The Most Iconic Dresses of All Time
The glamorous world of the A-list elite comes complete with buckets of glitz and glam. When it comes to their wardrobes, no expense is spared to look like a million dollars. An outfit can speak a thousand words and has the potential to be remembered for decades afterward. In some cases, celebrities are only as good as the clothes they wear.
From Jackie O’s timeless style to Geri Halliwell’s in-your-face outfits, we’ve compiled a list of the most iconic dresses of all time. How many do you recognize?
Jackie O’s Inauguration Coat Dress
Former First Lady Jackie O was synonymous with fashion. No one oozed sophisticated glamor like Mrs. Kennedy. Her signature style and penchant for suit dresses would cement her as an icon for many years to come. Among her favorite designers (including Chanel and Givenchy) was Oleg Cassini, who had the honor of specially designing several of Jackie’s most iconic looks.
For her husband’s inauguration into the White House, Jackie entrusted Cassini to dress her – and he didn’t disappoint. The simple yet elegant wool coat dress was topped with a Halston pillbox hat and elbow-length gloves, both items that would become staples of Jackie’s White House wardrobe.
Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress
Marilyn Monroe had so many iconic looks that it’s almost impossible to choose the best of the bunch, but the white dress she wore in 1955’s The Seven Year Itch may be the most infamous. Designed by costume designer William Travilla, the white pleated number was specifically made to be light enough for the wind from the subway grate to blow it up.
At the time of filming, the scene was considered quite risque. It’s rumored that Marilyn’s then husband Joe DiMaggio was so enraged by it – and the fact that it was filmed in public – that it led to the demise of their marriage.
Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack Mini-Dress
When it comes to 90’s fashion, no one was bolder in their choices than the Spice Girls. All five members had their own distinctive styles, but Geri Halliwell (aka Ginger Spice) was the one who really pushed the envelope. The outspoken redhead made jaws drop with the breathtakingly short Union Jack mini-dress she wore to the 1997 Brit Awards.
Incredibly, the dress was originally a simple black Gucci number given to Geri by stylists. The pop star thought it was too boring so asked her sister to sew a Union Jack tea towel to the front of it and a peace symbol on the back.
Beyonce’s 2015 Met Gala Spectacular
When it comes to looking fierce, no one does it better than Queen Bey herself. Notorious for her risque choices that are always praised, Beyonce always finds a place on the best-dressed lists. The Met Gala is the perfect excuse for the A-list elite to push the boat out, so it was no surprise when Bey turned up in all her bejeweled glory in 2015.
The artistis a massive fan of Givenchy when it comes to her Met Gala outfits, and although she didn’t make an appearance at the event this year, we’d put money on her wearing the big G on her next outing, too.
Vivien Leigh’s Red Gown
1939’s Gone With the Wind is perhaps Vivien Leigh’s most famous role. The story follows Scarlett O’Hara as she navigates life after the war, moving on from her home on a plantation to various romantic entanglements with important men. In one scene, she is forced by her husband Rhett to go to a party, and he demands she wear the red ball gown.
The dress was created by costume designer Walter Plunkett, who went to great lengths to reproduce period authentic clothing to enhance the movie. Plunkett met with women whose parents lived through the time span portrayed in the film and was able to see examples of similar dresses.
Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s LBD
Audrey Hepburn always looked her best. Similar in style to Jackie O, Hepburn was adored by designers who wanted her to wear their latest creations. The 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s threw up the perfect role for the demure young actress, who was cast as the socialite and fashionista Holly Golightly.
In the opening sequence of the movie, Golightly is shown eating her breakfast in front of the Tiffany store window, wearing a beautifully cut little black dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy. The outfit became one of Audrey’s most famous wares, and is frequently discussed as one of her staple looks.
Princess Diana’s Wedding Gown
The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 was watched by 750 million people globally. The hotly anticipated nuptials were covered meticulously by the media in the build up to the big day, with a lot of the speculation centering on Diana’s dress.
Designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel worked tirelessly to make the gown something that would “go down in history”, coming up with an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace creation, with a 25-foot train and a 153-yard tulle veil. After the big day, the masterpiece was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Sharon Stone’s Turtleneck
Basic Instinct did well at the box office, largely due to Sharon Stone’s formidable presence. The striking beauty gave a commanding performance in the film noir, which was made famous largely for one particular scene. During the sequence where Sharon is being interrogated, she wears a simple turtleneck dress that’s just as striking as her chiseled features.
Lesser-known designer Ellen Mirojnick is responsible for the angelic outfit, though it’s highly likely she didn’t realize how much of an impact her creation would have on audiences. Of course, the movie is famous for Sharon uncrossing her legs sans-underwear to throw off the officers, but it’s as much about what she is wearing as what she isn’t.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and the City Tutu
Sex and the City was all about the life and times of tireless fashionista and columnist, Carrie Bradshaw. Viewers loved the show for its frank attitude toward the lives of single women, but were equally as taken with the variety of outfits that Carrie wore. Never afraid to try something avant-garde, the character flipped the script on everyday fashion.
Though Carrie had dozens of iconic outfits, the tutu-top dress combo she wears in the title sequence became so closely intertwined with the character that it’s lovingly referenced in the first movie. The outfit was sourced by SATC‘s longtime costume designer Patricia Field, who found the skirt in a showroom bin for just $5.
Jennifer Grey’s Baby Pink Skater
Dirty Dancing is the ultimate modern twist on Romeo and Juliet, with Patrick Swayze’s misunderstood bad boy falling head over heels for Jennifer Grey’s innocent teen. The movie created several important looks, from Swayze’s simplistic all-black ensembles to Grey’s denim shorts and tank tops, but one dress stood head and shoulders above the rest.
