Photos: Fairchild Archive (Viola); Conde Nast Digital Archive (runway)
While Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer both delivered memorable performances in The Help for which they've received much-deserved attention, it was Viola Davis's cathartic embodiment of a black maid in the Civil-Rights-era South that rooted the film and rightfully earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. And Davis has proven herself more than just a star on the screen, having flashed her fashion sense in the lead-up to Sunday's ceremony with striking colors, high slits, and asymmetrical details.
To celebrate her second Oscar nod (the first she earned for her performance in 2008's Doubt), we'd like to see the actress refine her scope to a contemporary take on a classic silhouette—this flowing Monique Lhuillier gown from the Fall 2012 collection. With a fuss-free skirt and glittering criss-cross halter straps, the design offers Davis an age-appropriate style with a dose understated impact. After all, when you're sharing a category with The Streep, it's best not to overcompensate with anything mistaken as garish. Meryl would never do that.
—Phillip B. Crook