Lupita Nyong'o, best supporting actress nominee for her role in 12 Years A Slave, arrives the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California. Picture: Mike Blake

Los Angeles - Bedecked in gowns, tuxedos and even shorts, the world's top actors and actresses strode down the red carpet at the Academy Awards on Sunday with all eyes on the cliffhanger best picture race between frontrunners 12 Years A Slave and Gravity.

As if on cue, the sun came out after four days of heavy rain just before the first movie stars exited their limos in a mix of outfits as diverse as the films competing for the Oscars, Hollywood's top honours.

Amy Adams, best actress nominee for her role as a con woman in American Hustle, graced the red carpet in a strapless navy gown. British best actor nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the slave Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave, showed up in the classic tuxedo, while singer Pharrell Williams wore a Lanvin tux with shorts rather than trousers.

Another best actor nominee, 77-year-old Bruce Dern, star of Nebraska, came on the arm of his daughter, Laura Dern, dressed in a pastel pink gown, who said she was “very moved to get to celebrate him and be here”.

The 86th annual Academy Awards will be hosted by comedian and day-time talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who producers are banking on to deliver an entertaining yet tasteful three-hour show after critics widely panned last year's ceremony and host Seth MacFarlane's provocative humour.

Sunday was the culmination of an unusually long awards season, extended by the Winter Olympics, and for many of the nominees it spelled the end to months of campaigning and years of work on a film.

One of the most notable names on the awards season fashion radar this year, best supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong'o, wore a blue custom-made Prada.

“It's a blue that reminds me of Nairobi and I wanted to have a little bit of home,” said the Kenyan actress who plays the hardworking slave, Patsey, in 12 Years A Slave. - Reuters