It’s becoming increasingly difficult to name the dresses that altered history. Prior to social media, the A-List seemed to play it safer—the privileging of beauty over substance meant that risqué looks were few and far between (and there was no Instagram on which critics could create celebrity side-by-sides and offer commentary). As such, the dresses we remember made more of a tsunami than the splash compared to their current-day counterparts.
Nonetheless, there are certainly still modern looks—just like those of decades past—that will forever be seared in the cultural consciousness. One of them, to which we wish happy birthday today, is Rihanna’s Adam Selman gown. Five years ago, the pop star-turned-mogul served an Internet-stopping look, gracing the carpet in a sheer crystal gown with a matching du-rag and stole to be honored with the Council of Fashion Designers of America ‘Icon’ Award. Perhaps this year’s recipient, J. Lo, will deliver another tonight.
In preparation, we’re charting the looks that were so famous, they didn’t just change fashion forever—they made history.
Rihanna, CFDA Awards, 2014
And that’s that on that.
Rihanna, Met Gala, 2015
No one dressed better for the ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ Met Gala theme than Rihanna wearing Chinese designer Guo Pei. With this look, we were infinite.
Björk, Oscars, 2001
Nominated for Best Original Song, Björk arrived at the 2001 Oscars in a swan-mesh dress, providing in one night decades worth of Halloween inspiration. This is fashion, people.
Angelina Jolie, Oscars, 2012
It’s almost bizarre that, in a black, strapless gown and peep-toe stiletto, Angelina Jolie caused such a stir. But the ‘floating leg’ effect of the thigh-high split in her dress will be remembered for years to come.
Elizabeth Hurley, Four Weddings and a Funeral Premiere, 1994
Model and actress Elizabeth Hurley had nothing to wear to the premiere of boyfriend Hugh Grant’s latest film, Four Weddings and a Funeral, so she found this Versace dress the day of. Needless to say, it was a hit.
Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, 1954
Rumor has it Monroe’s then-husband, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, was upset at all the fuss this little number caused. Standing on a subway grate in 1954 to shoot The Seven Year Itch, Monroe wore a halter neck, pleated white midi-dress that went on to become one of the world’s most famous.
Rose McGowan, VMAs, 1998
Two decades later, Rose McGowan explained her iconic VMAs naked dress. The netted halter neck and leopard thong shocked crowds when she stepped onto the red carpet, which she claims was the desired effect for her first public appearance since her sexual assault. “And I thought, it was kind of like Russell Crowe and Gladiator when it comes out in the ring and he’s like ‘Are you not entertained?’” she told Jameela Jamil for her ‘I Weigh’ series. “And that was why I did that. That was my response to being assaulted.”
Beyoncé, Met Gala, 2015
One of the most copycat-inducing looks, ever.
J. Lo, Grammys, 2000
The Versace gown that launched Google images. Need we say more?
Bella Hadid, Cannes Film Festival, 2017
Fledgling model Bella Hadid, then known best as the younger sister of fashion favorite Gigi Hadid, changed everything when she stepped out in a provocative red satin gown from Alexandre Vauthier. It was backless and low-cut with a waist-high split, or, in other words, a walking wardrobe malfunction. Still, Hadid pulled it off, and we’ll never forget it.