In the final dance number, Johnny plucks Baby from her table and performs the effortless lift, while she stuns in a baby pink skater dress designed by costume coordinator Hilary Rosenfeld. Baby’s outfits play an important part in the development of her character, going from the girl in the corner to the girl in the spotlight.
Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress
Fewer wedding outfits create more buzz than a royal one, and that was definitely the case when Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011. Kate’s gorgeous ivory dress was kept a guarded secret until she stepped out of the car at Westminster Palace. Only then were media reporters allowed to discuss the details with the public.
The stunning gown was designed by Sarah Burton, the chief creative director of Alexander McQueen. The form-fitting dress had a huge impact on bridal trends in the coming years, with other fashion houses mimicking the style at a more affordable level for the average Jane.
Liz Hurley’s Safety Pin Dress
Back in the early 90’s, Liz Hurley first came to prominence as the girlfriend of popular British actor Hugh Grant. She caught the eye of the media when she accompanied him to the charity premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral. The barely-there outfit was a Versace creation, held together by gold safety pins.
The outfit became so famous that some hail it as Versace’s best-known work, saying it is largely responsible for launching the career of the actress. These days, it’s usually referred to as “THAT dress”, which really says it all. Who needs words when you’ve got a LBD like that?
Jennifer Lawrence’s 2013 Oscar’s Gown
J-Law scooped her first Oscar in 2013 and wore a dress fit for the occasion. Jen, then just 22, didn’t put much forward-thinking into her red carpet look. In fact, she didn’t even have a fitting. The Hunger Games actress simply woke up and tried the dress on – luckily, it fit.
The striking pale layered gown was Dior couture, but while it served Lawrence well in front of the camera, it was responsible for one of the funniest Oscar moments of all time. As Jennifer was walking to the stage to accept her award, she tripped over her gown and landed on the steps. She took it all in her stride like a true pro.
Rihanna’s 2015 Met Gala Cape
Bad Gal Riri is basically fashion royalty, having served up some serious looks since day one. The world often looks to the forward-thinking pioneer for upcoming style trends, but her 2015 Met Gala look accepts no imitations. Even Rihanna new she was on to a winner, and spent most of her red carpet time gassing up the dress designer.
“I’m so in love with this dress, but the train is insane!” Rihanna told VF.com on the red carpet. “I can’t really walk in it without any help—but it’s so worth it. I love this dress so much! It’s Chinese couture and it’s made by Guo Pei. It’s handmade by one Chinese woman and it took her two years to make. I found it online.”
Grace Kelly’s Wedding Dress
When American film star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, the world was completely taken by the romantic love story. Similarly to the most recent royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Kelly was required to give up her acting career to assume royal duties after her fairy tale day.
Interestingly, the dress was designed by MGM’s Helen Rose. Rose incorporated elegant lace detailing and a beautiful veil, making it one of the most revered bridal gowns of all time. It’s thought that Kate Middleton’s own wedding dress was heavily inspired by Kelly’s.
Cher’s 1988 Oscars Beaded Beauty
Cher has never been one to shy away from the camera, but she really made a statement that turned heads at the 1988 Oscars, outdoing her previous ventures. The sheer fitted number was heavily beaded to cover her modesty, complete with matching earrings and an elegant shawl.
Bob Mackie’s creation certainly got enough screen time as Cher scooped the statue for her role in Moonstruck. At the time, sheer dresses were seldom seen. These days, they’re everywhere. Similar dresses have been worn by Hollywood’s leading ladies in the past few years, proving that Cher is worth her weight in fashion gold.
Princess Diana’s Revenge Dress
Princess Diana made quite the reputation for herself as the most fashionable member of the royal family. Decades on from her tragic passing and her numerous looks are still talked about, especially this off the shoulder LBD she wore to a 1994 Vanity Fair party. The outfit was a new twist on the Princess’ usual style, and it’s said that when she first saw it she thought it was “too daring”.
However, Diana took a gamble on theChristina Stambolian creation. The event was the same evening as a controversial documentary aired, in which Prince Charles seemed to confess to his adultery with now wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, leading the industry to dub her stunning silk outfit “The Revenge Dress.”
Julia Robert’s Red Moment
Pretty Woman is the ultimate rags to riches story that captured the hearts of audiences everywhere. Julia Roberts plays the quick-witted street walker who lands on her feet when she meets her well-to-do client, Richard Gere. The two hit it off and business soon turns to romance.
At the beginning of the film, Julia’s character wears trashy wigs and cheap clothing, but is soon transformed by Gere and his millions. When he sees her in this knock-out red gown and elbow-length gloves, he falls hook, line,and sinker. Costume designer Marilyn Vance-Straker is responsible for the popping outfit that went on to inspire prom dresses the world over.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Gold Cleopatra Costume
1963’s epic biographical movie Cleopatra was an example of what Hollywood can do on a big budget. Every detail was meticulously planned, but none more so than the Queen of the Nile’s outfits. Some of the most elaborate outfits ever worn by a leading lady were produced in this movie, and costume designer Renie Conley gained an Oscar for her efforts.
Rather than going for historical accuracy, the outfits were designed to emphasize Elizabeth Taylor’s striking beauty. Her most famous costume in the movie is arguably this ornately detailed gold dress/cape combo, which makes her look like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Margot Robbie’s Fuchsia Body Con
Although Margot Robbie’s star was already on the rise by the time The Wolf of Wall Street rolled around in 2013, it certainly helped give her profile a boost. The stunning Australian beauty played the fiery wife of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordan Belfort in the biographical movie. Margot turns heads in almost every scene, but it’s this pink dress and heels combo that stole the show.
Designed byAzzedine Alaia, the simple mini-dress worked perfectly in the scene set in the baby pink nursery. In real life, Margot’s taste is much more understated and elegant, but it’s the movie dresses that people remember forever.