How We Chose the Women In Our Inaugural 50 Best Dressed List

In this weekly feature, InStyle’s fashion news director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.

57th GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty

The Moment: Why do we love best-dressed lists so much?

God knows, I try to be serious about fashion, or at least serious about my approach to covering fashion, and yet I find the allure of something so delightfully superficial as a best-dressed list to be completely irresistible. A BDL is like my LBD, reliably comforting and always just right. And with the publication of InStyle’s inaugural Hollywood’s 50 Best Dressed List in our November issue, on newsstands today, I hope you enjoy our selections. And please forgive me if you find yourself lost in an online wormhole of red carpet pictures, unable, as am I, to resist the temptation to click on one more picture of Emma Stone in a Lanvin jumpsuit or Rihanna stealing the show in a Giambattista Valli couture cupcake gown.

Having grown up on a steady diet of Joan Rivers and Mr. Blackwell, I am not immune to the pleasures of snap judgment (and maybe just a little snarkiness). But the point of a BDL is to celebrate the best, not the worst, of the red carpet.

This happens to be a perfect moment to introduce such a franchise in the pages of InStyle for the simple reason that the media-savvy stars of Hollywood, along with their glam squads of image-minded stylists, makeup and hair artists, are ever more mindful of the impact they make in the designs they choose to wear. Fashion has become an increasingly powerful tool in our visually-driven, technology-enabled era, where everyone has instant access and the means to express their opinion. For young actresses, choosing the right designers can be as important as choosing the right roles. We have endeavored to make some sense of it all.

Why It’s a Wow: Just as important as who we featured in our BDL is why we chose our designees. Each star has created a lasting impression and an individual, charismatic style through their fashion choices, which often reflect more of their personalities than might immediately meet the eye. Rihanna, for example, we dubbed the Scene Stealer for her uncanny ability to time her entrances in meme-worthy gowns for maximum social media impact. Jennifer Lopez, the Change Artist, scored kudos for her impeccably crafted classic-sexy versatility. Cate Blanchett, beyond being a Class Act on any level, is an absolute fashion master, and even since the completion of our issue she has appeared in recent days in some of the most enviable gowns from the Spring 2016 collections (she was first to score one of the porthole gowns from Proenza Schouler).

Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lopez
Jacopo Raule/Getty; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Over more than six months, our team of editors in New York and Los Angeles scoured thousands of red carpet photographs, with a primary focus on professional appearances during the last year. We considered off-duty and street style images of celebrities only in instances where it was clear that the participants were not caught unawares. We looked at more than 220 stars in total, considering both their appearances and their messages.

This has been a critical year for women in Hollywood and an important moment to stand up for equality in all aspects of their industry. We have been mindful that the red carpet is more than a playground for fashion. It is also a battlefield. While we do salute the surface in our BDL, we also celebrate the substance.

Learn More: Any BDL is inherently subjective, so no doubt you have opinions of our own. Once you’ve scoured the galleries of all our honorees, you can create your own list here.

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