The actress opens up about the best red carpet gown she’s ever worn.

No dress has ever changed my life. Marrying my husband, Keith [Urban], having children—those things changed my life. Nevertheless, the fairy-tale aspect of wearing couture is a glorious sidebar to my career. Golly, it is still lovely to me. I always say, “I’m going to the ball,” when I’m walking a red carpet because it really does have that Cinderella quality.

When you’re nominated for an award, you’re very emotionally invested. But last year after the Emmys and the Golden Globes [at each of which Kidman took home an award for best actress, for Big Little Lies], going to the Oscars as a presenter was just plain fun. I wore an Armani Privé dress, and I have to say they really take care of the details, like how to make a giant bow sit. Because remember, you have to be able to sit in the dress for four hours! Strangely enough, despite the boning on the corset top, this dress was unbelievably comfortable.

We fit it at my home in Nashville before flying to Los Angeles, and it took only two fittings because the team knows my body so well. I’m five foot 10½—I’m very proud of the half because I don’t want to be five foot 11—so structurally there are certain things that suit my frame, you know? Doing a fitting reminds me a bit of being a little girl in Sydney. My mother would sew all of my dresses, and she would stand me up on the table or on a chair to make sure the hem was just so.

The perfect finishing touch to my Oscars look was a platinum- and-diamond Omega watch from 1953. I like to wear their vintage timepieces on the red carpet because they’re so delicate and exquisitely made. Often the face is masked, so it looks like a beautiful piece of fine jewelry.

Keith had to work the night of the Oscars, so I decided to get ready at a hotel close to the Dolby Theatre. Somehow I still managed to be late to the red carpet because we got stuck in traffic. I passed one of those Hollywood tour buses, so I rolled down my window to say hi. I love moments where you can break down that whole barrier and just meet people. There’s something amazing about awards shows. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge other actors’ craft and go up and say, “Oh, my gosh, I saw your film, and I loved it.” Many times you would never cross paths otherwise. I still get starstruck when I see people like Jane Fonda or Clint Eastwood— all of these amazing women and men who have paved the way.

I rarely go out afterward. I’d rather get home to see my kids. I take everything off, and I fold the dress and am very protective of it because obviously it’s art. Just like with Cinderella, everything needs to be returned to its maker! Then I run a hot bath. When I go to bed, I wonder, “Was that a dream?” For the little girl who used to scour flea markets with her mother, the joy of having access to this kind of beauty will never fade for me.

—As Told To Alison S. Cohn


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