In a bold Alexander McQueen, the ''Help'' star scored the prime spot on our list. Who else at the Academy Awards made the cut — and who should've been cut? We rate the looks

By Nuzhat Naoreen
March 02, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

After making every stop on the awards circuit this season, Jessica Chastain had her breakout style moment on the one red carpet where it really counts: the Oscars. Chastain’s one-of-a-kind silk organza Alexander McQueen gown stood out as the night’s best dress and instantly catapulted the actress, who has been building up her résumé with films like The Help and The Tree of Life, into the big leagues. ”When I put it on, it feels like everything that I am experiencing tonight wrapped into one garment,” says Chastain, 30, who was not only attending her first Academy Awards but was there as a nominee. ”The work they put into it, the embroidery, the details, the perfect fit, the colors — all remind me of the moment and made me emotional.”

Hair & Makeup
Stylist Elizabeth Stewart worked with Chastain’s hair and makeup team to achieve an understated look that complemented the regal dress — without distracting from it. ”The dress was really ornate, so we wanted to offset that with a look that was fresh and natural,” explains Stewart.

Stewart added $2 million worth of Harry Winston jewels — including yellow diamond bracelets, matching teardrop earrings, and a ring — for some sparkle. ”They picked up on the gold [in the dress] and looked amazing,” she says.

The Dress
After spotting a similar style on the runway, Chastain and Stewart worked with Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton to customize the dress for the Oscars. ”It flattered her perfectly,” says Stewart, who started collaborating with Chastain well before her movie career took off.

The Work
Where did that gorgeous pattern come from? Burton drew the nature-inspired design on a toile version of the dress; it was later hand-embroidered with gold bullion and metal thread.

(Additional reporting by Carrie Bell)