The road to style icon status is usually a windy one. But every once in a while, when the right girl puts on the right dress, fashion magic happens.
For Nicole Kidman, that moment was the 1997 Oscars. Arriving on the arm of Tom Cruise, the star captivated the fashion world with her chinoiserie-inspired gown designed by John Galliano for Dior. From the offbeat chartreuse color to the thigh-high slit, everything about it felt new and unexpected. And just like that, everyone was looking at Kidman, instead of her movie star husband.
Of course, like any iconic fashion moment, it was polarizing to some. But love it or not, that very dress helped turn the now-Oscar winner into a leading lady with a fashion point of view that can’t be ignored. And in the 20 years since, Kidman has continued to surprise and delight with her choices, regardless of the critics.
Remember that red Balenciaga dress with the massive bow from the 2007 Oscars? "That one was controversial,” Kidman told InStyle last year. "Some press people didn't like it. But that kind of talk doesn't bother me. I still liked it, especially the structure.” And it seems that everything she puts on gets people talking these days, from the green Gucci gown with feathered parrots on the shoulders that she wore to this year's SAG Awards to her most recent red carpet wins at the Cannes Film Festival last week.
In honor of our July cover girl, we’re looking back at some of her best bold, beautiful, and yes, buzzy looks over the last two decades. Keep scrolling to find your fave.
VIDEO: Nicole Kidman Shares Her Best Fashion Advice
In Dior Haute Couture at the Oscars (1997)
"This Dior Haute Couture dress is a work of art that's wrapped in special paper for my daughters,” Kidman has said. "I remember Madonna that night at an Oscar party saying to me, 'Best dress.' Wow!”
In Chanel Haute Couture at the Oscars (2002)
"Karl [Lagerfeld] specifically designed this Chanel Haute Couture gown for me,” Kidman told us. "I still have it too. When I look at it now, I realize how lucky I am. But it makes me sad—time passing.”
In Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière at the Oscars (2007)
It was the only gown she considered for the Oscars that year—and why wouldn't it be? The cheery color and dramatic bow neckline make it unforgettable.
In Jean Paul Gaultier at the Grammy Awards (2011)
"Everything looks good on Nicole,” designer Jean Paul Gaultier told us of the star, seen here in his couture organza-and-muslin design that took 200 hours to create.
In Dior Haute Couture at the Oscars (2011)
As an Oscar nominee for Rabbit Hole, she chose a 150-carat diamond Fred Leighton necklace to bring out the intricate embroidery on her Dior Haute Couture gown.
In Lanvin at the Cannes Film Festival (2012)
At The Paperboy première, Kidman's vintage Cartier jewelry makes this Lanvin goddess gown seem even more luxurious.
In Alexander McQueen at the Golden Globe Awards (2013)
This streamlined McQueen creation was a bit of Hollywood hand-me-down. “My friend Naomi [Watts] sent this to me. She said, “It doesn’t fit me, but it’ll look good on you because you’re so tall.’”
In Dior at the Cannes Film Festival (2013)
Kidman was a breath of fresh air in this silk organza bustier dress embroidered with delicate blossoms. Candy-pink pumps and a pompadour pony added a playful vibe.
In Louis Vuitton at the Oscars (2015)
What makes a sequined dress stand out at the Academy Awards? Unexpected details, like yellow sequins against a crimson belt, a sexy slit, and a cool unfinished hemline.
In Alexander McQueen at the Met Gala (2016)
To fete the Costume Institute’s "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” exhibit, the actress went celestial chic in this caped gown covered in shimmering stars and moons.
In Louis Vuitton at the Unicef Ball (2016)
Nobody wear a robe gown like Kidman. In this spectacular Vuitton creation, her leggy 5 foot 10 frame was draped to perfection.
In Gucci at the SAG Awards (2017)
This shimmering Gucci gown was classic Kidman: sophisticated with an eccentric twist, thanks to the feathered parrots perched on the sleeves.
In Armani Prive at the Oscars (2017)
This gown, which featured a gorgeous hand embroidered lace overlay, was customized for the star in very subtle shade of apricot that complemented her porcelain skin.
In Calvin Klein By Appointment at the Cannes Film Festival (2017)
At the première for The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Kidman turned heads in a double-faced silk duchess satin bustier and romantic silk tulle skirt by designer Raf Simons.