Friday, September 2, 2011

Fifty Dresses

JAN BROGAN - At my book group Christmas party each year we all have to bring a book we've already read and wrap it up for a Yankee swap. The swap last year reduced me to quite a bit of scheming to grab and then hold onto a book that caught my attention.

Yes, I was willing to play dirty to get Fifty Dresses That Changed The World -- from the Design Museum. Once I got it home and actually read it, I had to laugh. Nabbed by book title hyperbole. Did I really think that dresses could change the world? Like the UN or Mother Theresa or Adolph Hitler? Still, it's an interesting list of fifty dresses. Maybe not that changed the world, but reflected world changes. Or likely, but not always, changed the fashion world.

At any rate, what attracted me to the book was the cover: Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly wearing that classic "little black dress" with the long black gloves. We all remember that dress, so clearly it had some impact on our world.

But I thought it might be interesting to see if my fellow Reds and our blog readers could guess some of the forty-nine others. Some are really insanely obscure -- which I'm pretty sure means they had no real effect on anything other than the fashion world and probably for a limited amount of time - but others you can probably figure out.

I'll give you some hints. A couple of Oscar awards dresses made the list. A few important wedding dresses (but not Kate Middleton's which came too late for the book) as well as dresses that changed the style we were wearing at the time. At least three are associated with specific designers with names we actually know, and four come from television shows or movies. Some involve new technology, and others reflect a Japanese influence.

Now try to use your actual memories before going straight to Google. (And no googling the actual book, that's cheating!)

RHYS: One that immediately comes to mind--Marilyn Monroe's dress with the skirt blowing up.Jacqueline Kennedy was such a fashion icon that her look had to be part of a list. Dior's "new look" after World War II. And since my new book features Chanel, I think that the Chanel look, especially the tailored masculine look she invented, definitely changed the world. Presumably Kate Middelton's wedding dress would be part of a future list!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Scarlett O'Hara's curtain dress, maybe? Oh,this is so fascinating. Cher's ridiculous Bob Mackie at the Academy Awards? Princess Diana's wedding dress, certainly. Oh, Grace Kelly's lace-bodiced wedding dress? So there must be an Issey Miyaki, although I never understood those clothes. Gosh, Sharon Stone's Gap outfit at the Oscars? Liza Minelli in red Halston? Diane Keaton in Annie Hall? (But that wasn't a dress.) Michelle Obama's green dress and coat at the inauguration? Twiggy in Mary Quant's mini-dress? Oh, the Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress! I have a photo of me in that, somewhere, from--1972? Jannie, this is so interesting, I can't wait to hear.

HALLIE EPHRON: There's gotta be an outrageous Rudi Gernreich (of the topless swimsuit) and Pucci (pink psychedelic) from the 60s. Yes Jackie Kennedy's sack dress (with the pillbox hat). Someone must have started the shirtwaist, the June Cleaver look (maybe something Grace Kelly wore?). A mini of Twiggy's? YES, of course, the von Furstenberg wrap dress which is still going strong. The flapper dress (though I don't know which). Remember the maxi look? And of course, a Chanel suit (though it's a suit, not a dress - does that count?) Defniitely Diana's bridal gown, and if that book were coming out now, Pippa's Maid of Honor.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Hmmm...all the good ones are taken! Lady Gaga's meat dress, Bjork's swan dress at the Oscars, JLo's plunging neckline at the Grammies, Streisand's see-though outfit at the Oscars, the credit card dress from the Oscars, Calvin Klein slipdress, Ally McBeal suit (thinking tv here....)

JAN: So I'm truly impressed by your world-changing-fashion knowledge. Yes, Rhys, Chanel, Marilyn Monroe's 7 Year Itch dress and I'm really blown away you got the "New Look" by Christian Dior after WWII - which if you don't know it - and I wouldn't- looks like one of the dresses Lucille Ball used to wear on I LOVE LUCY with the simple short sleeve top, cinched waist and full skirt three quarters down the calf. Maybe that's what Hallie was thinking of when she mentioned June Cleaver because I think she wore it too.

ALthough Scarlett O'Hara's dress did not make the list (and I think it should have) Hank still gets a bunch of gold stars for guessing Cher's ridiculous Bob Mackie dress at the Oscars, the Halston halterneck dress, Mary Quant's mini-dress and the wrap dress. Hallie gets additional points for Twiggy's mini, the flapper dress, Diana's bridal gown (I think Hank got that one too). While Jackie Kennedy's sack dress and pillbox hat, surprisingly, did not make the list - but another one of her outfits did.

And Ro, congrats on the Calvin Klein slip dress!

Everyone else, put on your thinking caps. There are still are few more that you might guess including another Oscar gown, two more from television and a wedding dress or two.

Answers will be announced on the comments page later today! And tomorrow I'm going to preempt our regularly scheduled programming to post pictures of some of these dresses.


  1. Let's see ...

    Donna Karen's "cold shoulder" dress, that black slinky number that Hillary Clinton wore for her first state dinner as First Lady.

    The Versace (or was it D&G?) "bondage dress" with all the buckles. Cindy Crawford caused a sensation when she wore it.

    Demi Moore's little black strappy dress she wore in "Indecent Proposal." I saw knock-offs of that one all over the shops.

