"I just wanted to look very sweet."

By Christopher Luu
Feb 21, 2019 @ 9:45 pm

Back in '99, the world seemed simpler. The red carpet didn't have a mani-cam, red carpets didn't involve de facto #sponcon with bottled water, and Ryan Seacrest wasn't splashed across every available screen. It was also the year that Gwyneth Paltrow took home the Academy Award for Best Actress while wearing a very pink, very voluminous ballgown by Ralph Lauren. It was a moment that she'll probably remember forever, but that princess dress was basically every '90s trend in one piece and is still a time capsule for a decade marked by minimalism and fantasy all at once.

"I just wanted to look very sweet," Paltrow said of the design, which included a sheer shrug. That, combined with its regal shape, made the look the stuff of prom-dress dreams.

It was the icing on top of a momentous year for Paltrow, who played gender-bending Viola in Shakespeare in Love. The then-26-year-old had already taken home a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for the role, so she was riding high leading up to the big show. Medium reports that at the time, she didn't have a stylist (!), and the pink dress was a fluke. She'd tried it on only a few days before at a Ralph Lauren boutique in L.A. with her mom and some friends. Paltrow said that she was initially drawn to the color, but noted that she had some changes made, opting for a looser, more relaxed bodice instead of the corset that the dress originally had.

Frank Trapper/Getty Images

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"When you are with your girlfriends, and you try on this pretty pink dress, and you think it is so great, so pretty," Paltrow said.

Not everyone loved the look. Joan Rivers did, comparing Paltrow to Grace Kelly, but fellow critic Camille Paglia had some very strong words, referring to the actress as "big-jawed Paltrow, with her nasal, teeth-clenching Lisa Kudrow style" in a piece for Salon. "Looks like a Green Bay Packers cheesehead tottering atop a mushy pink Hostess cupcake."

Opinions are still mixed. Even though Vogue named the dress as an all-time best look, Stacy London and Blythe Danner, Paltrow's own mother, had some critiques about the fit of the dress. 

"It didn't fit her very well," Danner said.

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"Her boobs barely even fit in it!" London told Us. "It was so stupid, but she won the Oscar, so I guess I'm bitter."

The ultimate diss may be from Paper's Anne T. Donahue, who wrote, "Upon winning an Oscar for her turn in Shakespeare in Love, a weeping Gwyneth Paltrow took to the stage in her pink Ralph Lauren dress and ruined sincerity for all."

That's a lot to put on a pink dress. Haters or not, there's no denying that it's a historic look. Paltrow loved it and she took home a trophy, so the naysayers aren't getting the last laugh.

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