Why Cate Blanchett Is a Red-Carpet Fashion Frontrunner

Sthanlee B. Mirador/Shooting Star/Sipa USA

Giorgio Armani -- whose black lace couture gown the actress wore to this year's Golden Globes -- says the "Blue Jasmine" nominee "has cemented a place for herself on the eternal best-dressed list."

She's racked up major metal this season -- there's already a Golden Globe on her shelf and she's an Oscar favorite (in spite of recent controversy concerning Blue Jasmine director Woody Allen) -- but the fashion flock anointed Cate Blanchett a well-dressed champion long before statuettes paid homage to her other talent.

PHOTOS: Cate Blanchett's Best Red-Carpet Looks Through the Years

When she showed up at the 1999 Oscars in a John Galliano butterfly-bedecked sheer stunner, the back became a new erogenous zone. At the 2005 Golden Globes, she was a supporting actress nominee (for The Aviator) and won kudos for her periwinkle chiffon Jean Paul Gaultier gown. Sure, Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow hovered in the same high-fashion strata, but Blanchett, 44, wore her exotic creations with whimsy. "I've always appreciated how she pushes the fashion envelope," says Giorgio Armani, whose black lace couture gown she wore to this year's Globes (she won for Jasmine) and whose designs the smart money is on for her to wear to the Oscars. "She takes risks, picks adventurous designs and has created an iconic style of her own. In my book, Cate has cemented a place for herself on the eternal best-dressed list."

Blanchett regards her looks as unconventional: "I can look great in some scenes and weird in others. My face isn't symmetrical, a good tool to have as an actress," she says. The 5-foot-9 Blanchett and Elizabeth Stewart, her stylist since 2006, go for dresses that are gorgeous, dramatic and avant-garde. Armani concurs: "Cate operates on a whole different level of artistry. On the red carpet, she takes full ownership of the gown, with a sense of self that is grace personified. When I started dressing her more than a decade ago, I knew we were creatively simpatico."

Blanchett's other go-to designer is Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, for whom she's a muse. Her 2011 lavender Oscar gown with squared-off sleeves and SAG pink Grecian halter gown are Givenchy couture pieces with total individuality. That's the Blanchett hallmark: It looks like nothing you've seen before, nothing anyone else could wear. "Cate is one of the most special women I have ever dressed, and one of the first, too," Tisci tells THR. "She understands fashion to the highest point. She'll always give the dress the moment it deserves, with strength, beauty and out-of-this-world elegance. It's rare when someone puts a couture gown on and it comes to life exactly the way you had pictured it. People like Cate are the reason I do what I do."

This story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.