1955: Edith Head, an eight-time Academy Award winner herself for costume design, outfitted dozens of actresses for awards ceremonies, and collaborated with Grace Kelly on the ice-blue sheath Kelly wore when she won the lead actress award for "The Country Girl" in 1955. The dress cost $4,000 — an eye-popping amount at a time when cars didn't cost as much as that.
1960s and 1970s
Fashion picks for the show loosen up
1960: Janet Leigh sparkled in an Edith Head gown festooned with thousands of bugle beads in 1960, as the end of the studio system ushered in an era of anything-goes individuality.
1966-1978: Not convinced? There was the gold jumpsuit Julie Christie stitched up herself and wore when she accepted the lead actress award for "Darling" in 1966, the Arnold Scaasi bell-bottom pantsuit Barbra Streisand donned in 1969 to pick up her award for "Funny Girl," Diane Keaton's "Annie Hall" look by costume designer Ruth Morley in 1978 (Keaton was another recipient of the lead actress award) and Farrah Fawcett's disco chain-mail dress by American designer Stephen Burrows in 1978.
A decade of glorious excess
1986, 1989: If the '60s and '70s were madcap, the '80s were all about excess. In 1986, Nolan Miller, costume designer on the television shows "Dynasty" and "The Love Boat," was appointed as the Academy Awards fashion consultant, and looks became larger than life. Consider Cher's Bob Mackie feather gown and headdress in 1986 and Demi Moore's bustier and bike shorts in 1989.
Looks on loan — and for sale
1990: In 1990, Rodeo Drive retailer Fred Hayman took over as fashion consultant. Determined to avoid worst-dressed disasters, he established a dressing service at his store where stars could buy or borrow clothes for the ceremony. At the same time, cable TV networks began extensive red carpet coverage.
1990: The same year, Jodie Foster, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange and Julia Roberts all wore soft, minimalist Armani — a breath of fresh air after the preceding decades, and millions of dollars' worth of free publicity for the designer.
1996: The next year, Dolce & Gabbana designed its first Oscar gown, a copper-colored creation, for lead actress winner Susan Sarandon of "Dead Man Walking."
1996: Also in 1996, Sharon Stone wore a Valentino ball skirt with a Gap turtleneck pulled from her closet. But first she called Gap Chief Executive Millard Drexler and persuaded him to make a donation to her charity in exchange for plugging Gap on the red carpet.
Designers get closer with stars
2001: Vintage began to make a splash on the red carpet, as stars sought out individual looks. Renée Zellweger and Julia Roberts went elegantly vintage in 2001, Zellweger in a Jean Dessès gown from the 1950s and Roberts in Valentino circa 1982.
2001: In a flash of true individuality, Björk chose a Marjan Pejoski swan dress with matching egg purse in 2001.
For the most part, the 2000s have been about the symbiotic relationships between high-end designers and the stars who wear their clothes, often for a handsome sum.
2005: Charlize Theron wore Dior in 2005, after becoming the face of Dior's J'Adore fragrance.
2012: Viola Davis was one of last year's most-watched nominees before the Oscars, giving a boost to a number of high-end designers. She wore a dreamy white and gold Marchesa gown to the Screen Actors Guild Awards; a one-shoulder, wine-colored Emilio Pucci at the Golden Globes; a bright pink dress by Juan Carlos Obando at the Academy Awards nominees luncheon. But at the Oscars, her green mermaid gown by Vera Wang was upstaged when attention shifted to her hair. She ditched her wig and wore her short hair natural.