Each year, the editors of TIME spend months creating the magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The honorees typically include a mix of activists, artists, athletes, authors, world leaders and other leaders—and they’re all invited to a black-tie gala to celebrate their far-reaching achievements. There are toasts, there are musical performances and there are gowns—oh, are there gowns. In advance of this year’s gala, which takes place Tuesday, we invite you to take a look back at some of the most stunning looks from previous years.
Cate Blanchett, Actress
“Years from now, when cinephiles are asked to name the movies’ golden age, they’ll say it was when Cate Blanchett was in them,” the late TIME film critic Richard Corliss wrote in the actress’ entry for the TIME 100.
Liya Kebede, Model
“In today’s world, celebrity advocates are not rare,” wrote fashion designer and film director Tom Ford in Kebede’s 2010 TIME 100 entry. “What is rare is to encounter one whose devotion and drive come from a genuine desire to better our world. Liya’s work comes from a place of sincerity, and her beauty is much more than skin-deep.”
Lea Michele, Actress
“When I met Lea Michele this spring, I asked her what she wanted the world to know about her that it might not know already,” Olivia Newton-John wrote in Michele’s TIME 100 entry. “Her lovely brown eyes sparkled with excitement. ‘Tell them I love doing what I am doing,’ she said. ‘This is all I have ever wanted to do since I was 8 years old!’”
Blake Lively, Actress
“I’ve known Blake the actress, and I’ve known Blake the person, who would surprise many with her down-to-earth coolness,” wrote director Baz Luhrmann in Lively’s TIME 100 entry.
“She’s one of the coolest, hottest, most talented, most liked, most listened to, most followed, most impressive artists at work today, but she does it in her own stride,” wrote designer Stella McCartney in Rihanna’s TIME 100 entry.
Lena Dunham, Actress, Writer, Producer and Director
“She is unflinchingly, unnervingly honest,” wrote Claire Danes in the actress’ TIME 100 entry. “She exposes, beneath all that bare skin, a multitude of shortcomings: acute self-involvement, obsessive-compulsive behavior, overeating, oversharing. Hannah is as vivid and raw a portrait as we have seen — nails bitten to the nub — and despite her glaring faults, we ravenously embrace her.”
Marissa Mayer, Executive
“She is simply one of the smartest, most talented leaders the tech world has ever known,” wrote Google executive Eric Schmidt in her TIME 100 entry. “Google was lucky to have her help us grow into what we became, and Yahoo is lucky to have her taking them someplace new.”
Carrie Underwood, Singer-Songwriter
Misty Copeland, Ballerina
“Like all gymnasts, I’ve done some ballet—it’s a part of our program,” wrote Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci in Copeland’s TIME 100 entry. “And people don’t realize the tremendous amount of time and work you have to put in to do the maneuvers they do. Ballerinas like Misty Copeland look so beautiful and perfect, but it takes thousands of hours of hard work to make it look that easy.”
Laverne Cox, Actress
“Having someone as visible and strong as Laverne Cox to look up to is inspiring,” wrote transgender rights activist Jazz Jennings in the actress’ TIME 100 entry. “She’s done so many amazing things—not just acting on Orange Is the New Black but also loving herself enough to share her story with the world. She’s a pioneer for our community.”
Taylor Swift, Singer-Songwriter
“Along with her staggering list of accomplishments, perhaps the most exciting thing about Taylor is that she’s just getting started with what she plans to mine from her fierce, curious, boundlessly talented and beautiful heart,” wrote actress Mariska Hargitay in Swift’s TIME 100 entry.
Diane von Furstenberg, Fashion Designer
“Her constant inspiration reminds us that nothing looks better on a woman than the clarity, courage and conviction of vision,” actress Jessica Alba wrote in the designer’s TIME 100 entry.
Kim Kardashian West, Television Personality
“Despite the flamboyance, the self-aggrandizement and the self-promotion (Kim set out to break the Internet by baring her bum in an extraordinary photograph), Kim comes across as an enviable big sister in a clan where everyone seems to love one another,” wrote Martha stewart in Kardashian West’s TIME 100 entry.