|Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress|
In recounting the history of fashion it is hard not to recollect those items that have achieved great notoriety- sometimes even receiving their own entry in Wikipedia, and other times changing the course of history. One of the items that lead to the impeachment of Bill Clinton is Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress. While Monica Lewinsky recently said she wants to “bury” the dress, the history books choose otherwise. This garment proved critical in catching the President in his great lie. The President who insisted he did not have sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky actually had no knowledge of the semen stained dress; however, unfortunately for the Clintons – Linda Tripp did. Monica wanted to wash the dress and re-wear it but Tripp told her she looked too fat in it.
Thankfully, Monica kept the Gap dress so that her story was corroborated when the FBI confirmed that the stain was the President’s. How would our lives be different today if Monica had thought the dress was flattering and decided to clean it? That is hard to say, but I would surmise: Clinton would still be denying his affair, Al Gore might have become President without the Clinton “liability,” and Hillary would likely be the Chief Executive in the White House currently wearing the pants, instead of Barack Obama. The Smithsonian rejected this garment for display on its walls yet, its hallowed place in history will never be forgotten.
|Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin dress
The next dress, that has its own entry in Wikipedia, is the black Versace dress worn by Elizabeth Hurley at the 1994 premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” The black dress was made from pieces of silk and Lycra fabric, with oversized gold safety pins used to hold it together. This dress was the garment that launched Hurley’s career and made her an international phenomenon. This garment also increased the “exposure” of Gianni Versace, this being his most famous creation up until that time. Hurley, at the time could not afford to buy a dress so Hugh Grant’s press office lent her the only item they had left in their office-the Versace dress. After her red carpet appearance, Hurley became the face of Estee Lauder, appeared in an Austin Powers film and launched her own swimwear line. Lady Gaga wore a duplicate of the dress in 2012 but it appeared relatively demure compared to her other fashion choices, and made a slight splash – if any – in the fashion pool.
|Lady Gaga’s “Meat Dress”
However, a dress that did make a huge fashion statement, and has its own Wikipedia entry, was Lady Gaga’s meat dress which she wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. The dress was designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formichetti over the course of a week. The dress was asymmetrical, with a cowl neck and was made from Flank steak with the meat coming from Fernandez’s family butcher. The dress was condemned by animal rights groups and went on to be displayed at the 2011 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after being preserved by taxidermists as a kind of jerky. Lady Gaga defended her donning of the dress by stating, “if we don’t stand up for what we believe in … we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones;” however, nobody bought her interpretation and most just assumed it was another ploy for publicity.
|Jennifer Lopez’s Versace dress
Jennifer Lopez’s green Versace dress, a Wikipedia entry, was another iconic dress that crossed unimaginable boundaries. The dress which Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards ceremony received 642,917 downloads from the Grammy website within 24 hours of the event. The dress which was green with touches of blue to give it an exoticism was a see-through silk chiffon dress with a tropical leaf pattern with bamboo, and a citrine studded crotch. Lopez wore nude shorts underneath and used double-sided tape to avoid any malfunctions. This dress, Donatella Versace acknowledged, was a turning point in Donatella’s career, who had taken over Gianni’s business, and helped establish Lopez and Versace as fashion trendsetters. The gown is currently on display at The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
|Left: Sharon Stone 1998 Oscars & Right: 1996 Oscars|
Another actress who deserves to be praised for her bold fashion choices, before H&M was a household name, is Sharon Stone – who wore a $22 Gap short-sleeve black turtleneck to the 1996 Academy Awards. She made it distinct by not wearing a bra beneath the stretchy polyester top. Sharon Stone received accolades from the fashion press and was entered on many best dressed Oscar fashion lists. However, let’s not forget she wore a Valentino skirt and Giorgio Armani evening coat over the turtleneck, worth I am sure an extraordinary sum. However as Sharon said, “I thought, hey I’m nominated (for Casino), and I’m presenting two Oscars, so why not have some attitude?” Sharon Stone again repeated this daring mix of high-low fashion when she chose a Vera Wang skirt and her husband’s cheap white-button down shirt from the Gap to wear to the 1998 Oscars. Sharon Stone will go down in fashion history for being one of the originators of the trend of mixing high end with lowbrow-something we just saw in the 2014 Chanel collection which paired gowns with sneakers.
|Bjork’s Swan dress
(Photo: Mirek Towski FilmMagic)
Unfortunately, I would be remiss if I did not mention 2 major fashion missteps, where the celebrities achieved extreme notoriety due to their disastrous fashion choices. The first, was Bjork’s swan dress which she wore to the 2001 Academy Awards, and which also has its own Wiki entry. Designed by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejosky the dress was in the shape of a swan and at the Academy Awards Bjork mimicked laying an egg on the red carpet. She had 2 copies of the dress made because it could not be taken to the dry cleaners. The “swan” became the fashion faux pas of the decade and is constantly referenced when speaking of a fashion blunder. The dress has been parodied in movies, television shows, and award presentations. Bjork’s garment has received some salvation by being re-imagined in the Spring 2014 Valentino Couture show which received rave fashion reviews from the social media. However, one must take note that since 2001 Bjork has largely disappeared from the public eye and it is not hard to understand why.
|Kim Kardashian in Givenchy floral gown|
Last, but not least, is the queen of fashion disasters, Kim Kardashian. During her pregnancy the fashion press and media had loads of fun comparing her to balloons and umbrellas and anything else that was circular in nature. However, her 2013 appearance at the Costume Institute Gala, in a dreadful floral Givenchy, gave the world, including Robin Williams aka Mrs. Doubtfire, the greatest guffaws as yet. She was compared to couches, drapes and slipcovers, and the surveyed public felt Euphegenia Doubtfire looked better than Kim; she overshadowed all of the other attendees at the event. Kim was on the worst dressed list of almost every major news outlet and Riccardo Tisci was forced to defend the look by saying, “she was the most beautiful pregnant woman I dressed in my career.” The dress was referred to as the “couch dress” and came with floral gloves attached to the garment. Apparently, Kardashian had such faith in Tisci she let him completely design the look without any of her input-not a good idea. Kardashian, has somewhat cleaned up her act, even appearing on the cover of Vogue – but few will forget the fiasco of that gown.
Over the past 20 years fashion has evolved with stylists and designers taming the looks of many of the celebrities. The days of Bjork’s experimentation seem long gone. However, it worries me that in the process we will lose the creativity that comes with freedom of self expression, Lady Gaga notwithstanding. Moreover, the joy and schadenfreude that comes from seeing a celebrity mess up is a sensation that should not be undervalued.