Here’s our hot take: fashion in movies has the biggest impact on pop culture. Celebrity street style and red-carpet fashion may come and go, but iconic clothes worn in well-loved movies will be remembered for decades to come. Take Marilyn Monroe’s pink gown from her “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” musical number. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may have aired in 1953, but we can recall the iconic outfit like it was just yesterday.
Let’s go down memory lane and revisit some of the most iconic dresses of the silver screen from the 90s and noughties. These show-stealing gowns are just as big as the co-stars.
Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman (1990)
Pretty Woman is a romcom that everyone should watch at least once in their lives. A wealthy businessman and a lady of the night fall in love as they spend a week together in high society—a foolproof chick flick formula. For a date to the opera, Julia Roberts AKA the pretty woman in question dons this elegant off-the-shoulder crimson ball gown. Designed by costume designer Marilyn Vance, the dress is a 90s dream with its over-the-top voluminous sleeves and ruffles. Of course, you cannot forget the white opera gloves a la Grace Kelly.
Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct (1992)
Controversial as it may be, we can’t deny that this dress—and the scene it features in—is nothing short of legendary. The sleeveless cream high-neck mini dress worn by Sharon Stone’s femme fatale character in the neo-noir film Basic Instinct proves there is power in simplicity. Paired with matching cream stilettos and a neatly voluminous updo, this minimalist look designed by Ellen Mirojnik would look right at home if worn today. Just be sure to put on undergarments too.
Alicia Silverstone, Clueless (1995)
If any movie deserves a mention in a list of iconic outfits, it’s Clueless. Practically every outfit that Cher Horowitz wears is recognisable and endlessly referenced in pop culture even till today. How do you choose just one dress from the 48 outfit changes made by it-girl Cher? Answer: you don’t.
Cher’s “You don’t understand. This is an Alaïa,” red party dress and white Calvin Klein “It looks like underwear,” date dress are our top picks for the most iconic ensembles in the movie. Okay, that was a lie, that title belongs to her back-to-school Dolce & Gabbana yellow plaid two-piece suit.
Kate Winslet, Titanic (1997)
Our hearts will go on for this next dress. James Cameron’s groundbreaking movie Titanic was brimming with disastrous events but not enough to distract us from the historically accurate fashion moments happening. Costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott made sure Kate Winslet’s character was serving look after look throughout the movie but none stood out as much as Rose’s dinner dress. A beaded and embroidered black evening gown with a square neckline, we almost wished Rose wore it when the ship sunk so we could admire it for longer.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City (2000)
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw is a bonafide fashion icon of the late 90s and early 2000s. As a New York City fashionista, Carrie’s many looks (often designer) have set fashion trends and boosted the popularity of the pieces she wore amongst normies and celebrities alike. Exhibit A: the John Galliano for Dior newspaper dress. Slinky and backless, this news-worthy look is so popular that Carrie wore it again it in Sex and the City 2. We love a good self-reference.
Kate Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
The yellow dress worn by Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (2003) pic.twitter.com/FmcQABeIwR— femme fatale (@eliesaaabs) June 19, 2022
When thinking of flattering colours, yellow is often at the bottom of the list—most people just can’t pull it off. Kate Hudson proves that she’s not like most people in her 2003 movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. When she emerged on-screen in the low-back yellow satin gown with the Isadora Diamond around her neck, we couldn’t help but swoon along with onlooker Matthew McConaughey. Countless dupes of the dress can be found online but the original beauty was designed by Carolina Herrera and the movie’s costume designer, Karen Patch.
Jennifer Garner, 13 Going on 30 (2004)
Another feel-good romantic comedy we have rewatched a billion times is 13 Going on 30 starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo. Garner’s 30-year-old Jenna Rink is an editor at fictional fashion magazine Poise so audiences know to expect some killer fashion choices. Jenna’s rainbow Versace minidress worn during the iconic Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance routine is instantly recognizable by just about everyone. That’s one way to spice up a dreary work party.
Anne Hathaway, The Devil Wears Prada (2005)
The devil can keep their Prada—we’re bigger fans of John Galliano for Dior around here. So is Anne Hathaway as journalist turned personal assistant Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada. Originally a fashion-challenged individual, Andy grew into her own throughout the movie, beautifully symbolized by this black John Galliano silk dress she wore for the charity gala. With a wide neckline and lace on the sleeves, this timeless look is elegance personified. The fact that it’s not Anne’s favourite outfit from the movie is criminal.
Keira Knightley, Atonement (2007)
They say the best should be saved for last. Few dresses have left a lasting impression the way this emerald-green one worn by Keira Knightley in period drama Atonement did. Designed by costume designer Jacqueline Durran, this backless flapper-style dress is regarded by numerous publications as one of the best movie costumes of all time. Now a symbol of fashion in film, this breathtaking gown is almost beautiful enough for us to forgive the tragic ending of the movie. Almost.