From Pretty Woman and Atonement to The Seven Year Itch, the most unforgettable dresses of all time
From yard upon yard of blood-red silk silk to strategically placed gold safety-pins, there are some dresses that capture a timeless place in fashion consciousness.
Burned into the collective memory, these dresses are the essences of feminine design, creative genius and natural beauty – brought alive, each and every time, by the piece de resistance – the woman wearing them.
Now, some of the world”s favourite, most memorable dresses, have been collected into one fashion lover”s bible, 100 Unforgettable Dresses, by fashion editor Hal Rubenstein.
Transformation: Marilyn Vance-Straker”s stunning red gown for Julia Roberts” 1990 hit movie, Pretty Woman
Calling upon his not inconsiderable expertise in the industry, Mr Rubenstein, fashion director of InStyle magazine, has chosen a wealth of gowns that encapsulate the last nine decades.
Dipping into Hollywood blockbusters, defining Silver Screen moments, red-carpet sashays and even TV sitcoms, he proves that there are some frocks that have serious staying power when it comes to fantasy and design.
Happy Birthday: Marilyn Monroe looked as if she was coated in sparkles when she sang to the President in 1962, and in the Travilla gown for the now-iconic Seven Year Itch marketing shot
The Hollywood rags-to-riches fairytale, Pretty Woman, is perhaps captured best by one dress – the bright red show-stopping gown by Marilyn Vance-Straker, that signals the completion of Julia Roberts” Vivian”s transformation from streetwalker to head-turning sophisticate.
The power of that stunning wardrobe choice is part-and-parcel of the story – its classic elegance comes alive in its role in the 1990 box office hit.
Royal weddings: The Duchess of Cambridge in her Alexander McQueen gown earlier this year, and Princess Diana in her 1981 Elizabeth Emanuel gown
Marilyn Monroe”s 1962 “happy birthday” gown, by Jean Louis, a flesh-coloured souffl mesh that was embellished with 2,500 sequins and beads that made her look like she was”coated in nothing but glitter” could not have been omitted from the tome.
There are, of course, the classics – from the second most marketed screen image of all time, Marilyn Monroe”s white, blowing William Travilla Seven Year Itch dress to Coco Chanel”s original little black dress.
20 feet and counting: Grace Jones makes a Keith Haring dress her very own in 1987 at a New Year”s Eve party
Fit for a princess: Grace Kelly, demure as ever, in an Edith Head cocktail dress for movie, Rear Window, in 1954
There is a place for the eccentrically playful style of Grace Jones, whose 1987 New Year”s ensemble was a piece of living art.
The Keith Haring gown, worn with a naked, painted torso, extended twenty feet or so, and unfurled as the singer rose on a special hidden lift.
And from one Grace to another, Grace Kelly makes the list several times over, her beauty perhaps best brought alive by the Edith Head cocktail dress as worn in Alfred Hitchcock”s 1954 film, Rear Window.
Carrie Bradshaw: Sarah Jessica-Parker is surrounded by sage green frothiness for a scene in Sex and the City, 2005. The shredded tulle gown is by Donatella Versace
Modern classics, such as Diane Von Furstenberg”s wrap dress are casual creations that flatter any form. Or, as the designer herself puts it: “I”m proudest of two things in my life: my children, and that I”ve never met a woman who doesn”t look good in my dress.”
Diplomatically astute is the white, frothy Jason Wu gown thatMichelle Obama wore to the inauguration ball in 2009. She is credited with putting the young designer on the map, while the dress cemented herposition as a beacon of style.
That Dress: If ever one dress can be said to be responsible for fame and career, it is Liz Hurley”s 1994 Versace safety pin dress, while Julia Roberts wore 1982 Valentino when she won her 2001 Oscar for Erin Brockovich
“Revenge dress”: Princess Diana looked a million dollars on the day Prince Charles admitted publicly to his affair, while Cindy Crawford captures the supermodel style of an era in Versace, 1992
Thenthere are the one-pieces that propelled individuals from the quotidian to the stratospheric. Take Liz Hurley”s career-enhancing, asset-adoring safety pin dress, known as That Dress, by Gianni Versace.
Worn in 1994 to the world premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral in London, the black and gold number is never far from editorial spreads even now, 17 years later.
/12/06/article-2070449-0F112D9D00000578-407_634x561.jpg” width=”634″ height=”561″ alt=”Keira Knightley Atonement” class=”blkBorder” />
Robbie and Cecilia: 2007″s Atonement sees Keira Knightley in stunning emerald, designed by Jacqueline Durran
Princess Diana wore a flesh-baring, overtly sexy and powerful dress on the evening that prince Charles publicly admitted to having an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. The dress was a message of defiance, or, as Mr Rubenstein puts it: a “revenge dress.”
There”s a whole section dedicated to Audrey Hepburn, her inimitably coy poise lapping up the flattering lines of Givenchy, Cecil Beaton and the sparkling “metalwork”of Paco Rabanne”s disco-ball like dress.
Etherial beauty: Other-worldly Tilda Swinton captivates in Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, 2008, while Michelle Obama marks an historic moment with a Jason Wu gown, propelling the young designer towards fashion stardom
Stylish: 100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein is published by Harper Design
Within days of Atonement hitting screensin 2007, Kiera Knightley”s emerald gown had a posse of admiring fans, its design sexier than any mid-1930s dress would have been. It was a hitwith modern audiences far and wide and second-hand copies have been sold for as much as $46,000.
Alexander McQueen”s 2006 hologram gown sits alongside Lady Gaga”s Armani satellite dress and Valentino”s definitive bright red creations are warranted a section to themselves.
Weddingdresses make the cut, too, with the nuptial gowns of Grace Kelly, Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge all featuring.
Sexand the City”s Sarah Jessica Parker is pictured, surrounded by ruffled discs, wearing the over-the-top sage green shredded tulle Donatella Versace gown from the series.
What the book really does, though, is confirm what any designer worth his or her mettle has always known: that a dress is rendered unforgettable only because of the woman bringing it alive.
Or, as Versace put it: “On a hanger, no dressis sexy. It”s just fabric on a hanger. My clothes only come alive on the woman who knows how to be sexy in them.”