The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (2023)

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (1)

Anwar HusseinGetty Images

There are gowns, and then there are the gowns. The gowns women around the world idolize and model their wedding dresses and formal wear after. And the last few centuries are full of dresses that have long outlasted their wearers and established young starlets as timeless icons for the ages.

From Marie-Antoinette's 18th-century Robe á la Française, which defined generations of fashion, to modern looks from the red carpet and Met Galas, we're highlighting some of history's most iconic gowns—and the incredible women who wore them so well.

Red, black, white, and gold hues dominate this list, with pops of pastel and neon and some of the most dazzling jewels of all time along the way. These timeless looks serve as fashion inspiration across the globe and are sure to influence for decades to come.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (2)

Chris JacksonGetty Images

1 of 31

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: Royal Wedding (2011)

Where were you when Kate-Middleton-turned-Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stepped out as royalty in this incredible gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen?

Many of us set our alarms extra-early to not only watch the royal nuptials, but also to see what fashion statement Catherine was going to make in her first moments as Duchess of Cambridge. Needless to say, she stunned in this gown with a dramatic nine-foot-long train and Cartier tiara.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (3)

Sunset BoulevardGetty Images

2 of 31

Elizabeth Taylor: Cleopatra (1963)

Liz Taylor always commanded the attention of a room with her jewelry and fashion, but she truly shines in this "Phoenix" ensemble from the film Cleopatra, where she starred alongside Richard Burton. The film was not only one of the highest-grossing movies of its day, but it was also the most expensive movie ever made at the time, nearly bankrupting 20th Century Fox.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (4)

Ethan MillerGetty Images

3 of 31

Angelina Jolie: 84th Annual Academy Awards (2012)

The only thing more stunning than this structured velvet Atelier-Versace gown was Jolie's pose for modeling it on the Academy Awards's red carpet. Jolie received both acclaim and criticism for her stance in this photo, but her dress has nevertheless become one of the most iconic gowns of all time, with a bold lip to match her new definition of "power pose."

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (5)

Axelle/Bauer-GriffinGetty Images

4 of 31

Lupita Nyong'o: 86th Annual Academy Awards (2014)

This ethereal Prada gown is one of many memorable red carpet looks from the Academy Award–winning actress. Nyong'o won many awards for her role in 12 Years a Slave that year and took home the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in celestial glory.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (6)


5 of 31

Julia Roberts: Pretty Woman (1990)

This red Valentino gown from Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman became as much of an instant classic as the movie itself. Julia Roberts shined in this perfectly tailored gown with elegant white gloves and a fabulous '80s updo.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (7)

Hulton ArchiveGetty Images

(Video) 31 Most Stunning Celebrity Wedding Dresses of All Time

6 of 31

Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Just about anything Audrey Hepburn wore became an instant trend, but none so much as this little black dress from her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

This black cocktail dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy was one of many outfits the French couturier made for the Belgian-born actress and was recently given a 21st-century update at the Givenchy Couture fall show in 2018.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (8)


7 of 31

Gwyneth Paltrow: 71st Academy Awards (1999)

This pink gown Paltrow claimed to have purchased herself at a boutique prior to the show (and winning an Academy Award later that evening) became the ultimate embodiment of '90s fashion. The Ralph Lauren ball gown received mixed reviews, but this pink dress always makes "best of" lists regarding red carpet looks anyway.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (9)

Silver Screen CollectionGetty Images

8 of 31

Vivien Leigh: Gone with the Wind (1939)

Nearly every outfit Vivien Leigh wore in her role as Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's Gone with the Wind is worthy of the term iconic, but this billowy red velvet dress that's also featured in the film's promotional material is the most deserving of making this list.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (10)

Princess Diana ArchiveGetty Images

9 of 31

Princess Diana: Christie's Auction (1994)

Otherwise known as "the revenge dress," Princess Diana wore this stunning black number to the Serpentine Gallery in London.

