Kerry Washington rarely disappoints us on the red carpet. In fact, she frequently surprises and delights us, thanks to her refusal to limit her personal style boundaries. She's starred in Oscar-nominated films. She embodies one of our favorite television characters, "Scandal" lead Olivia Pope. And she regularly serves up some of our favorite fashion moments. So in honor of the stunning star's milestone birthday on Jan. 31, 2017 — Kerry is turning 40! — we're flashing back to her best red carpet looks, starting with the Atelier Versace creation she wore to the 2016 Academy Awards. From the unexpected touch of leather on the bodice to the thigh-high slit on the white flowing skirt, the edgy gown polarized fashion lovers and made her one of the most buzzed-about stars on the red carpet. Keep reading to reminisce about the rest of Kerry's show-stopping style!
While attending the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in September 2010, Kerry Washington opted for this ethereal Marchesa gown. The off-the-shoulder ombre dress, which blossomed from a pale lilac to a rich purple, fit Kerry like a dream and culminated in a floral-patterned train.
One thing Kerry Washington excels at on the red carpet? Dressing up her baby bump! Kerry first showed off this skill at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards in a darling custom Prada creation. The star — who was then pregnant with her first child, daughter Isabelle — proved pregnancy and crop tops can be a match made in heaven as she donned this hot pink embellished piece with a black skirt and black heels.
Kerry Washington wore an unusual accessory on the red carpet at SAGs — a safety pin. She explained her choice on Instagram: "I'll be wearing one of these tonight. On my arm. To show solidarity. We will not stop fighting for our safety & the safety of our fellow citizens and human beings. #NoBanNoWall #safetypin."
One of our favorite elements of Kerry Washington's unpredictable red carpet style is how she's never been afraid of bold colors! Take this vibrant yellow dress, for example. Kerry wore this gown — which featured one of her favorite types of detailing, embellishment along the hem — to the premiere of "I Think I Love My Wife" in March 2007.
Kerry Washington shimmered in Marc Jacobs at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards. The silver mesh dress, which featured three-quarter-length sleeves, a thigh-high slit and sparkling detailing, had been featured in the designer's runway collection just a few days before the award show.
A Cinderella moment! Looking like a princess in Jean Paul Gaultier, Kerry Washington floated down the red carpet at the "Zodiac" premiere during the 2007 Cannes Film Festival in this ball gown by the iconic designer. The wispy tulle blue ombre creation featured a roped belt and ended in a soft flow of white, which corresponded perfectly with her floral clutch.
Color-blocking was a major trend in 2015, and Kerry Washington embraced the bold fashion move at the 2015 Golden Globes. Pink and purple were the colors of choice for Kerry, who donned this metallic, color-blocked Mary Katrantzou gown on the big night, taking a fashion risk while also providing a welcome departure from standard red carpet fare.
She rocked a Prada crop top during her first pregnancy, so it's no surprise Kerry Washington bared her belly bump through cutouts in a strapless gown by Brandon Maxwell at the 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Another great example of Kerry Washington brightening up a red carpet with a pop of color came at the 2014 Emmy Awards where the star donned this bright orange Prada dress, which featured sequin detailing and a slit that unveiled an unexpected layer of black.
Kerry Washington selected this rich brown figure-enhancing dress by Jean Paul Gaultier for the Fashion Group International's 24th Annual Night Of Stars on Oct. 25, 2007. The unique color and mermaid silhouette coupled with the ruffles and glamorous train truly set this one apart.
Kerry Washington was more subdued at the 2015 Academy Awards, opting for this cream strapless Miu Miu look. The dress featured a peplum layer, floral embroidery on the bodice and a sleek, intricately beaded fitted skirt.
Glam in green! Kerry Washington attended the Vanity Fair Oscar party after the 2006 Academy Awards in this pretty chiffon halter gown.
Kerry Washington donned this darling Elie Saab minidress at the 2016 Critics' Choice Awards. Complete with star detailing on the overlay, the partially sheer dress was flirty and fun for the event's blue carpet.
A glamourous lady indeed! Kerry Washington attended the 2009 Glamour Women of the Year Awards in this lovely Fendi gown. The tan number, which featured lace detailing, was elegant yet understated.
Kerry Washington covered up her first baby bump as she attended the 2014 Academy Awards in this strapless, flowy creation by Jason Wu. The dark lavender gown draped and gathered beautifully, redefining chic maternity style.
A ray of sunshine! The 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards were an occasion where dressing to impress was a must, and Kerry Washington did not disappoint! The star donned this bright yellow satin Jason Wu gown, which was belted around the waist and featured a halter-style neckline, and accessorized with a wooden Lanvin clutch.
Kerry Washington was a vision in red at the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards, where she opted for this red-hot strapless Zuhair Murad number, which featured beaded detailing and a fringed skirt.
The draping of this Ungaro gown turned Kerry Washington into a Greek goddess at the 2010 Tony Awards. We loved the combination of the gown's pale purple and rose shades and the pop of gold her heels added.
Though often ready to make a statement, Kerry Washington also understands the importance of the little black dress. The star donned this simple black frock and let her leopard-print heels do the talking while at the Variety Emmy Studio at Palihouse in West Hollywood in May 2013.
Rocking a checker-print white and ivory Louis Vuitton dress, Kerry Washington kept things sweet at the Berlin premiere of "Django Unchained" in January 2013. Our favorite part? The corresponding shiny white accessories — like those Christian Louboutin pumps and the cute headband complete with a bow.