In this year’s television sensation
American Crime Story, Sarah Paulson plays prosecutor Marcia Clark, who was suddenly, brutally thrust into the spotlight when she took the lead on the OJ Simpson trial in 1994. Though her character might have been shocked by the sudden scrutiny — especially concerning her appearance — Paulson herself is no stranger to the microscope sometimes cast on her looks and her personal life. “Every time that you go anywhere on the red carpet, now there are websites dedicated to picking you apart,” she once told the New York Times. And on the red carpet, Paulson has had her share of hits and misses alike; over the past 15 years, she’s come into her own, sartorially speaking, eventually eschewing the very pretty, yet sometimes characterless, looks of her early career in favor of chic designs by smaller labels like Cushnie et Ochs, Etro, and Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini. She’s gotten more experimental and more dramatic, and she’s developed an on-trend bleached bob that adds instant edge to anything she wears. Here, we look back at Sarah Paulson’s best red carpet moments, from her early days as a stage actress to one of Ryan Murphy’s favorite screen presences.
Long sleeves are another recurring trend in Paulson’s arsenal — here, she wears one of Italy’s most promising young designers, working a freshened-up bleach job.
Sarah Paulson in Philosophy Di Lorenzo Serafini at the
People Vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story For Your Consideration event in Los Angeles, California, April 2016. Photo by Getty Images.
Carol premiere, Paulson livened it up in a shimmering a-line dress.
Sarah Paulson in Etro at the premiere of
Carol in New York, New York, November 2015. Photo by Getty Images.
Simple and sleek, the sporty high neckline contrasts with the elegant off-the-shoulder detail.
Sarah Paulson in Cushnie et Ochs at the 25th annual Gotham Film Independent Awards in New York, New York, November 2015. Photo by Getty Images.
Paulson treads on Countess territory — the character played by Lady Gaga — with this strong, pointy-shouldered sheath.
Sarah Paulson in Monique Lhuillier at the premiere of
American Horror Story in Los Angeles, California, October 2015. Photo by Getty Images.
Lately, Paulson has increasingly foregone color and opted for body-hugging dresses that extend past the knee. Here, she also debuts that short, mussy bob that we love.
Sarah Paulson in Prabal Gurung at the 5th annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards in Beverly Hills, California, May 2015. Photo by Getty Images.
Paulson took a more classic and staid approach for the 2014 AHS premiere.
Sarah Paulson in Zac Posen at the premiere of
American Horror Story in Hollywood, California, October 2014. Photo by Getty Images.
Tulle everywhere — this Armani gown recalls the early silhouettes Paulson favored, but with a whole lot more character.
Sarah Paulson in Armani Privé at the 66th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California, August 2014. Photo by Getty Images.
When she opts for color, Paulson regularly selects blues and greens, which have played off the auburn-tinged hair color she comes back to again and again
Sarah Paulson in Prada at the Met Gala in New York, New York, May 2014. Photo by Getty Images.
For the premiere of
12 Years a Slave, Paulson opted for an off-the-shoulder silhouette that echoes 19th-century trends while adding a contemporary edge.
Sarah Paulson in Vivienne Westwood at the premiere of
12 Years a Slave at the 51st annual New York Film Festival in New York, New York, October 2013. Photo by Getty Images.
American Horror Story red carpet has always offered a place for stars to experiment — this feathered Reem Acra dress is right on tone.
Sarah Paulson in Reem Acra at the premiere of
American Horror Story in Hollywood, California, October 2012. Photo by Getty Images.
She still had a fairy princess side, though.
Sarah Paulson in Reem Acra at the 64th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California, September 2012. Photo by Getty Images.
By 2012, Paulson was experimenting with different prints and silhouettes, often opting for more niche labels like this Isabel Marant look.
Sarah Paulson in Isabel Marant at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences lunch in Universal City, California, August 2012. Photo by Getty Images.
Paulson’s hair has evolved as much as her red carpet style — here, she debuts soft curls and a new blonde look with an ivory strapless gown.
Sarah Paulson at the 64th annual Golden Globes in Beverly Hills, California, January 2007. Photo by Getty Images.
Classic silhouettes like this black strapless number were also frequent picks.
Sarah Paulson at the 59th annual Tony Awards in New York, New York, June 2005. Photo by Gregory Pace/FilmMagic.
Paulson and BFF Amanda Peet arrived in a pair of Miu Miu ensembles — cute and bright defined her early looks.
Sarah Paulson in Miu Miu at the IFP/LA Filmmaker Labs in Los Angeles, California, March 2003. Photo by Getty Images.