In the whole history of the Academy Awards, only five actors have won back-to-back Oscars. Tom Hanks did it most recently; Katherine Hepburn did it most impressively, winning for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and then The Lion in Winter, thereby becoming the first actor to win three times for performances in leading roles. (Several years later, she’d take home another Oscar, and make it four.) This year, there’s a very good chance that Cate Blanchett will join that elite group of back-to-backers: She nabbed the Best Actress Oscar last time out, for her performance in Blue Jasmine, and she’s a heavy favorite to repeat the feat this year, thanks to her extraordinary work in the Todd Haynes film Carol.
Given that Oscar history, it’s fitting that the first time Blanchett took home an Academy Award—for Best Supporting Actress in The Aviator—she won for playing Katherine Hepburn. Her look that night was as indelible as her performance: Blanchett wowed the crowd in a Valentino gown of pale yellow taffeta, embellished with a spray of crystal on the shoulder and a band of burgundy velvet at the waist. The understated yet undeniably soigné ensemble inevitably finds its way into all the annual round-ups of “Best Oscar Looks”—and it surely stands as the greatest Oscar dress ever in yellow, a notoriously difficult color to pull off. Naturally regal, Blanchett fully inhabited the gown’s classic glam, the kind only Mr. Valentino can execute with such a sense of ease. Two masters made their acquaintance that night: Both Cate Blanchett and Mr. Valentino understand that it takes an incredible amount of talent and craft to make you believe that what you’re seeing required no work at all.