The 10 most iconic dresses

It’s hard to define an iconic dress – it has to be instantly recognizable:  Where was it worn and by whom?  For example: ‘Remember that Swan dress that Bjork wore to the Oscars?’

A lot of the most famous dresses are widely available as fancy dress outfits too – and for good reason. Doesn’t everyone fancy being Marilyn for a few hours?

There are lots of others I thought about including: Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (but which of her 60+ costumes would you choose?), Liz Hurley’s safety-pin dress, Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress, Gaga’s meat dress, any of the Disney princesses…

What do you think? Did I pick the right outfits for my top 10?

1. Marilyn Monroe’s white dress

Marilyn Monroe's white dress

Marilyn’s white halterneck dress from the famous subway scene in the ‘Seven Year Itch’ is probably the most recognizable dress in the world. It sold for a huge $4,520,000 million last year. I wonder whether the person who bought it has ever worn it…? (I would!)

Above: Marilyn Monroe’s ivory pleated dress from the film The Seven Year Itch at the Debbie Reynolds Auction Breaks Up Historic Hollywood Collection (The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA, USA).

Photo source and copyright: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

2. Audrey Hepburn’s black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffanys

Probably the most famous LBD of all time is the Givenchy gown worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffanys

Source and copyright: This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.

3. Jackie Kennedy’s pink Chanel suit

Jackie Kennedy's iconic pink Chanel suit

The double breasted pink and navy Chanel suit worn Jackie Kennedy on the day the JFK was assassinated was imprinted in the mind of a nation when she insisted on wearing the blood-stained suit for the swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson and for the flight back to Washington, D.C. with the President’s body.

This photos of Mrs. Kennedy arriving at Love Field in Dallas, photograph by Cecil Stoughton, November 22, 1963. Courtesy National Archives, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts.

Source and copyright: Some rights reserved by Marion Doss

4. Judy Garland’s Dorothy dress

Judy Garland as Dorothy

Not all iconic dresses are showstopping gowns. The gingham dress worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz definitely falls into this category. It sold for a huge $480,000 last Saturday. There were six versions of this dress used in the movie though, so I’m not sure which one it was…

Source and copyright: This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.

5. Bjork’s swan dress

Bjork's swan dress

Who can forget Bjork’s arrival on the red carpet wearing her swan dress at the 73rd Academy Awards on March 25, 2001. It was designed by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, and was basically a flesh coloured body stocking with a swan draped around the neck. It caused a lot of controversy at the time, but I love it.

Source and copyright: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

6. Princess Leia’s dress

Princess Leia's dress

What can I say – pretty much everything Princess Leia wore was iconic, but the white dress is probably the second most famous (behind the slave girl bikini of course)

Original photo copyright: © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. Used with kind permission.

7. Princess Diana’s wedding dress

This dress is definitely iconic, but I’ve never really liked it. I remember watching the Royal Wedding (I was 7) and even then I remember feeling disappointed when she got out of the carriage and her dress was all creased…

8. Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress

Marilyn’s sparkly sheer dress from 1962 when she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to JFK. It was one of Marilyn’s last public performances and the dress was stunning!

Happy birthday Mr President

Source and copyright: This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties

9. Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady


Another dress which I loved from the first time I saw it, this is of course the dress from the Ascot scene from My Fair Lady. This dress sold for $3.7 million last year.

Audrey Hepburn My Fair Lady dress

Image source and copyright: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

10. The red sequined dress

I couldn’t decide between Jessica Rabbit’s red sequin dress and the ones worn by Marilyn and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – and I’m pretty sure one was inspired by the other so I’m including both!

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The red-sequin gown worn by Marilyn in “Gentlemen Prefer Blonde” sold for $1.2 million in 2011.

Photo source and copyright: This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.


21 thoughts on “The 10 most iconic dresses

  1. Gerryquiff

    To expand on this post, I’ve an excellent book on my bookshelf on this subject.
    Fabulous Frocks by Jane Eastoe & Sarah Gristwood. ISBN 978 1862 057 982

  2. natalie1day

    Great blog! I adore Marilyn’s style – beautiful woman, and Audrey Hepburn – well, timeless beauty! Like the sound of that ‘Fabulous Frocks’ book… Another one is ‘Vintage Fashion’!

  3. Edwina@FASHION+ART

    While Dorothy’s dress in The Wizard of Oz is considered iconic, I’ve always been much more fascinated by the ensemble worn by the Wicked Witch of the West. Tucked, gathered, buttoned up and flowing, with an attached cape for added drama, it was a beautifully designed costume.

  4. Gerryquiff

    Another fabulous book for your Christmas list.
    Fashion Box. by Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978 0500 515 525

    “This book takes a look at sixteen classic fashion items as worn by the stars who made them famous. Each of the pieces has its own chapter introduced by an essay from fashion writer Antonio Mancinelli, followed by a series of unforgettable photographs of the clothes worn by such stars as Brigitte Bardot, Ursula Andress, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Jones, Lauren Bacall and Emmanuelle Béart. “

  5. Julie Kirby

    Oh, I just love Marilyn’s pink Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend dress and Scarlet O Hara’s dress she made from the draperies … Who’s in the picture with Marilyn in the Happy Birthday dress?

    • Mary Post author

      ah – now that pink dress probably should have been in the top 10 – how could I have missed that out?! I did think about the Scarlet O’Hara curtains dress too, but I couldn’t find a photo of it so I skipped that one!
      I think it’s JFK’s brother-in-law Steve Smith with Marilyn – but don’t quote me on that!

  6. Pingback: Audrey Hepburn, simbolul feminității clasice / FOTO | Fashion Guide Moldova

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