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The Best Dressed Women

by Gale Felberbaum

We’ve walked the red carpets, scrolled through the feeds, and scored the street style shots, and the verdict is finally in: this year in fashion was all about individuality.

Lady Gaga went both movie star glam at the Oscars and full-on fashion transformer at the Met Gala. Brie Larson channeled her superhero alter ego throughout her entire Captain Marvel press tour. And Zoë Kravitz showed us that, yes, an 18-karat gold bra can look just as chic as a ballgown on the step-and-repeat.

For fashion lover Tracee Ellis Ross, the fashion process was actually pretty simple this year. “The secret is to embrace your own style and try not to follow trends,” she says. That style M.O. was on display at the Met Gala’s celebration of camp fashion when she wore a black Moschino dress, complete with a gold picture frame around her face, paying tribute to black art. “The gold frame I wore was to open everyone’s eyes to the contributions that black men and women have had on camp fashion. It was an ode to the artist Lorraine O’Grady.”

Elle Fanning, who fronts InStyle ’s November “Best Dressed” issue, also lands on our list for her love of fashion fantasy. “I love feeling confident in what I’m wearing,” says Fanning, who had a near constant rotation of frothy, fabulous princess dresses this year by Kimhekim, Rodarte, and Vivienne Westwood Couture, among others.

Tessa Thompson followed one major piece of fashion advice when she was getting ready for the red carpet this year. “Dress how you want to feel, not for how you want to look,” she says. “It makes getting dressed up an absolute dream, and also a party, a celebration, an adventure, a risk — all the good things in life.”

Her go-to look may be “a well-pressed suit,” but even when she opts for something wildly glamorous, Blanchett (in Fendi Couture) keeps it real—fashion critics be damned. “True chic is effortless, and it’s got to come from you,” she says. “It’s not about what gets likes and views.”

“At first I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m wearing that.’ Then I sent my mom [Lisa Bonet] a picture of it as kind of a joke. And she said, ‘Honestly, you can only wear that for a few more years, so if you’re going to do it, you should do it now,’” says Kravitz of her statement-making Tiffany & Co. Elsa Peretti bra and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello skirt at the Vanity Fair Oscar party.

Not only did Thandie Newton (in Oscar de la Renta) pass along her passion for acting to her 14-year-old mini-me (and breakout star of Dumbo ), Nico Parker (in Gucci), she also showed her the red-carpet ropes this year. Turns out, artful draping, playful patterns, and feminine flourishes are winning at any age.

“I’m not the biggest fan of red carpets, so when I do go, I like to have fun,” says Rae (in Peter Pilotto), who has been turning heads with her punchy color combos. “Bold colors match my personality, and, quite frankly, they look best on my skin tone.”

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