    JLo's green V-neck print gown by Versace, the dress that required double-stick tape to prevent "wardrobe malfunctions."

    Wow - just realized: so many variations of Audrey's LBD.

  2. ..drop-waisted flapper dress..has anyone said that? Queen Victoria's black dress...Lillie Langtry's? Elizabeth Taylor's white dress from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Donna Reed's shirtwaist, Barbars Eden's I dream of Jeannie outfit..although I guess that wasn't a dress
    Rhonda and I think alike..that JLo dress was pretty amazing!

  3. Rhonda,
    I'm totally impressed. Yes to the Versace green V-neck dress, and YES to the bandage dress although it was by Leger.

    No to the others. At least I can't connect them to the dresses in the book - for all I know (and I know little) they could have been knockoffs of something in the book.


  4. Hallie already got the flapper dress.

    You and Rhoda are right on the green Versace number.

    I'm pretty sure Donna Reeds dress was part of the "New Look" Rhys cited.

    If you can describe Lillie Langtry's dress I might have a better idea


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  6. Went back and google-imaged Lillie but could not associate her with the three Dresses That Changed the World -- that apparently changed it prior to the WWII period.

  7. Oh, the New Look was Dior--Chanel?, no Dior--in the fifties? My mother used to talk about it al the time. Big circular skirt, tiny waist.

    New meaning after the war, and lots of fabric.

  8. And Hank -


    for guessing the Issey Miyake dress -- PLEATS PLEASE DRESS --

    I read over your guesses too quickly the first time


  9. Yup

    New Look, Christian DIor 1947

    made famous by Rita Hayworth and Margot Fonteyn

    and Dior set a precedent by selling exclusive rights to individual designers allowed it to be manufactured internationally as a worldwide brand.

  10. There has to be an Alexander McQueen in there somewhere. Those are some incredible dresses.

  11. The winning bell is ringing again.

    Naomi, you are so right, Alexander McQueen Samurai dress made the list!

  12. Rita Hayworth's dress in Gilda.

    Marilyn Monroe's pink dress when she sings Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.

    The mermaid dress? That style of dress is still popular.

    The go-go dress?

    Has any of Tina Turner's short dresses been suggested? I think she wore one to the Oscars.

    I'm showing my age here with these answers.

    The pink dress Molly Ringwald wore in Pretty in Pink?

    The wedding dress Madonna wore in her Like a Virgin video.

  13. Melissa,

    You got the Mermaid dress!! Congrats.


  14. Not a dress, but Madonna's bustiers that were meant to be seen. Especially that pointy one.

    More lingerie-as-attire:

    Liz Taylor's slip in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

    Sharon Stone and her evening pajamas

  15. Thinking historically:

    Didn't Eva Peron wear something that riveted all eyes to her at a critical event for her dictator husband's political purposes, or was that the Patti LaPone version?

    The Duchess of Deveonshire (the early 19th C version, as played by Keira Knightley) was known in history for a pretend peasant dress that swept the court and brought her political work more attention. and then there were her hats, but that's another story.....

  16. Okay guys.
    Here the dresses, I don't think anyone mentioned. Backwards, starting with most recent.
    The LED dress (that's lights) 2007 Chalayon
    The One Shoulder dress, but not Donna Karen's, Topshop as worn by Kate Moss 2007
    Galaxy Dress, 2005 - Mouret
    Kingfisher blue silk faille balloon dress 2005 Lanvin
    Floral print tea dress, 2004, Paul Smith
    Julia Roberts Oscars dress by Valentino 2001
    Electric Angels Collection dress, 1997, Williamson
    Safety Pin Dress, 1994, Versace
    BLack Pleated chiffon dress (also called revenge dress, worn by Princess Di after Charles announced his infidelity) 1994, Stambolian
    Buried Dress 1993 Chalayan
    Shift dress - Calvin Klein, 1990
    Krystel Carrington's dress, 1985, Nolan Miller
    Mini-crini 1985, Westwood
    Ghost Dress (not from the movie) 1984 Sarne
    Comme Des Garcons dress - 1981 Kawakuba
    Painted Chiffon dress, 1979 - Rhodes
    Kenzo shirt dress, 1977 Takado
    Mid-length knitted stripey dress 1974 - Missoni
    Twiggy's outfit for The Boyfriend - 1971 Gibb
    Dress and coat (matching) 1970 Clark and Birtwell
    Midi dress - 1968 Muir
    Paper Dress - 1968 Scott Paper Company
    Safari Dress St. Laurent
    Metal Disc dress 1966 Rabanne
    Laura Ashley maxi dress - 1966
    Diana Rigg's Avenger dress - 1965 Bates
    Mondrian Dress - St. Laurent 1965
    Moon Girl Collection Dress - 1964 Courreges
    Jackie Kennedy's Wedding dress - 1961
    Elizabeth II's cornonation dress 1953 Harntnell
    Shocking Pink dress - 1947 Schiaparelli
    Wallis Simpson's wedding dress 1937 Mainbacher
    Goddess Dress - 1931 Vionnet
    Delphos pleated dress 1915 Fortuny

    Remember, these are only the ones not previously mentioned. Photos of a few tomorrow

  17. That was AWESOME. When explaining classic design to people I always talk about Coco Chanel's little black dress.