The 25 Best Red Carpet Gowns of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, let us reflect on the most standout looks to grace the red carpet. With so many peplum details, dramatic trains, higher-than-thou thigh splits, lower-than-low back cutouts, embellished bodices, and minimalist silhouettes to sift through, picking only 25 gowns seemed like a cruel task.

Alas, there are winners (Jennifer Lawrence was a shoe-in, no surprise there), and there are losers (please, Miley, please, use your style status for good!). But in this roundup, we're only focusing on the really, really awesome looks that 2013 would not be the same without.

by Marisa Tom

Beyoncé at Inauguration Day 2013

From headlining the Super Bowl to traveling the world for her Mrs. Carter tour to dropping a surprise album on us as an early Christmas present, Beyoncé has had a monumental year. Lest we forget, the singer started the year on a high note, singing (er, lip-synching?) the national anthem at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony in a regal black Emilio Pucci Pre-Fall 2013 gown. Also worth noting? The bling. Beyoncé wore 80-carat emerald earrings and a 50-carat emerald ring, both by Lorraine Schwartz, which proved stunning and memorable.

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Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars 2013

There were so many Jennifer Lawrence red-carpet moments to choose from — including her recent bodysuit-and-sheer gown look from the Catching Fire L.A. premiere — but none were quite as epic as her pale pink Dior gown at the 2013 Oscars. Of course, we all know what happened afterward, right? The actress tripped up the stairs en route to accept her Best Actress award (oh yeah, she won!), then proceeded to make us all fall deeper in love with her during her backstage interview.

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Rihanna at the Grammys 2013

Not even Rihanna’s more controversial antics — drinking out of a shoe, offending many on her Instagram account, and on it goes — could overshadow this siren-red, bespoke gown by Azzedine Alaïa at the 2013 Grammys. And to drive the point home, she styled this breathtaking number with long waves and a matching red lip. Perfection.

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Kerry Washington at the Oscars 2013

Sometimes it’s hard to separate Kerry Washington from her Scandal character Olivia Pope — mostly because both women are just so awesome. While Pope may have a fictional coat collection to rival all coat collections, Washington knows how to work a red carpet like a pro in real life. The proof? Just look to her coral pink Miu Miu gown, complete with embellished bustier, which she wore to the 2013 Oscars. Enough said.

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Angelina Jolie at the 'World War Z' Berlin Premiere

In March 2013, Angelina Jolie inspired, touched, and ruffled the feathers of women everywhere when she wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she revealed why she made the decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. A few months after the news broke, the actress and humanitarian stepped out at the Berlin premiere of Brad Pitt’s movie World War Z, wearing a white strapless, peplum dress by Ralph & Russo. In contrast to her more modest black gowns, this formfitting number really struck a chord.

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Kate Middleton at the Tusk Foundation Gala Dinner

Unless you were living under a rock this year, you may have heard that the Duchess of Cambridge — aka Kate Middleton — gave birth to little Prince George in July. Of course, leave it to Kate to literally dazzle her way back onto the royal scene. In her first public appearance post-baby, the Duchess selected a gold glitter-covered, floor-length Jenny Packham gown to attend the Tusk Foundation gala dinner at the Royal Society of London. A dress made for a princess.

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Kate Hudson at the Tiffany & Co. Blue Book Ball

Who knew robin egg blue could be so sexy? Kate Hudson’s Reem Acra thigh-split gown wasn’t just jaw-dropping beautiful, it was also an apropos choice of color considering the event: Tiffany & Co. Blue Book Ball. The blonde actress was on her dressing A-game this year, sporting sexy looks from Alexander McQueen and Gucci too. But this glamorous Reem Acra gown really takes the cake.

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Nina Dobrev at the SAG Awards 2013

Some may argue that Nina Dobrev looked her best in Naeem Khan, but this hot pink Elie Saab number at the SAG Awards is, by far and away, the superior red-carpet look. The Vampire Diaries starlet not only commanded attention in the bright girlie hue, she also did right by the “less is more” mantra. Simple accessories and no-fuss hair and makeup provided the final (beauty) statement.

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Anne Hathaway at the Met Gala

While Anne Hathaway certainly pulled out all the stops on her Les Misérables promo tour (and on the award-show circuit), it was actually her shocking appearance at this year’s Met Gala that won her a “best dressed” shout out. An edgy, body-skimming vintage Valentino gown, newly peroxide-bleached pixie cut, and lots of kohl eyeliner equaled one very cool Anne Hathaway.

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Gwyneth Paltrow at the 'Iron Man 3' LA Premiere

Love her, hate her, you can’t argue with the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow worked this very sheer (in all the right places) Antonio Berardi Fall 2013 gown at the Iron Man 3 premiere in L.A. This may be one of the more controversial “best of” picks, but I can’t deny Paltrow her awesomeness here. She looked amazing, svelte, chic, and not trashy in the least.

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Naomie Harris at the 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' London Premiere

Naomie Harris deserves way more in the way of fashion accolades than she probably gets. The Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom actress rarely makes a misstep on the red carpet, and this fairly simple Alexander McQueen peplum column dress is proof. Keep Harris on your radar in 2014; she’s bound to impress again.

