The 5 Most Iconic Dresses of the 20th Century

While some fashions have come and gone as quickly as Usain Bolt on acid (shutter shades, anyone?), some have been embedded in our minds forever. As I racked my brains through all the iconic dresses of the 20th century, I found it incredibly hard to choose five. Skimming through the ages I considered those from the breath-taking and bedazzling (Keira Knightley’s Green dress in Atonement), the everlasting (Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress in The Seven Year Itch), the slightly crazy-mad (Bjorks Swan Dress), to the downright, awfully bad (Cher’s Oscar Dress 1986). However, after much careful deliberation, these were the 5 that made the list.

1) Liz Hurley’s Black ‘Safety Pin’ Dress at the ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’Premiere 1994 by Versace

Yes, we’re starting with the obvious – but it would be a sacrilege not to include it. This is THAT dress that propelled the struggling (then 29 year-old) actress Elizabeth Hurley, then-girlfriend of up-and-coming Hugh Grant to the A-list. This is the dress that propelled Versace to be a leading fashion house and create almost-as-iconic dresses (Jennifer Lopez’s Green Dress at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards, for one). This is THAT Dress which came at a time where the red carpet was dominated by the safe – and was only chosen by Liz at the last minute as there was nothing else to wear in her size. This was the moment where Hurley brazenly walked onto the red carpet showing her ample chest (and much more) to the world in a black Versace dress attached by safety pins. Amazing.

2) Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack Dress at the 1997 Brit Awards by Gucci and her own sewing skills

Before Geri Halliwell spoke condescendingly to contestants on the X-Factor, and before dabbling in her Next line which seemingly rotates around the success of this one dress, she achieved the inconceivable; she made the Union Flag cool for all generations. After years of British bands languishing in the US charts, the Spice Girls dominated the Cool Britannia movement. Made from a “too boring” Gucci dress and quickly-sewed-on patriotic tea towel, it currently holds the world record for most expensive piece of popstar clothing at auction.

3) Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards by Haus of Gaga

Whether you love her, or want to poke her face (sorry, couldn’t resist), Lady Gaga has worn outfits from the innovative to the plain old copying (last month she was seen in Liz Hurley’s dress, and god knows how many outfits are 1980s Madonna). This was her third costume change of the night and (allegedly) had a stench enough to make you a vegetarian. Attracting parodies from even The Simpsons, it is now on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

4) Audrey Hepburn’s Black Dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Givenchy, 1961

Can we just put our hands up and see how many of us have, or have had, a picture of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s adorning our plain university walls? The world for one was introduced to the concept of the LBD, when this dress worked its spell-binding majesty right from the first scene of the film (as well as all being mirrored on all advertising posters), where Holly Golightly, our famous is she-but-is-she-not-gentlemen-caller is eating pastries outside Tiffany’s (which Hepburn actually hated). Mixed with elbow length gloves and a pearl necklace this was the chicest moment around and the look which many women still strive for today.

5) Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress, 2011, by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Speculation was rife and bets were being placed on every British designer. Everyone knew that this would be the dress that every bride would emulate. It would be the dress that would knock her (amazing) blue engagement dress out of the window – whose high street copy sold out within 10 minutes online. When Kate stepped out of the car and we saw a Sarah Burton number, the world (OK, maybe just me) let out a collective gasp. That waist! Those sleeves! That neckline! While Kate’s late mother-in-law had been a 19-year-old, scared, little shadow in a meringue dress at her wedding, Waity-Kaity was 10 years older, sleeker and more self-assured of her relationship with William than Diana ever was of Charles. Even if she was followed by a sister who became famous just because of her bottom, it was Kate who left us speechless, prompting Harry, when he turned, to whisper to William: “just wait until you see her.”

Sia Danielsson-Waters

5 Comments on this post.
  • B
    9 November 2012 at 02:19
    Leave a Reply

    Aren’t 2010 and 2011 in the 21st century?

  • A
    9 November 2012 at 10:28
    Leave a Reply

    You’re quite right B, they are. No Marilyn?

  • Sophia
    9 November 2012 at 11:32
    Leave a Reply

    Hahahaha woops, clearly mean to change the title to “the past 100 years”! Marilyn was in my original draft and was a big contender, as I said! It’s so hard to choose just five 🙂

  • Paul
    9 November 2012 at 15:43
    Leave a Reply

    Well, if you drop 21st century dresses you can add in Diana’s wedding dress (was an epic thing, world record setting train), and Marilyn Monroe’s subway vent dress.

  • Sia
    16 November 2012 at 00:36
    Leave a Reply

    I really couldn’t decide between Kate and Diana which is why I made the comparison! 5 IS NOT ENOUGH! 🙂

  • Leave a Reply