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10 iconic vintage evening dresses

10 iconic vintage evening dresses

1. Christian Dior’s 'Junon' & 'Venus' evening dresses from the 'Milieu du Siècle' Autumn-Winter 1949 collection

In 1949 Christian Dior designed a set of gowns to be promotional items for the I. Magnin & Company department store in San Francisco. The Junon gown was named after the Roman goddess of marriage and fertility (Hera), and her sister gown, Venus, after the goddess of love, beauty, and prosperity (Aphrodite).  Junon’s petals are meant to invoke peacock feathers, while Venus’s shell-shaped scallops – Venus rising from the ocean.  As soon as Grover Magnin saw them, they were declared “museum pieces, not for sale.” Both gowns are now part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. 

2. Black dress of Rita Hayworth, 1946

Rita Hayworth donned a black dress designed by American costume designer Jean Louis in the 1946 film Gilda. The dress was worn in a scene in which the character of Gilda sings the song "Put the Blame on Mame" while improvising a quick dance choreographed by Jack Cole. The dress has contributed to the consolidation of the image of the femme fatale and is widely regarded as an icon of both fashion and film.

As part of Operation Crossroads, Rita Hayworth's Gilda black dress was imprinted on the first nuclear bomb tested after the Second World War in 1946.

3. Lauren Hutton’s Oscar dress, 1975

Lauren Hutton wore Halston to the 1975 Academy Awards:  She was the face of American fashion at the time, and he was the most talked-about young designer in New York. Lauren wore one of Halston's signature Grecian gowns, rendered in stunning watercolour chiffon, to the awards ceremony. The actress paired the dress with a coat made of fox fur. 

4. Princess Diana’s velvet dress, 1981

In December 1981, The Princess of Wales attended the National Film Institute Dinner at the Royal Festival Hall in a blue velvet dress with a ruffled cuff embellishment and an oversized white lace collar.

Velvet became a popular choice for celebrities beginning in the 1970s, making it highly sought after and easily accessible to popular culture. In the fashion of the 1970s and 1980s, celebrities (and, in this instance, royals) incorporated it into kimonos, floating dresses, and bell bottoms.

5. Diana Ross, Mahogany, 1975

No guide to the best party dresses would be complete without Diana Ross. After playing Billie Holiday in the highly successful 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, the Motown superstar was already a well-known actress when she took on the role of Tracy Chambers, a struggling fashion design student on her way to becoming a fashion designer. Naturally, Ross's outfit did not disappoint, offering a Met Gala-worthy embellished kimono-sleeve gown that appeared to have been designed by the star herself with assistance from the film's costume designer Susan Gertsman. 

6. Mia Farrow, Great Gatsby, 1974

Mia Farrow played Daisy Buchanan brilliantly in the 1974 feature film adaptation of "The Great Gatsby," directed by Francis Ford Coppola and set in the 1920s. We especially recollect the stylish beaded outfit Daisy wore with a matching headdress, pearls and a cream feathered bag.

Coppola’s “Great Gatsby” is a period piece set in the 1920s, but it's the 1920s through the prism of the 1970s. One can see this in the makeup alone. Like many movies set in an earlier era - and this is especially true during the Golden Age of Hollywood - period dramas were less about historical accuracy and more about looking at that time through a modern lens.

7. Jane Birkin at the Premiere of Slogan, 1969

Long before Carrie Bradshaw’s beige DKNY number, Kendall Jenner in La Perla, and even before Cher at the 1974 Met Gala, there was Jane Birkin in her sheer sweater dress. Jane's provocative look at the premiere of the French film Slogan embodies the actress's demure-meets-sexy style, marking a pivotal moment in the history of "the naked dress." Jane stated to Vogue Paris about the enduring sartorial moment, "I didn't realize [the dress] was so transparent." 

8. Marilyn Monroe's hot pink dress in “Niagara”, 1953

When Dorothy Jeakins and Charles Le Maire were designing Marilyn Monroe's legendary dress, they made it in two colors – one bright red and another in hot pink. However, the pink version was the obvious choice. Naturally, pink became Marilyn Monroe's signature color, as the actress appeared a few months later in a glamourous pink gown in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Marilyn was so taken with the dress that she wore it to several publicity shoots independent of the movie!

9. Audrey Hepburn, Two for the Road, 1967

In Funny Face (1957) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Audrey Hepburn showed off some of her most sophisticated on-screen fashion looks. However, her truly blockbuster party entrance came in 1967 when she played Joanna Wallace in the comedy Two for the Road, which is loaded with on-point contemporary style references. Our favourite? A disc dress by Paco Rabanne (complete with matching earrings and bold, feline eyeliner). 

10. Madonna’s Marie Antoinette Dress, 1990

By 1990, Madonna had established a reputation for basically doing anything she wanted, so it was not uncommon for her to perform in revealing lingerie-style attire. Imagine the shock then, when the curtains parted to reveal The Queen of Pop wearing a dress in the style of Marie Antoinette, especially after her cone bra ensemble earlier in the year! The outfit had a box-like waist that was in line with what Marie Antoinette would have worn, and also included a tall, curled wig, makeup that simulated the look of an 18th-century French socialite, and a fan. 

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