, Janelle did not bypass the chance to dress as big as the telecast’s ratings. The bodice evokes Halle Berry’s groundbreaking 2002 Elie Saa, in which she became the first African-American Best Actress winner, for Monster’s Ball — and maybe that’s not by accident, given that Hidden Figures commemorates trailblazers and has broken records of its own.
11. Shiniest: Jessica Biel in KaufmanFranco
We’ve never, ever said these words before in this order, but: maybe too much gold here? You’re not the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, dude.
12. Biggest Misstep: Dakota Johnson in Gucci
Yikes! While we appreciate the vintage aura of this satin gown, there’s a fine line between “fabulous retro” and “I’m a mega-fan of Ryan Murphy’s Feud.” This is great if you’re throwing a drink in your rival’s face, but harder to pull off on a modern red carpet, and her hair and makeup aren’t helping.
13. Best Curls: Halle Berry
We love Halle’s coif; it’s so refreshing and cool to see her change it up, and on such a high-profile night. If only her Versace were giving us equal life. It’s looks like a perfectly reasonable evening gown got sabotaged by someone who’s trying to invent Charmin for Funeral Homes.
14. Most Fantastic Use of Feathers: Octavia Spencer in Marchesa
It was a delightful surprise to see Octavia go Full Ballgown. Both the cut and the color of this are perfectly princessy, which isn’t a silhouette she usually embraces and is a charming change of pace. Here’s to more feathers on the red carpet that aren’t in the form of a Swan Dress. #NeverForget
15. Best Go Big Or Go Home: Cynthia Erivo in Paolo Sebastian
There’s an art to showing up early on the red carpet, as Cynthia did; you don’t want to miss out on the chance to own the cameras before it gets too crowded, but nor do you want to seem like too much like you’re courting them. She pulled it off with elan. This is beautiful, ornate, sweeping, and significant — and yet totally in keeping with her year in personal style. Best of all, she never gets lost in it. Cynthia, please go to everything, always, forever. Thanks in advance.
16. Best “Sorry, Karl”: Meryl Streep
Whatever did or didn’t happen with Meryl and Chanel, one thing is true: She picked the right dress. The gray gown Karl allegedly was making for her — before he claims she spurned him, and he lit the Internet on fire — would never have beaten this vibrant delight. We guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that Meryl Streep’s creative instincts are correct.