The Best Red Carpet Dresses Of 2011

If there is a quintessential category for our Best of 2011 roundup, it would have to be red carpet dresses. Yes, they’re ubiquitous and have become something akin to a sporting event when debuted at awards shows (well, at least to us style-obsessed folk), but we love them nonetheless, especially when they arrive well-heeled and brimming with craytastic drama. There were many statement dresses, gowns, cocktail getups, what have you this year, but we’ve chosen a select group that truly stood out and commanded attention on their own. From bold cuts and eclectic color to safety pins and (BUMPIN’) surprise reveals, here are our picks for the best red carpet dresses of 2011.


Emma Stone in Calvin Klein at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

If there was one dress (and one girl) that truly exemplified fresh this year it would have to be Emma Stone and her dusty peach Calvin Klein Golden Globe dress. Yes, 2011 was a very good year for Miss Stone, but when she hit the crimson carpet in this totally unexpected pastel ASSAULT of minimally structured, 1960s-era muted loveliness, she truly arrived. We can remember OMGing with crazy, stupid, love at the audacity to not only go with such an abnormal color but to take it a step further by pairing it with pale makeup, lipstick, and hair. (That’s BOLD, y’all.) In our humble opinion, she was the best dressed of the night in this ladylike silhouette and will be the one we measure everyone else up to this awards season.


Demi Lovato in Roland Mouret at the 2011 Latin Grammy Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

This was also a very good year for Demi Lovato. Aside from her major music comeback, she had a style transformation, too. From running around town in animal hats to glamming it WAY up for the carpets, we couldn’t get enough of the “Skyscraper” of a singer this year. But if we’re playing favorites, we were big fans of the fuchsia Roland Mouret dress she wore to the Latin Grammy Awards. Not only was it cut wayyyy down to the navel region exposing an enviable, mega-tanned décolletage, it happened to be worn BACKWARDS. We love this bright color with her skin tone, the rivers of brunette rivulets cascading down her shoulders, and the strong eyes and dark lips she paired with the dress. Seriously, though, who’s idea was it to wear this thing the other way around? It’s GENIUS, and Demi pulled it off to gorge effect.


Selena Gomez in Marchesa at the 2011 European Music Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

It’s hard to do a red carpet roundup without including Selena Gomez. The girl turns it OUT every single time she steps out for the cameras. But there’s something particularly especial going on beyond the baby, baby, baby gloooow of Justin Bieber’s eternal BF devotion, and that something is a stellar sense of red carpet style. Again, we had a debate-a-thon in our deliberation chamber as to which Selena dress reigned supreme this year, and the one we couldn’t stop discussing was the Marchesa dress she wore to the EMA. A white lace confection with a high neck, sawed-off hem, and layers of wispy tulle underneath, this cocktail-ish number was a cutting edge Ice Capades fantasia complete with flawless side-pony and hand-on-hip figure-8 stance. Add a totally adorbs smile, and this look scores a perfect 10.


Nina Dobrev in Donna Karan at the 2011 Emmy Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

Vampire Diaries actress Nina Dobrev turned it out this year, too, and did so in the—excuse us—vampiest of ways. She wore a KILLER fire engine red Donna Karan dress to the Emmy Awards and caused a total flashbulb frenzy with all of the body hugging heat it gave off. I mean, look at this thing. It’s classic lady-in-red with a cinched, strapless bodice that sculpts everything to perfection before fanning out into a giant inverted rose. This dress is drop-dead, va-va-va-voom VAMPTASTIC. Period.


Florence Welch in Yves Saint Laurent at the 2011 Met Gala.
Photo: Getty Images

Florence Welch paired her lovely flame-mane with a bright white Yves Saint Laurent dress at the Met Gala. Um, can we just go ahead and call this White Swan Song Angelic Perfection? Because that’s what it is. Look at this billowing marabou cape casually thrown over the shoulder for a bit of nonchalant red carpet insouciance. Florence is known for her love of vintage, and this dress is all about ’70s Studio 54 glam with the batwing sleeves, mega-maxi length, and naturally wavy hair. Her hair really makes it modern. That and a been-there-done-that countenance that says drama without all the dramz.


Kristen Stewart in Balmain at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

Kristen Stewart made a STYLE STATEMENT this year with her MTV Movie Awards safety pin Balmain dress. Totally bedazzled in what we can only describe as Sid Vicious-inspired sartorial over-pinnings of the highest Parisian chic order, this dress put K-Stew on the map for us and proved she’s just as fearless with her style as she is with her on-screen performances. Her hair and makeup were kept simple, her shoes were appropriately spiky and black, but the entire focus of this look was Kristen’s confidence in the SICKEST of mini dresses. In our most bad-ass of dreams, we’re wearing this exact ensemble. (Oh, and while standing next to Robert Pattinson, too.)


Rihanna in Stella McCartney at the 2011 Met Gala.
Photo: Getty Images

We saw a whole lotta Rihanna this year, and also a whole lotta Ri-Ri in her see-through Stella McCartney Met Gala dress. OK, we might as well get it out in the open just in case you’re not aware of this important fact: Rihanna has an INSANE bod. Girl can wear anything and make it look like it was molded to her covetable shapeliness on purpose. We’re bah-ZONKERS over this look which is total class-act black lace with a strategically see-through nude panel that runs along the whole side of her figure. Add a side-slit, strappy sky-high platforms, and that bright red side braid, and we’re officially in a red carpet coma from the sheer IMPACT of this utterly perfect moment.


Mila Kunis in Elie Saab at the 2011 Academy Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

This was also a big year for That ’70s Show fave and newly minted A-list actress Mila Kunis who not only stunned in her scene-stealing role in Black Swan but also in her Elie Saab Oscar dress. A wispy vision of the lightest of lavender loveliness, it draped and tiered to the floor in layers of thin chiffon. We were especially fond of the delicate hints of lace framing the neckline and the hidden texture undulating beneath each tier. There’s no other way to say it: this look is SO PRETTY. It’s angel whispers, feminine grace, and diaphanous ghostly elegance all in one. L.O.V.E.


Hailee Steinfeld in Prada at the 2011 SAG Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

Hailee Steinfeld wowed the critics for her turn in the Oscar-nominated True Grit but she also transfixed the fashion elite with her multiple red carpet wins this year. The one dress that really set the Hailee style-train in motion, though, was the striped Prada runway dress she wore to the SAG Awards. At first glance (and if you squint), this tropical getaway dress seems both perfect for the Copacabana dance floor and for a lady three-times Hailee’s age; however, Hailee makes it work with natural hair, simple makeup, and a bright smile that seems to echo the sunniness of the pink and orange stripes. While we’re not always huge fans of a fitted column with mermaid hemline combo, this dress works. But maybe that’s because Hailee knows how to werque the dress? Either way, it’s a WIN, and makes us forget that sad face Miu Miu train tracks moment.


Beyonce in Lanvin at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

OK, we have finally made it to the holy grail of red carpet dresses. You knew this was coming, right? What red carpet dress—nay red carpet MOMENT—garnered more attention this year than Beyoncé’s orange Lanvin VMA dress? Answer: NONE. Bey stole the red carpet show at the VMAs in that gown for several reasons: 1) This one-shoulder Lanvin number is timeless, womanly, and perfect for accentuating her glow, 2) it falls to the floor for added drama and mimics the length of her drop earrings, 3) her side-pony lets her bare shoulder shine all on its own, and 4) THERE’S A BRAND NEW BABY BUMP up in there. Yes, 2011 was a stellar style year, but it was mostly because Bey-Bey’s beh-beh action ran the red carpet world.

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