Princess Di actually planned on wearing a Valentino gown to this event but was disappointed when the fashion house released an unauthorized press statement about the dress prior to her attendance. Designer Christina Stambolian stepped in to save the day with this now legendary ensemble that just so happened to be worn the night that Prince Charles's tell-all documentary aired, which addressed his infidelity.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (11)

BettmannGetty Images

10 of 31

Audrey Hepburn: Sabrina (1954)

This gown is yet another iconic design Hubert de Givenchy made for Hepburn and actually sparked the pair's collaboration for several movies—and a decades-long friendship.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (12)

Tom WargackiGetty Images

11 of 31

Elizabeth Hurley: Four Weddings and a Funeral Premiere (1994)

We're not sure if Gianni Versace knew exactly how historic this paperclip dress would become, but it sure became an iconic moment in pop culture. Hurley even re-created this look with Harper's Bazaar in 2019, reminiscing on the legendary evening—and how unprepared she was for it to become cemented in fashion history.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (13)

Steve.Granitz/INACTIVEGetty Images

(Video) 20 of the Most Iconic Wedding Gowns of All Time | ELLE

12 of 31

Jennifer Lopez: Grammy Awards (2000)

The world stopped when J.Lo arrived at the 2000 Grammy Awards. This daring jungle-print dress by Versace became so iconic that Donatella Versace recently updated the dress for J.Lo to dominate the catwalk at the fashion house's spring 2020 show in Milan.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (14)

Mondadori PortfolioGetty Images

13 of 31

Grace Kelly: Wedding (1956)

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco's nuptials were one of the biggest events of the age, and MGM gifted the Oscar-winning actress this ultrafeminine wedding dress and famous circular veil. Rumor has it that this gown influenced Catherine Middleton's wedding dress for her own royal nuptials.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (15)

Donaldson CollectionGetty Images

14 of 31

Marilyn Monroe: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Another woman of many memorable fashion moments, Marilyn Monroe dazzled in this gold lamé gown designed by William Travilla. No one knew Monroe's iconic 36-26-36 frame quite like him, as he designed the actress's most famous ensembles. This hand-pleated dress was featured in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and is rumored to be one of Monroe's favorite dresses.

15 of 31

Meghan Markle: Royal Wedding (2018)

This understated yet timelessly chic gown worn by Meghan Markle on her wedding day reflects her classically cool style. Designed by Claire Waight Keller for Givenchy, Markle's wedding dress is one of the more recent ensembles to make fashion history.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (17)


16 of 31

Keira Knightley: Atonement (2007)

Keira Knightley received heaps of acclaim (and an Academy Award) for her role as Cecilia in Atonement, but her character's bare-backed green gown got just as much attention. Designed by costumer Jacqueline Durran (who also designed Emma Watson's yellow gown for Beauty and the Beast) blended '20s and '30s fashion with a modern spin, so that Knightley's gown would stand the test of time for years to come.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (18)

Kevork DjansezianGetty Images

17 of 31

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: BAFTA Brits to Watch (2011)

Nearly every gown the Duchess puts on creates ripples across the fashion world, and this lilac Alexander McQueen gown is second only to her wedding dress. This was one of Catherine's first events as a royal in the U.S., and she sure shined amid the celebrity company she encountered that evening.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (19)

(Video) 31 ICONIC Prom/Party dresses in movies & tv shows ❤️

ABC Photo ArchivesGetty Images

18 of 31

Diana Ross: 14th American Music Awards (1987)

While certainly not Ross' boldest look, we think she absolutely stunned in this off-the-shoulder sequined gown. The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner knew how to sparkle regardless if she was wearing any, but she sure loved to dress in sequins whenever she could.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (20)


19 of 31

Kate Winslet: Titanic (1997)

Deborah Lynn Scott earned an Academy Award for her costume designs in Titanic, and this gown is one of our favorites. This highly beaded dress was all the rage in early 20th-century high-fashion and remains timeless to this day.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (21)


20 of 31

Kate Hudson: How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

The only dress that could stand up to a Harry Winston yellow sapphire necklace? This one. The sunny satin dress designed by costumer Karen Patch became an icon of early aughts pop culture, further launching the Almost Famous actress into unbelievable stardom.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (22)

Pascal Le SegretainGetty Images

21 of 31

Blake Lively: 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival (2014)

Blake Lively's Chanel Couture gown is truly a dress for the ages. A cinched waist, plenty of sparkly silver tulle, and an array of sequins made the former face of Chanel the belle of this ball.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (23)

Frazer HarrisonGetty Images

22 of 31

Beyoncé: 64th Annual Golden Globes (2007)

