- From on-screen gowns to red-carpet dresses, many styles that have been worn by celebrities are now pretty famous.
- For a variety of reasons, these dresses have stood the test of time and continue to be referenced by pop-culture enthusiasts and fashion lovers alike.
- From Lady Gaga’s meat dress to J-Lo’s plunge-neckline Versace gown, here are some of the most iconic dresses of all time.
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Countless dresses have made their debut on the red carpet and on the big screen over the years, but only a select few have stood the test of time and made their mark in the annals of fashion.
Whether they’ve inspired memes, set off trends, or kept fashion lovers and designers alike coming back to them time and time again, there’s no denying that these numbers have made a place for themselves in the style history books.
From Lady Gaga’s stab at meat couture to Audrey Hepburn’s memorable “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” frock, here are some of the most iconic dresses of all time
Back in 2000, Jennifer Lopez “broke the internet” with her plunging Versace number at the Grammy Awards.
- Mike Blake/Reuters
When Jennifer Lopez walked the red carpet in this semi-sheer, leaf-print gown with a plunging neckline, she made fashion history and supposedly sparked a major tech advancement, too.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said that the iconic dress inspired the invention of Google’s image-search feature.
“[Google users] wanted more than just text. This first became apparent after the 2000 Grammy Awards, where Jennifer Lopez wore a green dress that, well, caught the world’s attention,” Schmidt wrote in an essay published in January 2015. “At the time, it was the most popular search query we had ever seen. But we had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: J.Lo wearing that dress. Google Image Search was born.'”
She later wore various versions of this gown’s iconic pattern for her music video for “I Luh Ya, Papi” and during a free concert for her fans in 2014.
In 2011, Kate Middleton’s Alexander-McQueen wedding gown made fashion history.
- Getty/Pascal Le Segretain
Kate Middleton and Prince William’s April 2011 wedding was memorable in its own right, but one of the most exciting moments from the day was when the soon-to-be duchess debuted her gown.
Custom-designed by designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Middleton’s wedding gown featured handmade lace details and a 9-foot-long train. The dress was also paired with custom heels and a borrowed Cartier tiara.
A few months after the wedding, Middleton’s gown was featured in a special exhibit in Buckingham Palace.
Lady Gaga said she wore raw meat to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to make a political statement.
- Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Although the design had many scratching their heads, the “Shallow” songstress said that the controversial number was meant to protest a US military policy.
Per Vogue UK, Lady Gaga said her look was referring to a speech she’d made called “The Prime Rib of America.” In it, she urged the US military to abandon its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prevented gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers from serving openly in the military.
In a later interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga explained, “As you know, I’m the most judgment-free human being on the Earth. It has many interpretations, but for me this evening it’s [saying], ‘If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.'”
You’ve probably seen Marilyn Monroe’s windblown white dress dozens of times.
When it comes to iconic film moments, few are as memorable as when Marilyn Monroe’s white halter dress was lifted up by a gust of air from the subway during the 1955 romantic-comedy “The Seven Year Itch.”
Per CNN, the “subway” dress sold for over $5.6 million in an auction in 2011.
Audrey Hepburn might have worn one of the most iconic little black dresses ever made in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961).
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and Audrey Hepburn are both famous in their own right, but Hepburn’s black dress in the film, paired with elbow-length gloves, a small tiara, and a thick necklace is a look that made fashion history.
The black number, which was originally designed by Hubert de Givenchy, was even given a 21st-century update during the Givenchy Haute Couture Fall show in 2018 shortly after the passing of the frock’s original designer.
Per Today, in 2006, Hepburn’s dress from the film sold for $807,000.
At the 2012 Oscars, Angelina Jolie wore a black gown that showed off her right leg and it was a big deal.
The black, velvet Atelier-Versace gown was iconic in its own right – but the most memorable part of this look is arguably how Angelina Jolie posed in it, perfectly sticking out her right leg.
This wasn’t the first or last time the actress wore this style, but this is certainly one of the most memorable moments. She’s oftentimes credited with popularizing this trend and, over the years, many other stars have debuted their own high-slit numbers on the red carpet.
Rihanna went for a sheer look in a crystal-encrusted number during the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America awards.
Known as being quite the style icon, Rihanna truly made an entrance when she wore a sparkling chain-mail gown to accept the CFDA’s Fashion Icon Award in 2014.
