11. Bjork’s swan dress on the 2001 Oscars red carpet
Love her or loathe her, there is no ignoring outlandish Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork whenever she makes a public appearance. By far the most commented outfit she ever wore was the infamous swan dress, which she sported on the red carpet at the 2001 Academy Awards. Bjork attended the gala as a Best Song in a Motion Picture nominee, for her performance in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. The same role had earned Bjork a Best Actress Award at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. The dress consisted of a full body stocking, plus an actual swan, with its beak resting on the singer’s cleavage. Bjork had two dresses made, since she couldn’t have the outfit dry-cleaned. The dress, designed by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, was also featured on the cover of the singer’s 2001 album Vespertine and it was eventually auctioned off, to the benefit of an Oxfam organization for children. A Debenhams 2008 poll had it voted 9th on the list of the most iconic dresses ever worn on the red carpet. Fun fact: Bjork even mimicked laying an egg on the red carpet in that dress!
12. How Kate Moss ripped a vintage Dior to shreds
Take a good look at the above photo: it features a relatively composed Kate Moss, stepping out on the red carpet for a 2007 Golden Couture award. She is wearing a GBP4,000 golden dress designed by Christian Dior, which also happens to be an iconic vintage piece. Rather inadvertently, the events that unfolded that night also turned it into one of the most infamous vintage style dresses in fashion history. It all started with singer Courtney Love stepping on the train of the dress early on in the evening. It is unclear what transpired by the end of the party, but the photos that emerged after that evening display a rather disheveled Miss Moss, her dress split down the middle and tied around her waist, fashioned into an impromptu kind of mini. Always trust Kate Moss to cause some scandal and party like a rock star: the famous model was seen leaving the V&A museum bash dressed as described above, only to join another party in Dorchester. Moss later auctioned off her famous dress, which dated back to the 1930s, in order to raise money for her stylist friend James Brown and Cancer Research UK.
13. Film noir essentials: Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not
There is not a single outfit that Lauren Bacall wears in the 1944 film noir classic To Have and Have Not that does wrong by the standards of the film noir genre. Incidentally, this is the same movie in which Bacall is seen wearing an iconic gingham-print two piece suit – the defining piece of the 1940s, which went on to become one of the era’s most popular styles. The suit, much like the slinky black satin dress featured above, displays all the style elements of the day: high shoulders, a tailored waist, and a figure-hugging skirt, which perfectly highlights Bacall’s lean structure and long legs. The dress is somewhat more daring than Bacall’s usual style – note the exposed midriff and the mermaid silhouetting. Add her impeccably combed back, side-parted hairstyle, a cigarette in her hand, and watch her as she sashays from one scene to the other, alongside none other than Humphrey Bogart.
14. Keira Knightley in backless emerald green
The most recent of the vintage style dresses to feature on our list is Keira Knightley’s beautiful, backless dress in emerald green, as seen in the 2007 movie Atonement. A lot has been said about the actress’s performance in the movie, with most critics declaring themselves underwhelmed by her acting prowess. However, the thirties-style evening gown skillfully designed by costume designer Jacqueline Durran instantly claimed online fame and became viral, in anticipation of the movie’s launch. Costume critics have commented in the unusual choice of color – green is not often featured on film, particularly not in this shade. Yet in the case of Cecilia’s dress, this hue is believed to have been chosen as it evokes both the character’s power, as well as the envy she stirs up in her own sister, Briony. In an interview with Durran, the designer explained that the concept behind the dress was to have Cecilia look “as naked as possible”. This is why it was designed in silk and made backless. Though it is a relatively new creation, the dress has become widely recognized as one of the most famous ones in movie history.
15. Catherine Deneuve, elegantly kinky
One look at any outfit worn by Catherine Deneuve’s character in Belle du Jour (1967) reveals so many nuances of style – from muted passion, to restrained affluence, and impeccable elegance. Once you learn who was the talent behind the outfits, it all starts to make sense. At the time, Yves Saint Laurent had yet to become an incontestable household name in the world of global fashion. His promise and potential, however, were undeniable. All outfits are designed around the concepts of femininity, simplicity, and elegance. His choice of materials is often surprising, and ranges from proper wool fabrics to patent leather, in order to reveal the true nature of the character. On the surface, Deneuve’s Severine might seem like the perfectly prim and proper housewife. In reality, however, she is tortured by fantasies, fetishes, and dreams of prostitution. Interestingly enough, Saint Laurent later released a clutch as a nod to the film, which could be purchased online until recently.