Beyoncé dazzled in this vivacious Ellie Saab gown. The multi-hyphenate stole the show many times on the red carpet, but this golden dress is one of the most memorable.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (24)

Anwar HusseinGetty Images

23 of 31

Princess Diana: Royal Weding (1981)

Princess Di's Emmanuel wedding dress was designed by husband-and-wife team David and Elizabeth Emmanuel for Alexander McQueen. The ivory taffeta gown is home to 10,000 pearls and could barely fit in the royal coach.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (25)

Steve GranitzGetty Images

24 of 31

Gemma Chan: 91st Academy Awards (2019)

Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan became an instant icon in this hot pink Valentino gown that she wore to the 2019 Academy Awards. The ruffled gown had two pockets, which Chan said she filled with cookies for snacking.

(Video) Top 10 Most Iconic dresses in cinema history - the people's choice

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (26)

Dia DipasupilGetty Images

25 of 31

Kim Kardashian: Met Gala (2018)

The Met Gala is where some of the most iconic fashion moments are born, and Kim Kardashian-West's "Heavenly Bodies" gown captures the essence of the 2018 event. Kardashian-West came to the gala with Donatella Versace, whose fashion house designed this sleek gown.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (27)

ImagnoGetty Images

26 of 31

Marie-Antoinette: Portrait (Circa 1778)

The infamously indulgent Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France was a fashion icon for women all across Europe in the 18th century. This portrait by Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-Le Brun features the royal in a Robe á la Française detailed with gold tassels and fringe, fabric and ribbon bows, a tightly fitted corset, and lace ruffles.

This dress served as inspiration for the also-iconic gown worn by Kirsten Dunst in Sofia Coppola's adaption of Marie Antoinette in 2006.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (28)


27 of 31

Whitney Houston: Life (1987)

Look familiar? The iconic Sex and the City dress worn by Carrie Bradshaw was actually first donned by the one-and-only Whitney Houston for Life magazine in 1987. Eugene Alexander, a former fashion empire based out of Sarasota, Florida, created this historic dress, which was chopped into a mini for Sarah Jessica Parker 20 years later.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (29)

Jeffrey MayerGetty Images

28 of 31

Britney Spears: 28th Annual American Music Awards (2001)

Some dresses are iconic for good, and some, well, for bad. Britney Spears and then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake's denim get-ups were reportedly the pop starlet's idea and became eponymous with early 2000's pop culture.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (30)


29 of 31

Keira Knightley: Pirates of the Carribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Keira Knightley has portrayed many timeless roles over the years, and this scarlet gown (and undergarments) from the first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean films was as big of a hit as the film franchise itself. British costume designer Penny Rose designed this incredible layered ensemble for the movie, which has sparked many a Halloween costume since.

The 31 Most Iconic Gowns of All Time (31)

J. VespaGetty Images

30 of 31

Jennifer Lopez: 75th Annual Academy Awards (2003)

(Video) The best royal wedding dresses of all time

This mint green Valentino gown was the perfect choice for complementing Lopez's glowing, olive complexion. The sari-style gown is one of many iconic red carpet looks from the singer, actress, and producer.


1. ALL 5 GOLDEN BUZZERS On America's Got Talent All-Stars 2023!
(Talent Recap)
2. The 10 Most Iconic Wedding Dresses Of All Time
(Best for Bride The Best Bridal Stores)
3. 20 of the Most Iconic Wedding Gowns of All Time
(Harper's BAZAAR)
4. Elton John Breaks Down 14 Looks From 1968 to Now | Life in Looks | Vogue
5. Adele performing Someone Like You | BRIT Awards 2011
6. 31 Best Dresses - Prom 2015
(Tynisha Lewis)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Margart Wisoky

Last Updated: 03/04/2023

Views: 6606

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Margart Wisoky

Birthday: 1993-05-13

Address: 2113 Abernathy Knoll, New Tamerafurt, CT 66893-2169

Phone: +25815234346805

Job: Central Developer

Hobby: Machining, Pottery, Rafting, Cosplaying, Jogging, Taekwondo, Scouting

Introduction: My name is Margart Wisoky, I am a gorgeous, shiny, successful, beautiful, adventurous, excited, pleasant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.