Madonna’s Marie Antoinette Dress
By 1990, Madonna had become known for basically doing whatever she wanted, so it wasn’t uncommon for her to wear skimpy lingerie-style outfits on stage. 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, which was complete with a tall, curled wig, makeup that simulated the look of an 18th century French socialite and a fan, had an exaggerated, box-like waist which was in keeping with dresses Marie Antoinette herself would’ve worn. The front of the dress was embellished with all manner of embroidery, beading, sequins and more, while the ivory colour of the dress complemented Madonna’s pearl necklace and bracelet. Whilst wearing the dress, she paraded around the stage flanked by multiple dancers, clacking her fan, and flawlessly executed the dance routine. Since then, the outfit and performance have made it easy to see why Madonna was, and still is, so popular.
Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress
Although not a traditional dress, almost everyone who has 2010 in their living memory knows about this outfit. Gaga was sewn into it backstage at the 2010 Video Music Awards before going to accept the Best Video award for her song Bad Romance. Even better is that the outfit also included a raw meat hat, boots and purse, the latter of which vegan popstar Cher held whilst Gaga made her acceptance speech. It unsurprisingly garnered a range of reviews from bemused critics and strange looks from the other VMA attendees, but when asked, Lady Gaga explained that the dress was made in protest of the American military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and how “pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones”. The dress is currently in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where it has been taxidermied and turned into jerky to preserve it.
Marilyn Monroe’s Pink Dress
Although some may prefer the white cocktail dress from The Seven Year Itch or the sheer bejewelled gown from the night she sang Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy, due to its influence on pop culture, I’ve chosen her shocking pink dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It only gets about seven minutes of screen time whilst Monroe sings Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, but it left such a lasting impression on the public that Madonna parodied it in her music video for Material Girl. Not even the masses of diamond accessories sported on Monroe’s arms, neck and ears are able to detract any attention from the gown, and despite it being a relatively simple strapless floor-length satin dress (save for the enormous bow on the back), there’s something about it that has transcended the context of the movie and it has now become its own symbol of femininity, materialism and the power of being able to get what you want.
Jennifer Lopez’s Green Dress
When Jennifer Lopez debuted this green Versace dress at the 42nd Grammy awards in 2000, no one could have guessed the extent of the cultural impact it would have. The green and blue sheer silk chiffon dress is printed with a tropical leaf and bamboo motif and gathered below the navel, whilst the waist is studded with citrine. This created an ultra-low neckline as well as a high slit, creating the look of a robe worn over the top of a bikini. Lopez recalled how the atmosphere changed when she arrived to host the award show with David Duchovny of X-Files fame, and it’s not hard to see why! Despite both Geri Halliwell and Versace herself wearing the dress before J-Lo did, only she could harness its true power, with images of her in the dress being downloaded from the Grammy’s website more than 600,000 times in the 24 hours after the show. In fact, in 2015, Google President Eric Schmidt admitted that so many people had searched for the dress that it had almost singlehandedly sparked the creation of Google Images!
Diana’s Revenge Dress
Worn by the late Princess of Wales to the Serpentine Gallery, this off-the-shoulder black silk gown was the subject of many headlines when Diana made her first public appearance since her ex-husband’s admission of infidelity was televised. It was accessorised with an equally iconic choker necklace consisting of seven strands of pearls with a clasp hidden behind an enormous sapphire. Christina Stambolian, designer of the dress some dubbed the ‘Serpentine Cocktail’ or the ‘I’ll Show You Dress’, likened it to the black swan Odile in Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, claiming that Lady Spencer was clearly angry. Over 25 years since it was worn, the dress, combined with Diana’s playful gracefulness and personality has remained firmly in the mind of the public, perhaps more so than any other royal dress. It was, in every way, the perfect middle finger to her ex.