Dresses That Changed the World

Ten legendary dresses, ten particular moments of fashion history.

 Text: Mary Giatra


How does fashion as both a cultural and industrial phenomenon embrace social and economic change? This is a collection of ten iconic dresses of the past century which show that nothing is random. Culture, gender, sexuality, all encapsulated in fashion moments.




In 1909, the Spanish-born couturier Mariano Fortuni, patented a method of pleating silk that enabled him to produce flowing and lightweight greek-inspired gowns. A far cry from the constricting corsets of the Belle Epoque, this dress paved the way for women’s revolution and modernism.



The French designer Madeleine Vionnet, looked back to ancient Greece trying to liberate women and make them feel like goddesses. In addition to that, she invented the “bias-cut”. This method allowed fabric to float freely around the body, enhancing natural curves and accentuating the female body. This is one of the most important inventions in fashion throughout history and women do still adore the style.




When the American socialite married the Duke of Windsor in 1937, wearing a simple floor-length gown and matching jacket, all in “Wallis Blue”, the world of fashion stood still for a moment. Mainbocher was the designer of the dress that was worn in the most scandalous wedding of the era. Within days of the ceremony, copies of the dress were available for sale in New York proving that this dress would write its own history.




This is one of the most legendary cinematic moments. Marilyn Monroe’s white, halter-neck dress helped in the creation of an icon. Travilla, designed the figure-hugging dress that would become a myth. This dress is only a part of a very brief scene of the movie but it was quite enough to cause a moment of pleasure from one of the world’s biggest and brightest stars.




It was 1926 when Coco Chanel creates the first “LBD” but Audrey Hepburn turned it into a fashion sensation. In 1961 movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, this dress by Hubert de Givenchy became the perfect costume for Holly Golightly and her sophisticated charm. As an item it represents the ultimate choice and the most versatile of all party outfits.



Yves Saint Laurent, understood modern women batter than anyone. His dress that was first created in 1965, is an interpretation of modern world. The couturier was inspired by the work of modernist painter Piet Mondrian and his creation became a symbol of style and forward thinking. This is an absolute masterpiece of minimalism which proved that YSL, was something more than a designer and equal to a sculptor or a conceptual artist.




Created by Diane von Fürstenberg in 1973, the wrap dress is easy to put on, easy to wear and easy to take off. This garment became the ultimate everyday choice for women that wore it from day to night. Comfortable and very practical, this dress started the designers amazing career and is still in fashion, more than three decades after it first appeared.




The punk grand dame, Vivienne Westwood, has always been obsessed with tradition. Through the 1980s, she was deeply inspired by the way women looked and thought about their bodies during the past centuries. The mini-crini created a new and enhanced silhouette that looked originally female, contrasting to the masculine fashions of the power dressing of the 1980s. Another revolution from the pioneer Westwood.




Hervé Léger created this super sensuous and super sexy dress in 1989. To create the dress, narrow elastic fabric strips were sewn together horizontally, often with additional strips to emphasize the curves of the hips and the bust. The result was a dress that would become the designer’s trademark and a symbol of exaggerated femininity. When the designer relaunched the dress in 2007, the success was grande and especially Hollywood stars, fell instantly in love with it.




This was the legendary dress that change Elizabeth Hurley’s career. It was 1994 when Gianni Versace proved with his creation the power of fashion. He combined punk with good old-fashioned Hollywood and made a dress that symbolizes the celebrity culture of the time. Hurley’s life forever changed and Versace had turned red carpet upside-down. A historical moment and a dress that earned its place in the 2013 Met exhibition “Punk: Chaos to Couture”- fair and square.