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Zoe Saldana at the 'Star Trek Into Darkness' London Premiere

Zoe Saldana has had a very busy year. Between promoting ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’, ‘Blood Ties,’ and getting married in secret, she also managed to give us all the gift of her amazing fashion sense. You might be surprised that her Alexis Mabille Couture gown from the Oscars didn’t make the cut, but let me tell you why this black-and-white Vionnet one did instead. It was a much riskier choice, the rise and fall in the front is downright stunning, and her curled updo and red lip is a throwback to Old Hollywood glamour.

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Marion Cotillard at the 'Rust and Bone' AFI Fest Premiere

Marion Cotillard rarely strays from her beloved Christian Dior gowns, and this modern high-low silhouette seen at the AFI Fest premiere of her film, ‘Rust and Bone’ was a particularly good example of why she never should. Unlike some of her more glamorous red-carpet looks (see this year’s BAFTA Awards gown), Cotillard’s minimal accessories and edgier makeup reminded me that she’s not afraid to try something different.

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Selena Gomez at the MTV Video Music Awards 2013

As a loyal wearer of Versace, Selena Gomez chose an Atelier Fall 2013 creation, complete with exposed bustier and studded detailing, for the MTV Video Music Awards. The singer has successfully transitioned her style from Disney-appropriate to something much sexier — and while this look admittedly has a lot going on, she gave it an elegant spin with Lorraine Schwartz emerald earrings.

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Jessica Chastain at the Oscars 2013

From her side-swept waves and red lip to her body-hugging silhouette, Jessica Chastain’s nude Armani Privé custom gown screamed “movie star” through and through. The ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ actress turned heads in what could have been a disaster of a nude palette; instead, she dazzled in this subtly sexy creation, proving once again that her fashion prowess is rooted in a permanent state of Old Hollywood sex appeal.

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Miranda Kerr at the Warner Bros. and InStyle Golden Globe Awards After Party

Miranda Kerr is known for her enviable street style and airport panache, but now we’re all clear on one other point: she can make a serious red carpet statement with the rest of ‘em. Her low-cut, wine-colored Zuhair Murad Fall 2013 gown was sexy without ever revealing too much — a great choice for Kerr’s Golden Globe afterparty appearance.

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Taylor Swift at the Fragrance Foundation Awards 2013

Taylor Swift is consistent with her heartbreak-inspired hits, her string of very famous (and very short-lived) romances, and her penchant for princess-worthy evening glamour. That’s why this Emilio Pucci white halter-neck gown with a sheer insert was so refreshing to see. Yes, she wore white again, but at least it was a little edgier. Let’s encourage this type of dressing behavior in Swift.

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Lupita Nyong'o at the Hollywood Film Awards 2013

The 12 Years a Slave actress has quickly become a fashion fixture, winning fans over with her ability to wear both sexy Cushnie Et Ochs, sleek Lanvin, and this sunny J. Mendel sleeveless gown. In fact, the latter deserves a little more love, considering yellow isn’t the easiest color to wear.

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Jessica Alba at the Golden Globe Awards 2013

If anyone is going to pull off a peachy orange hue, it might as well be Jessica Alba — in an Oscar de la Renta Pre-Fall 2013 gown Harry Winston diamond bib necklace, no less. The starlet’s Golden Globe appearance was a bright one, and it earned her easy access on this year’s best-dressed list.

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Lily Collins at the 'Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' LA Premiere

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones actress has really come into her own, especially after initially establishing herself as a ball gown kind-of-girl. Maybe all she needed was to star in a young adult sci-fi fantasy blockbuster to unleash her grown-up side. Enter this white Cushnie Et Ochs number, as seen at the film’s LA premiere. Collins clearly knew what she was doing with these cutouts.

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Claire Danes at the Golden Globe Awards 2013

Aside from the fact that Claire Danes looked insane (the good kind of insane) in red-hot Versace at the Golden Globes, this also was the Homeland star’s first post-baby appearance. She looked insanely good.

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Rooney Mara at the Oxfam Charity Gala

Rooney Mara stepped up her red carpet game just in time — her custom Lanvin one-shoulder gown inspired by Alber Elbaz’s Resort 2014 collection was architectural perfection at the Oxfam Charity Gala in Dubai. The actress, who pretty much only wears black and white, outdid herself with this one. It’s a silhouette she should rock much more in 2014.

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Cara Delevingne at 'The Great Gatsby' Cannes Film Festival Premiere

Some may say this was the year of Beyoncé, and some might say 2013 was all about Cara Delevingne. The British model was everywhere: on runways and billboards, busy being BFFs with Rita Ora and Rihanna, fending off rumors of dating Harry Styles, and on it goes. While she’s just as well known for her bold eyebrows as she is her perpetual silliness, this black lace Burberry look gave us a whole new side of our beloved Cara to contemplate. Verdict’s in: love.

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Jessica Biel at the MoMA Benefit: A Tribute to Tilda Swinton

Admittedly, this isn’t the kind of ensemble that usually makes a year-end “best of” list but dang, Jessica Biel looked amazing in this metal-infused Chanel LWD. Plus, can you think of anyone else who looks half as good with electric aqua eyeliner?

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Carey Mulligan at the 'Great Gatsby' Cannes Film Festival Premiere

Carey Mulligan is a minimalist dresser’s dream. Case in point: this understated blush Dior Couture gown, which she wore elegantly with straight hair, red lips, and little else. It just goes to show — a gorgeous, well-tailored gown, confidence, and simple accents go a long way.

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