Designed by Adam Selman, the dress was embellished with over 230,000 crystals and Rihanna paired with a furry pink stole.
Julia Roberts completed her “Pretty Woman” (1990) transformation with a floor-length crimson gown.
- Touchstone Pictures
Julia Roberts starred in the ’90s rom-com “Pretty Woman” alongside Richard Gere and even though the film features many memorable looks, the red gown is the most iconic one.
Costumer Marilyn Vance custom-designed the original gown for Roberts’ character, but the style is so timeless that brands today still sell designs that look similar to it and people still regularly try to recreate the look.
In 1984, Madonna memorably performed “Like A Virgin” in a bridal-inspired dress paired with tons of shiny accessories.
- The LIFE Picture Collection
Although Madonna has no shortage of signature looks that have stood the test of time, the number that she wore to perform “Like a Virgin” for her first performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 could be one of her most memorable ones.
The songstress paired a white lacy wedding-gown-inspired frock with matching gloves and a “Boy Toy” belt. The dress was later on display at Hard Rock Cafe locations around the US as part of the chain’s Memorabilia Tour.
Vivien Leigh made a memorable entrance as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind” (1939).
- , Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Although some argue this movie hasn’t exactly aged well (many have called it out for its portrayal of slavery), the dresses in it have certainly have made their mark on pop-culture history.
Decades later, the dress and others from the movie were put on display for a special exhibit for the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, per the New York Daily News.
The gown that Michelle Obama wore to the 2013 inaugural ball is unforgettable.
- REUTERS/Rick Wilking
At former President Barack Obama’s first inaugural ball in 2009, Michelle Obama turned heads in a white, one-shouldered chiffon gown that’s famous in its own right. But possibly even more unforgettable is the red gown she wore to his second inaugural ball.
The halter-necked, velvet-accented, ruby-red gown was specially designed by Jason Wu and it was later put on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as part of a “First Ladies” exhibit.
Back in 2001, Björk wore a dress that made it look like there was a swan draped around her neck.
In 2015, over a decade later, the artist and her memorable dress were featured in a retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
Beyoncé’s 2015 Met-Gala dress was sheer, sparkling, and stunning.
Back in 2015, Beyoncé’s nearly-naked dress turned heads at the “China: Through the Looking Glass” Met Gala. Although other stars also followed the “naked dress” trend for this event, the “Lemonade” star’s version made headlines due to its special design.
The sheer gown, which was designed by Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci, featured a ton of strategically placed multi-colored crystal embellishments.
The songstress’ mega-high ponytail also made headlines, with many pretty shocked that the style was a last-minute change that took just 5 minutes to execute.
Keira Knightley’s green dress in “Atonement” (2007) has been widely praised.
- Focus Features
Although the film is set in the 1930s, it features some timeless fashions including the flowy, vibrant-green gown that Keira Knightley’s character wears as Cecilia Tallis.
Read More: Every single Keira Knightley movie, ranked
In June 1994, Princess Diana broke royal norms with what has come to be known as the “Revenge Dress.”
- Jayne Fincher/Getty Images
Designed by Christina Stambolian, many dubbed this dress the “revenge dress” since she wore it the same night that Prince Charles “tell-all” documentary aired. In it, he admitted that he’d been unfaithful to her.
Although we may never know why Princess Diana chose to wear this little black dress on this very night, it’s certainly gone down in fashion history.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s bright-pink gown helped define ’90s fashion.
- Newsmakers/Getty Images
At the 1999 Academy Awards, Gwyneth Paltrow wore a pink gown by Ralph Lauren that seemed to resemble a princess dress with its spaghetti straps and wide skirt. While in the frock, Paltrow also accepted her award for best actress.
One of the most interesting parts of the look is that Paltrow reportedly didn’t work with a stylist to pick it out – she bought the dress at a boutique just a few days before the red carpet.
Dubbed “the one Oscar dress that defined the ’90s” by some, Paltrow’s pink gown has surely secured its place in red-carpet history.
In 2018, Meghan Markle debuted her truly timeless wedding gown.
At her and Prince Harry’s May 2018 wedding, Meghan Markle made a grand entrance in an elegant white gown with sleeves.
Alongside Prince Harry’s wedding-day outfit, Markle’s dress was later featured in a special exhibit at the Windsor Castle.