16. Lady Di in blue velvet
One cannot dance with John Travolta in just about any outfit. Also, bear in mind that Princess Diana of Wales is credited with having made some bold choices in her day, both in matters of fashion and otherwise. One such decision was the one to wear an off-the-shoulders dress in blue velvet, designed for her by Victor Edelstein, during her 1985 visit at the White House. As a guest of then president Ronald Reagan, Diana famously danced with John Travolta – a way of telling the world that the British Crown can be stylish, fun, and hip, too. In 2011, the dress was sold in an auction, together with other famous pieces from Diana’s wardrobe, for GBP510,000.
17. Anjelica Huston as Jack Nicholson’s date at the 1976 Oscars
There is nothing short of iconic about the above image. The raunchy 70s are in full swing, Jack Nicholson is one of the moment’s hottest stars, following his stint in One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest, and he’s also donning one of the decades trendiest accessories – the beret. However, it’s his date, then relatively unknown Anjelica Huston everybody’s watching. The statuesque brunette with a million dollar smile actually manages to draw attention away from her larger-than-life date, in her sleek, figure-hugging fish-scale printed dress. The then former Halston model had been dating the actor for a few years, but this was the first (of many) times they appeared on the Oscars red carpet together. Huston and Nicholson dated for close to two decades and she went on to become a respected actress on her own – celebrated today as one of the most respected figures in Hollywood. Yet it is this image that lives on as representative of their heyday together. As a side note, French actress Marion Cotillard went on to wear a similar dress at the 2008 Oscars – and pulled it off just as impeccably.
18. Mary Poppins’s dress, hat, and umbrella
When one thinks about the movie adaptation of Mary Poppins (1964), a couple of things spring to mind, one of which is the magical nanny’s umbrella. The umbrella is Mary’s foremost accessory, her gateway in and out of the real world. She is also wearing an umbrella (although one made for providing shade in the sunshine) in the scene in which she sings the song Jolly Holiday, alongside Dick van Dyke’s character Bert. That scene features a prime example of Edwardian-style costume, as designed by Academy Award Winning designer Tony Walton. The pure white dress features a satin waist corset and it is worn with a matching hat, ankle boots, and the lovely parasol mentioned above. An interesting detail, noted by those who have seen the costume on display, in an exhibition organized by Disney, is that the ribbons on the dress are not pink, as they appear in the movie, but orange. All in all, the dress is as whimsical as they come, as is only fitting for this classic musical.
19. Dustin Hoffman’s epiphany-inducing Tootsie dress
Some might find it weird to have a man featured on a list of the most famous vintage style dresses in history – however, we believe it is more than appropriate to feature Dustin Hoffman’s red sequin dress, which he wore in the movie Tootsie. In the film, Dustin plays a cross-dressing actor, who resorts to building a female identity, in order to get a coveted better part on a popular soap opera. By and large, the movie is considered a fun comedy and one of the best ones in the cross-dressing genre. However, a recent interview that Hoffman, aged 75 at the time, gave for the American Film Institute, spoke of a different experience for the star. The actor, who also received an Academy Award nomination for the part, explained that he had a revelation one day, when he was getting his make-up done. The artists told him they couldn’t possibly make him more conventionally attractive than they already had. That’s when Hoffman welled up with tears and realized the amount of pressure that society puts on women and the importance of their physical attractiveness. Sure, Hoffman might not have the best body on our list, but his candid interview definitely earns him a part and the recognition of the entire female population.
20. J-Lo goes scandalous in Versace green at the Grammies
When you put together voluptuous Latina style icon Jennifer Lopez and a sheer Versace gown, it’s rather clear you’re bound to see some controversy emerging from the combination. This is precisely what happened at the 2000 Grammy Awards, when the singer showed up on the red carpet, arm in arm with then-boyfriend P.Diddy. Hint: Versace is one fashion label that’s no stranger to red carpet controversy – check out Elizabeth Hurley’s outfit further down on our list. But this green exotic print dress was pivotal in the history of the Versace house for other reasons, too: it made Donatella Versace, sister to the late founder of the house, Gianni Versace, a recognized designer in her own rights. Donatella had been struggling to restore the label’s former glory ever since her brother’s untimely death in 1997. Though Versace had initially only lent the dress to Lopez, in recognition of her contribution to their publicity efforts, they gifted her the dress eventually. We’re hoping they also threw in a lifetime supply of double tape. Interestingly enough, Lopez was not the first star to wear the dress on the red carpet. It had been previously worn by Donatella Versace herself, as well as by another star featured on our list, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.