A is for Academy Awards

The Academy Awards is undoubtedly the biggest awards show on the red carpet calendar and thus the most glamorous. Film stars from across the globe flock to Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre to celebrate the year’s best performances, dressed in their very best couture. Designers clamor to dress nominees and presenters, as the publicity is worth millions.

B is for Brit Awards

The UK’s slightly more laid-back, casual alternative to the Grammy Awards, the Brits celebrate the best of the British music scene, and it’s always a star-studded event. The fashion choices are edgier than at most shows, with a lot of UK stars turning to British designers. There’s an ‘anything goes’ feel that means you’ll see couture next to a high street, and glam gowns next to ripped denim. Cheryl Cole added some glamour to the 2011 awards in a wet-look sequinned dress by Stella McCartney (above).

C is for Couture

Oh, to be a celeb, able to pick clothes straight off the couture catwalk and wear them days later to awards shows! Couture may be the stuff of dreams to most of us, but if you have the star status, you can take your pick of some of the world’s most intricate, beautiful and expensive dresses for awards season. Emma Watson was one of the lucky one’s last year, wearing romantic Valentino Couture to the BAFTAs.

D is for Dress Disaster

Occasionally, a celeb picks an outfit for an award show that’s so incredibly off the mark you wonder if they’ve done it deliberately. Such was the case in 2006 when Uma Thurman – famously one of the most reliably glamorous Oscar attendees – rocked up in a strange gilded pirate costume by Christian Lacroix. It put her straight to the top of all the worst-dressed lists and earned her a place in Oscar fashion history for all the wrong reasons.

E is for Edith Head

Edith Head is the celebrated costume designer who created memorable looks for the likes of Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly. She was nominated for 35 Academy Awards and won 8. In the early years of the Oscars before couture houses got involved, costume designers would dress stars for the ceremony. It was an Edith Head dress that Audrey Hepburn wore to collect her Oscar for Roman Holiday.

F is for Foreign Films

Over recent years, there have been many foreign films that have crossed the language barrier to become instant classics the world over – and they’re always a hit during awards season. These films have brought us some of the best-dressed red carpet stars; think Audrey TautouMarion CotillardNoomi Rapace and Ziyi Zhang. This year’s one to watch is Berenice Bejo, the beautiful star of The Artist, seen above at the Golden Globes wearing Gucci Premiere. After sitting front row at the recent Elie Saab show, will she pick one of his designs for the Oscars?

G is for Golden Globes

The first big date on the awards show calendar, the Golden Globes is always a good indicator of what’s to come, and a bit of a trial run for the Oscars. Taking place in January, it’s the first chance for stars to get their glad rags on. With awards for both the big and small screen, the stars of film and television come together to find out who gets the seal of approval from the Hollywood Foreign Press.

H is for Hollywood Hair

With such beautiful gowns, celebs need showstopping hair to match, and the looks created by Hollywood hair teams for award shows run the gauntlet from glamorous retro waves (seen above on January Jones) to more trend-led, edgy styles like Dianna Agron‘s fluffy fishtail updo. The toughest job comes if the host is female – last year the Frederik Fekkai team gave Anne Hathaway a whopping 8 hairstyles, while 2012 People’s Choice Awards host Kaley Cuoco sported 6 different do’s during her hosting duties.

I is for Independent Films

The definition of an Independent film is one that’s not produced by one of the ‘big six’ studios (20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Columbia, Universal and Walt Disney Studios). Thus come awards season, a big crop of Indie films find themselves up for awards. Perhaps most noticeable are the foreign films, including those to come out of the UK, like last year’s big winner The King’s Speech. This year, indie films received 60 nominations in the Academy Awards, including Michelle Williams‘ (above) nod for My Week With Marilyn.

J is for Jewels

Whether they’re classic diamonds from Harry Winston or Chopard, or more unusual gems like Keira Knightley‘s vintage Bulgari bling, no awards season is complete without some very precious jewelry. But wearing jewels worth hundreds of thousands of dollars means the red carpet is littered not only with stars but with jewelry bodyguards too. And jewels do disappear – at the Golden Globes in 2011, Christina Hendricks lost a $850,000 Chopard bracelet on the red carpet. Luckily it was found before the end of the night, and Hendricks stashed it in her cleavage so it wouldn’t go walkies again!

K is for Keveza

Romona Keveza to be exact, the bridal designer who’s quickly becoming the go-to girl for romantic, feminine red carpet gowns. She’s the woman responsible for Christina Hendricks‘ red corsage dress at the 2011 Golden Globes, Angelina Jolie‘s navy one-shouldered number at The Land of Blood and Honey premiere, and Kaley Cuoco‘s tiffany blue princess dress at the 2012 SAG Awards. She’s also dressed Glee‘s Heather Morris (above), Anna Kendrick and Jennifer Love Hewitt to name but a few. Look out for this designer, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.

L is for Lebanon

The surprise country that’s leading the way when it comes to fabulous new red carpet designers. It may not be a fashion capital when it comes to ready to wear, but for gowns, Lebanon is the place to go. First, there was Elie Saab, most famous for dressing winner Halle Berry in 2002, then Zuhair Murad, whose gowns have been worn by everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Miley Cyrus (above) and Reem Acra (who Madonna chose for the 2012 Golden Globes). Finally, there’s Basil Soda, who has dressed Katy PerryKelly RowlandChristina Applegate and Emily Blunt for high-profile red carpet events.

