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Top 13 Iconic Movie Dresses

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.

When it comes to your favorite films, it's difficult not to picture the characters wearing their beloved costumes. Whether it's Marilyn Monroe's iconic flowy white halter dress, Dorothy's gingham getup, or Audrey Hepburn's little black dress, costumes truly resonate with film fans. Here is a list of some of the most memorable dresses in movie history.


Marilyn Monroe (The Seven Year Itch)

Arguably the most famous dress to ever grace the silver screen, the sex symbol's iconic white halter dress made a huge splash in the comedic film. The publicity stunt used to promote The Seven Year Itch, which included Monroe posing on a Manhattan subway grating, caused quite a scene. The iconic stunt drew thousands of delighted spectators, while angering her then baseball slugger husband Joe DiMaggio. The sport's legend was reportedly disgusted by the "exhibitionist" display.

The sexy halter dress has become a staple Halloween costume, and the famous images snapped that day remain heavily circulated across the world.


Vivien Leigh (Gone with the Wind)

All the show-stopping costumes in the beloved classic Gone With the Wind were designed by the talented Walter Plunkett. In order to be as authentic as possible, Plunkett traveled to the Southern U.S., including Savannah, Atlanta and Charleston to find inspiration. The awe-inspiring gown was a watered silk dress with a low cut bosom and a skirt draped with a grand bustle with pink roses; it was embellished with glass teardrop beads and feathers. The dress was originally supposed to be green, but producers and Plunkett felt red would be more edgy and risque.

Scarlett's burgundy ball gown is perhaps the most elegant and dramatic of all the costumes in the film, and remains a show-stopper to this day.


Kate Winslet (Titanic)

The Titanic is arguably one of the biggest and most successful films of all time, and featured absolutely stunning costumes. Kate Winslet portrayed Rose DeWitt Bukater, who was one-half of the doomed lovers aboard the ship. Her exquisite Edwardian red chiffon dress was heavily embellished and draped with a sheer black netting. This is perhaps her most recognized gown from the movie, since it was featured in the most memorable scenes (like when Jack and Rose first met).

The gown was designed by Deborah L Scott and took more than 1,000 hours to sew. In 2012, the costume sold for $330,000 at a Hollywood auction.


Rita Hayworth (Gilda)

In the 1946 film Gilda, Rita Hayworth performed a musical number and improvised striptease in a strapless black satin gown with matching long gloves. The outfit, created by costumer designer Jean Louis, helped consolidate the image of the femme fatale. Hayworth had to wear a corset under the dress because she had just given birth to her daughter a few months before filming, and hadn't regained her pre-pregnancy figure (a shocking idea since she looked absolutely stunning).

Costumer designer Jean Louis collaborated with Rita Hayworth in nine films from 1945 to 1949, and is considered "an essential ingredient in the formula that created the image of Rita Hayworth." The dress was said to illustrate that "extreme sexuality" in women is a recipe for catastrophe.


Marilyn Monroe (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)

In 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe starred alongside Jane Russell and portrayed the gold-digging Lorelei Lee. In one of the most famous scenes of the film, Monroe performed the iconic number "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in a strapless, pink silk satin gown that outlines her every curves. The famous outfit was designed by costume designer William Travilla, who worked with the actress in eight films. There were two copies of the dress, since it was a long gown that could get dirty easy during filming.

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One copy of the gown sold for $310,000, and the gorgeous pink dress remains one of the most significant examples of fashion and glamour in cinematic history.


Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz)

There are few costumes more recognizable than the blue-and-white gingham dress that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. The beloved costume was paired with the iconic ruby slippers, and was chosen for its blurring effect on her figure and because it made her look younger. The musical film is considered one of the greatest films of all time, and Garland shot to stardom from her role. The image of the actress in the dress with her hair in braids is synonymous with the musical.

The Wizard of Oz memorabilia is always a massive hit at auctions, and in 2015 an unidentified buyer bought the iconic dress for a whopping $1.5 million at an auction.


Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Audrey Hepburn starred as Holly Golightly in the famous classic film Breakfast at Tiffany's, and reached icon fashionista status by donning the most famous little black dress of all time. The satin sheath evening gown embellished with a cut-out decollete and string pearls, was created by Hubert de Givenchy and helped trademark the LBD. Hepburn looked effortlessly chic in the gorgeous gown, and inspired women everywhere to attempt the style.

Not surprisingly, the iconic dress sold for a whopping $923,187 at a Christie's auction in 2006.


Rachel McAdams (The Notebook)

Though Allie's (Rachel McAdams) blue dress is not as lavish or glamorous as the other dresses on this list, it is still famous in its own right. The simple and lovely blue button down dress is extremely recognizable in romance movie history, as it was worn in the iconic scene where Allie and Noah kissed passionately in the rain. The movie has become a staple to movie lovers everywhere and the classy blue dress is synonymous with the film.


Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing)

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner" is the classic quote from the 1987 smash-hit Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The pair performed their famous dance number at the end of the film, when Grey wore a light pink chiffon dress over satin, with a scoop neckline and full circle skirt. The costume made a huge splash when Grey and Swayze danced to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and performed the impressive dancing lift. The dress and scene remains a beloved staple in movie history.


Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman)

Julia Roberts rocked a jaw-dropping, off-the-shoulder red long dress and cemented her transformation from rags-to-riches in Pretty Woman. The chiffon gown with the sweetheart neckline and long white gloves was a show-stopping moment in the film, and the elegant opera dress represented the pinnacle of her progression to a "lady." The jewelry box moment between Roberts and Richard Gere, paired with the sophisticated dress, is a scene that is beloved by fans everywhere.


Grace Kelly (Rear Window)

The classic and chic black-and-white dress with a beaded chiffon skirt looked absolutely lovely on Grace Kelly in Rear Window. The actress played the sophisticated fashion consultant girlfriend of L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart), who helps him investigate an apparent murder. Alfred Hitchcock used notorious costume designer Edith Head for all his Paramount films, and she crafted the "fresh from the Paris plane" dress with an elegant style in mind.

The fitted black bodice with the deep v-cut to the bust and back, paired with the full and layered chiffon and tulle skirt became an iconic look on Kelly.


Lily James (Cinderella)

It can be an extremely daunting task when recreating an iconic princess ball gown. Cinderellla's dress and glass slippers are a classic fashion combination that had to be perfectly captured in a live action adaption. Designer Sandy Powell was able to create a show-stopping ball gown fit for a princess. The massive dress was full of volume and layers, including silk and a steel corset and skirt cage that was worn beautifully by James. The gorgeous blue tone seems to glimmer and and shimmer, truly bringing the beloved tale to life.


Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge)

Nicole Kidman portrayed courtesan Satine in the 2001 musical Moulin Rouge, and the red dress she wears during the "Elephant Love Medley" musical number is arguably the most famous. The satin crimson red v-neck gown had a corset bodice and bustled skirt, that emitted a sense of passion and glamour. Australian costume designer Angus Strathie created the dress and the hundreds of other costumed used in the film.

Kidman looked stunning in the dramatic gown, and it was indeed a statement-making fashion moment.

© 2018 Rachel M Johnson

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