Across past decades, we’ve been lucky enough to glimpse a wealth of amazing fashion styles. From the red carpet to famous scenes, world-renowned ladies have made their mark with a selection of unforgettable gowns that have never left us — but which are the most iconic?
Featuring incredible designs worn by Meghan Markle, Marilyn Monroe and more; browse my guide to the most inspiring designer dresses — and discover how you can get the high-street version today.
It’s no secret that Beyoncé is a fashion queen. We couldn’t get enough of the sheer, bejewelled dress that Beyoncé wore at the Met Gala in 2015. Designed by Givenchy, the fitted, backless gown was awash with strategically-placed multi-coloured crystals and before slowing elegantly around her heeled feet.
But you don’t have to go all out with a crystallised, see-through dress — try something equally stand-out but maybe demurer. Concentrate on the embellishment of your gown to emulate the Beyoncé look — styles such as a diamante bodycon or metallic maxi dress will offer a similar, stand-out look that’s perfect for a night out. Instead of sheer or see-through, why not opt for a nude gown that you can pair with complementary bag and heels?
After the 1986 Academy Awards, Cher’s look was the talk of the town. The legend of music and film was asked to present the Best Supporting Actor award and made sure she wouldn’t be upstaged by the winner in a black, jewel-encrusted gown with matching plumed headpiece designed by Bob Mackie. Split into a hip-hugging skirt and criss-cross bralet, the outfit was captivatingly daring for an Oscars event and has gone down in film industry history as one of the most famous outfits ever.
Having confidence is essential to mastering this look. Show off your curves by pairing a black cami bralet with a long, side-split skirt or opt for a midriff cut-out maxi dress. Swap the plumed headwear for a diamante headband and add to the glamour with a pair of embellished, slingback heels. Cher wonderfully made her bold outfit perfect for the sophisticated Academy Awards by complementing her exposed midriff with a loose-fit jacket — get the same effect with a chiffon kimono.
In 2000, the world sat up and took full notice of Jennifer Lopez in her amazing green, silk chiffon dress at the 42nd Grammy Awards. Designed by Donatella Versace, this stunning dress featured a jungle print and a daring, plunging neckline that opened all the way to the singer’s navel — secured with a sparkling green brooch. All over the world, people went wild for this innovative gown. According to former Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, it was the most popular search query ever and even led to the launch of Google Image Search! Described as a turning point in Versace’s career, emulating this flawless look is simple.
Women’s party dresses are staples of the fashion world, and J-Lo’s silk chiffon gown gave us a glimpse of what a stunning, flowing outline can do to flatter the body. Select a style with a long-at-the-back hemline to show off your legs and recreate the daring-but-sophisticated appeal of the famous jungle dress — asymmetric cuts will also look good and make sure you choose a bold, eye-catching colour to stand out from the crowd. Tropical prints are popular this fashion season — although check and animal patterns also work well — while long-sleeves help create an elegant balance of exposed skin. Don’t feel you have to go as low at the front as J-Lo, though. Plunging necklines certainly inject a touch of glamour into an outfit, but you can get the same effect by going for a simple v-neck and enhancing your dress with statement jewellery and high heels to make sure you’re ready for a special evening.
An icon of cinema, Monroe is also famous for her outfits selections. For most of us, seeing Monroe playfully pushing down the skirt of her white cocktail dress in the film, The Seven Year Itch, is an enduring image that sums up the actress’ spirit and appeal. The backless, sleeveless dress, designed by William Travilla, featured a below-the-knee skirt and halter-like bodice with a plunging neck — risqué for the 1950s. Striking the perfect balance between elegance and seductiveness, this outfit is still inspiring designers today and even sold at auction in 2011 for $4.6 million!
A retro or vintage cocktail party style is essential to harnessing the Marilyn Monroe look. This dress style has a distinctive time-honoured elegance to it, yet, it looks ideal for a fun girls’ night. Go for a pleated midi skirt or lace embellishment for a beautiful retro appeal, then update the look in the upper section. Monroe makes up for the modest skirt hemline by showing more shoulder and arms — do the same with a Bardot or plunge neckline and polish off your 1950s-inspired look with mid-heel sandals and a pretty, floral hair slide.
This Academy-Award-winning actress is renounced all over the world for her work. Obviously, the actress has donned many outfits during her on-screen time, but perhaps one of the most iconic costumes is the red, off-the-shoulder dress she wore with long, white evening gloves in Pretty Woman. Created by designer, Marilyn Vance-Straker, this scarlet column dress, featured a sweetheart neckline and sat elegantly off the shoulder to create a beautiful silhouette that looked innovative, yet timeless. So, how do you get the high-street version?
This dress exudes timeless elegance and glamour. Stick with the sweetheart neckline but opt for a shorter hemline or even an asymmetric skirt cut to tone down the formality. Pair with wrap-round heels and keep jewellery to a minimum — chokers look particularly good with this neckline and a simple, neutral-shade clutch will finalise the look perfectly. Wearing your hair up will help show off the outline of the dress, too.
The 2001 American Music Awards was brought to life by the outfit that pop legend, Britney Spears, opted for. Back when Britney and Justin were possibly the most famous celebrity couple, the singer’s every fashion movement was scrutinised — and this is perhaps her most iconic. Styled and shaped like a ball gown, Spears’ sleeveless, floor-length dress featured a fitted bodice, metallic belt and even short train to give the impression of jeans-inspired formality. If you love denim or just like alternative takes on standard outfits, try getting the high-street version of this.
Get rid of formality with a shirt-style dress in baby-blue denim — use a waist belt to nip you in for a stunning body outline. Get the ‘dressed up’ look on your next night out by selecting a fitted, mini style that you can pair with stilettos and accessories, or go for a black-denim, shift dress with thin straps for an alternative blend of low-maintenance denim and high-fashion style.
18 million viewers tuned in around the UK to witness the wedding of this former actress to Prince Harry. Markle’s wedding dress was gorgeous, but it was her second outfit choice that got people chatting. For the evening, the new bride opted for a silk crepe, sleeveless, high-neck gown designed by Stella McCartney that fell flawlessly over her petite frame — and it’s a style that many of us would love to have sitting in our own wardrobes.
Demurely show off your shoulders with a halter-neck design and select a midi or even maxi dress length for chic skin exposure. Of course, you don’t have to stick to white. Purple is a big colour this fashion season and slipping on a pair of simple, mid-heels and only a few pieces of jewellery — perhaps droplet earrings and a small selection of matching rings — will let you harness the chic, understated vibe of this style. If you have a more casual event, go for a shorter skirt or one with a high/low frill hem.
Infuse your looks with glamour this year!