M is for Marchesa

Marchesa is the red carpet favorite of everyone from Lea Michele to Sandra Bullock. Designer Georgina Chapman is married to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, so the film & fashion links are strong. The Marchesa trademark details, with strong embellishment, dreamy fabrics, and fairytale touches – see Halle Berry (above) at the 2011 Oscars.

N is for Nominees

Also known as ‘the ones who get the best dresses’, award nominees can expect all kinds of perks in the run-up to big awards shows. Rumour has it that Gwyneth Paltrow was sent hundreds of gowns to consider for the Oscars when she was nominated for Shakespeare in Love, which makes it all the more surprising that she opted for a powder pink Ralph Lauren dress that didn’t fit properly at the bust (apparently, some padding was taken out last minute). This year, no doubt fashionista nominees like Jessica Chastain (above in Givenchy at the Golden Globes) and Michelle Williams are receiving the same treatment right now.

O is for Oscar

…both the famous golden statuette handed out to Academy Award winners, and Mr. De La Renta, the designer famous for dressing the likes of Cameron Diaz (above) and Jennifer Garner for the big night.

P is for Presenters

And a lovely excuse to get an extra HD close-up of the best dresses! Presenters at smaller Award shows tend to be those with something to promote (‘stars of the new movie…’) but at the Academy Awards, they are simply those with the most A’ list appeal. Already confirmed for the 2012 Oscars are Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez (above in Marchesa) and the Bridesmaids cast, with plenty more names to come in the next week or so.

Q is for Quirky

It’s safe to say that Bjork made Oscar history when she arrived at the 2001 Academy Awards in a slightly bonkers Marjan Pejoski dress designed to look like a swan. It was ridiculed and revered in equal numbers – but it definitely made an impression. Years later, the dress came in at number 9 in a list of the most iconic red carpet dresses (based on a poll by Debenhams). Whether you loved it or hated it, the quirky design turned heads and made its wearer stand out in the crowd. And at the end of the day, as Bjork said after the event, “it’s just a dress.”

R is for Red carpet

Reports ‘life from the red carpet’ is now synonymous with award shows, but they don’t come without their problems. At the BAFTA awards in London in 2002, it was raining so heavily that the red carpet began to foam up, apparently from detergent residue left over from its last clean. Kate Winslet famously threw a tantrum about her ruined dress – but who can blame her? Custom Ben de Lisi is pretty hard to come by! You can see the amount of foam in the picture above – that carpet’s meant to be completely red!

S is for Screen Actors Guild Awards

The Award Show that allows the stars to pat each other on the back. This night is for actors, by actors, and celebrates top performances by members of the Screen Actors Guild. All this makes it the perfect excuse to get dressed up and show off to industry pals. Seen above is Emma Stone at the 2012 awards in an Alexander McQueen dress.

T is for two o’clock in the morning

This is the time most award shows start for those of us in the UK, so if you want to watch the red carpet live from Blighty, you have to be willing to pull an all-nighter. An Oscars hangover is par for the course regardless, so we suggest Oscars drinking games to keep things rolling. Or if all else fails…caffeine!

U is for Ungaro

When Cameron Diaz stepped out at the 2002 Academy Awards in a bold Ungaro floral dress teamed with turquoise jewelry and a bejeweled belt, it marked one of those rare Oscar fashion moments that will never be forgotten. The dress may be a bit marmite (you either love it or you hate it) but this was 2002, the pre-boho era, and Cameron’s easy breezy outfit was a precursor for everything that came soon after. It was a breath of fresh air on the stuffy, taffeta-heavy red carpet. The gown and the hippy-ish accessories reflected Camerons’ laid-back personality perfectly and this was the ultimate pairing of actress and dress.

V is for Vera Wang

The designer most known for wedding dresses also do an amazing line in red carpet gowns and have dressed a clutch of A-listers for awards shows. Her most memorable Oscar dresses include Michelle Williams‘ buttercup yellow 30s style gown, Keira Knightley‘s killer burgundy taffeta dress, and Sandra Bullock‘s ‘screw you’ red dress in 2011 (above).

W is for white

It’s the formalwear color that keeps coming back – regardless of trends you can be guaranteed at least one female celebrity will opt for a white gown at each big awards event. Maybe it’s the challenge of wearing white without looking like a bride, or perhaps these perfect stars are proving that they can pull off even the most unforgiving color? Whatever the reason, for many A-lister, it’ll be all white on the night (*groan*).

X is for X-rated style

There’s always one, isn’t there? While award show red carpets tend to be fairly subdued affairs when it comes to flesh-flashing, at the post-show parties, anything goes! This goes some way to explaining why model Erin Wasson ended up leaving so little to the imagination at a Golden Globes party in 2012. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?

Y is for Yves Saint Laurent

Awards show regular Kate Winslet regularly turns to YSL designer Stefano Pilati for a bit of red carpet glamour. It was wearing Yves Saint Laurent dresses that she collected a Golden Globe and an Oscar for The Reader, and when she came back to present the following year she wore YSL yet again (above). Perhaps the designer is lucky for the oft-nominated actress?

Z is for Zac Posen

The young American designer is responsible for a thousand fishtails, including Reese Witherspoon‘s stunning red number at the 2012 Golden Globes (above). He’s also a favorite with models at post-awards parties; fans include Elle MacphersonCoco Rocha, and Crystal Renn.