So it’s year end wrap-up time and this time we need to be really frank: 2012 wasn’t exactly a banner year for red carpet dressing. The usual stars–Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton, Zoe Saldana–didn’t make many red carpet appearances, while most of the internet’s favorite wardrobe hits were culled from so-called street style blogs (= models and bloggers dressing in contrived ways for photographers).

Which is to say, this year end wrap-up was hard. It was hard to come up with even 10 memorable red carpet looks. We scrolled through every gallery published on The Gloss this year and tried to narrow down our favorites. On a curve.

This is a long, meandering way of saying: we tried. We’re sure we missed a bunch and we’re probably wrong on some too, so tell us your favorites in the comments.

First off, honorable mention:

Hellen Mirren in black. We’re not too crazy about the dress, but how fucking great did she look at the National Review Awards? Honorable mention for her beauty.

So now begins our list:

Obviously, Tilda Swinton would appear on this list. Though she disappointed us at Cannes, we really admired her gorgeously fitted Haider Ackermann at the Golden Globes.

Maybe it’s just because this one’s fresh in our memory–and we’re still not crazy about the peach pumps–but Kerry Washington (at the AMA’s) should wear yellow all the time. She looks extraordinary (and that’s a great neckline on her too).

One could never accuse us of liking Gwyneth Paltrow too much, but her white Tom Ford Oscars look rightly lands her in the record books. If nothing else, she was the first truly successful Academy Awards cape.

Jessica Chastain was no slouch at the Oscars, either, in dramatic black and gold Alexander McQueen.

But our enduring favorite Oscar pick goes to Esperanza Spalding. Her beautiful hair, her minimal makeup, her glowing skin… all set off by a mix of earthy texture and shine. The single slender cuff was particularly intelligent in the absence of all other jewelry.

Some readers claimed it looked like a prom dress–we know they’re lying about the qualities of their proms.

Here’s a weird one for us: we were floored by Leslie Mann at the Emmys.

This has been a season of citrus, yes, but no one really set it off like Mann. The individual parts of this look aren’t for us–bright color, crochet-looking bodice, statement jewelry–and yet she looks absolutely radiant.

And with one gold Prabal Gurung dress, Jennifer Lawrence established herself as quite the exciting red carpet presence.

Our favorite look from Cannes and a neutral Marchesa, no less. Chalk it up to our love of feathers, but Naomi Watts looked fantastic (and she had numerous big hits this year).

Keira Knightley had quite the (Valentino-clad) year, red carpet-wise, and looked great throughout her entire Anna Karenina promo tour.

…But we have to give it to this unexpected, delicate, shockingly lovely mint green Erdem column.

And our #1:

Red Carpet: Cate Blanchett

Yup, it was a mostly abysmal Met Gala, but Cate Blanchett wore one of our favorite McQueen looks of all time. There’s really not much else to say about this stunning gothic glamor and bone simple styling; essentially the legendary duck feather look from his Horn of Plenty collection, translated to the red carpet by his heir apparent Sarah Burton.

Also, the beauty/hair situation is impeccable.

(All photos via Wenn)