Iconic is a horribly overused word, but when it comes to certain dresses it’s also apt. These are dresses that define a particular era: dresses that are instantly recognizable to people of all ages, even if they were made decades ago by designers who are no longer alive.
A good example is the crystal-studded column dress that Marilyn Monroe memorably wore in 1962 to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, and that Kim Kardashian zipped up (well, halfway, anyway). at this year’s Met Gala. , further cementing its reputation as one of the most famous dresses in history.
Now the Duchess of Cambridge in The Vampire’s Wife is ready to do something similar. Yesterday, the Duke and Duchess unveiled their first portrait as a couple by British artist Jamie Coreth. In it, Kate wears a Vampire’s Wife dress and a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes that have entered fashion history after Carrie Bradshaw wore the same look in blue to her wedding in Sex & the City.
However, we are here to focus on the dress. The dress is the work of model Susie Cave, who is married to superstar singer and goth rock icon Nick Cave, hence the name of the company. Her label has that undeniable cool-girl edge, though there’s something amusing about the wife of the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness becoming the go-to designer for weddings, holiday parties and, yes, royal portraits.
The Duchess of Cambridge first wore The Vampire’s Wife on a trip to Dublin in 2020 when she was photographed in the same emerald Falconetti gown, much to the delight of the fashion press. Then, on Royal’s tour of the Caribbean this spring, she wore the full-body Light Sleeper in hot pink, cementing the brand as a trusted label for her.
“I think the dress was a very good choice,” says the Telegraph’s fashion chief, Lisa Armstrong. “Timelessness is important and the length and shape of the skirt make me think of the 1930s and those photos of the Queen Mother when she was young. A portrait needs to have a sense of permanence and Susie Cave has always loved Victorian and vintage styles.”
It was also a surprisingly sexy and highly fashionable choice for a future queen, one for which some people have criticized her; she also shows that she wants to be bolder in her fashion choices. There’s a reason this particular dress has also become a cult form this year, with rental brands like ByRotation saying requests outnumber all others, because it’s flattering and alluring in a way that’s hard to find. to explain. Usually, fads like this die out in a couple of years, too, but with the Duchess of Cambridge’s choice to be immortalized in painting with such a distinctive silhouette, she’s elevated it to something historic.
“I always say that the marriage of art and fashion is where popular culture is defined,” says Viola Raikhel, co-founder of the platform ap8.art, who is now working on a collaboration with Net-a-Porter. “The Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress, for example, transformed a painting into an animated work of art and was so successful that people who had barely heard of Yves Saint Laurent or Mondrian recognized it. The same could be true here.”
Good news, perhaps, for anyone who already has a The Vampire’s Wife original in their wardrobe…
Here is our selection of the iconic dresses of our time.
Marlyn Monroe in William Travilla
The human eye is drawn to beauty, and Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch is beauty personified. The dress in question was made by costume designer William Travillia and the later photograph of Monroe standing on the bars is arguably the most iconic of the 20th century film. “There’s this spontaneity to the image that makes it really appealing,” says Armstrong. “A historical dress is often easy to define, and the white dress with white hair is so simple yet so luminous.”
Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy
Similarly, Audrey Hepburn in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s would be instantly recognizable from a simple sketch. “It’s the epitome of a little black dress, and Audrey wears it very well,” says Armstrong. “It really defines that particular period in time: New York skyscrapers and Jackie Kennedy in short geometric jackets and narrow skirts.” Every few years, magazine editors and designers make reference to this particular little black dress: Ariana Grande did it for Givenchy’s 2019 campaign, as did Natalie Portman in a Harper’s Bazaar cover shoot.
Princess Diana in David and Elizabeth Emanuel
Princess Diana’s memorable 1981 wedding dress is both timeless and very old-fashioned. “She did what she said on the tin,” says Armstrong, “she was very big and very romantic and she was right up there with fashion because of all of that. We all thought he was quite charming at the time. Of course we could all see the wrinkles, but we tried not to see them because we loved Diana. It’s certainly iconic, although no one would wear a dress like that now because it was so over the top – she summed up that marriage, really, as an absolute triumph of hope over delivery.”
Kate Moss in transparent lingerie
This photograph of a teenage Kate Moss in a barely-there bias-cut maxi was a picture editor’s dream, so it’s no wonder it graced the front page of almost every newspaper in Britain in 1993. To do with a moment in Kate’s Career,” says Armstrong, “was the Johnny Depp years, when he was becoming one of the biggest names on the planet and London was once again becoming one of the trendiest cities in the world. world. The dress sums up that moment.”
Elizabeth Hurley in Versace
No other gown has achieved such a career as Elizabeth Hurley’s when she walked the red carpet for the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral at Versace in 1994. “The response was incredible,” says Armstrong. “She was very pretty and she had been in a TV series but suddenly she exploded. Once again, it was all about timing: Hugh Grant was in the first big British movie in a long, long time, and the red carpet was suddenly becoming a big thing, and in that dress he gave them both like a couple. of serious stars”.