Most Gorgeous Gowns: 2012 Oscars

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The Oscars are a great excuse for film industry hopefuls to drag on a few thousand dollars' worth of designer gear and strut their stuff on the old red carpet. And don't viewers and fans just love craning their necks and having a good old pick-apart of who's wearing what, why they shouldn't and how they've outdone themselves this year? Oscar night 2012 was no different, and the best women's designers got everyone covered with everything from classic lines to contemporary innovation.

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Glenn Close in Zac Posen

Glenn Close, best actress nominee for "Albert Nobbs," showed up at the Oscars 2012 ceremony in a supremely tailored forest green strapless gown made even more elegant by the addition of a matching, fitted, hip-skimming blazer. Check out that swishy tail and those embroidered highlights. The outfit combined sass with the pure chic and elegance that she has by the bucketful: a perfect interpretation of this formidable star's personality and presence.

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Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen Designed by Sarah Burton

If you were watching the Oscars at home on television you wouldn't have seen quite how beautiful this dress was. Jessica Chastain, nominated for her supporting role in "The Help," looked regal in this black silk organza strapless dress hand-embroidered in gold thread. Sarah Burton was the designer for Kate Middleton's wedding dress, and it's good to see the fashion house of the late Alexander McQueen continuing to make waves.

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Viola Davis in Vera Wang

Viola Davis, nominated for best actress for her leading role in "The Help," struck a vibrant note of color in this vivid, emerald green corseted gown by Vera Wang. Her sleek sheath of a sculpted dress opens out into a slash and froth of pleated chiffon, needing absolutely no jewelry at her neck to set off the geometric bodice and her fabulous emerald and diamond earrings.

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Rooney Mara in Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci

Nominated for her leading role in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," Rooney Mara chose Givenchy Haute Couture to complement her slender figure. "The Hollywood Reporter" quotes her as saying that she likes to be comfortable in what she's wearing, and that it has to be simple with not much color. "She really sees my clothes," designer Riccardo Tisci was reported as saying by "Grazia"; her choice clearly reflected her criteria and she looked cool, calm and measured in that sleek creation.

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Meryl Streep in Lanvin

Taking her third Oscar, this time for best actress in a leading role in "The Iron Lady," it was only fitting that Meryl Streep should be resplendent in gold: a living, breathing Oscar. She took the opportunity of being on the world stage to make her own personal statement by wearing a gown made from an eco-sourced gold lame. It was Lanvin's first step-up to the Green Carpet Challenge, run by Livia Firth, to make ethically responsible choices for haute couture.

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Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji

How will anyone forget Octavia Spencer's moving acceptance speech for her Oscar for best supporting actress in "The Help." She was born to play that role, she said, and the dress she wore to be honored for it was made exclusively for her by her favorite designer, Tadashi Shoji. It's a pity viewers couldn't see it up close: It's a masterpiece of hand-sewn beaded silk and tulle, gathered in a star burst and cut to celebrate her curves.

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Rose Byrne in Vivienne Westwood

Slinky and sultry couture by the monarch of British design, Vivienne Westwood, was "Bridesmaids" actress Rose Byrne's choice for a glittering night at the Oscars. She wore a single-shouldered, backless black gown covered with black sequins, on which the fabric moved, draped and fell like liquid. It was perfectly suited to the svelte Australian in her sleek bob haircut and skyscraper shoes.

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Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton

Nominee for best actress in a leading role for "My Week With Marilyn," Michelle Williams chose Louis Vuitton as her Oscar designer. Some critics chirped that the look was all wrong, but Williams brought some of Monroe's vulnerability and fragility to a coral red dress with a charming peplum that was elegant, sassy and yet very softly feminine.

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Milla Jovovich in Elie Saab Couture

"The Hollywood Reporter" quotes Milla Jojovich as saying that since 2012 marked her first attendance at an Oscars award ceremony, she wanted her gown to have clean, simple lines. She picked a Paris couturier, Elie Saab, and wore an elegant, silvery white dress with a simple shoulder sash sleeve and looked glorious without even trying. Saab is known particularly for the sophistication of his work and his intuitive ability to interpret a woman's silhouette with precision design and the cutting of his fabrics.

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Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford

Oscar ceremonies just have to have Gwyneth Paltrow there, and 2012 saw her in a simple yet achingly sophisticated gown that followed and skimmed her shape. No frills, flounces or trains: This was a deceptively uncomplicated design by Tom Ford that not even he had shown to the public, having kept his Fall 2012 collection completely private. The part you don't see in this picture is the floor-length white cape, but take a look at the neck and shoulder design, its clean lines and precise shaping.

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