7 of Dior’s Most Iconic Outfits

The storied French house has been behind some of the most iconic fashion moments of the last century. Can you guess which ones made the cut?

by Zoë Kendall
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26 May 2021, 4:42pm

Very few modern fashion houses lay claim to a heritage as storied and influential as that of Dior. Founded in Paris in 1946 by designer Christian Dior, the eponymous luxury house revolutionized women’s dressing, forever, with its first-ever womenswear collection in 1947. The outing, presented for Paris’ spring/summer 1947 season, introduced Dior’s now-iconic “New Look”, a post-war time vision of glamorous, feminine dressing that took shape in nipped-waisted, full-skirted silhouettes emblemised by the collection’s structural “Bar” suit. Its namesake coined by Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, Dior’s “New Look” ushered in a new era in Parisian fashion, one that centered youth and glamour, and revived the once-lost spirit of French haute couture not only in the country’s capital, but internationally.

Monsieur Dior, however, is just the beginning of the house’s legacy. Since the designer’s passing in 1957, the label has seen six designers take the creative reins, from the inimitable Yves Saint Laurent and the visionary John Galliano to Belgian modernist Raf Simons and, finally, today’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, who brings a much-welcomed female perspective to the house’s iconic womenswear codes. Founded in 1987 and officially titled Dior Heritage in 2013, the house’s state-of-the-art archive commemorates and houses over 70 years of this incredibly rich history, from its first 1947 garments to sketchbooks and press clippings.

As inspiring as it is expansive, Dior Heritage has served as a well from which the house’s many designers have drawn inspiration over the years. To honour the brand’s legendary influence, we’ve plumbed the depths of the Dior Heritage archives to chart the brand’s legendary history through a selection of its most iconic looks of all time.

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Lauren Hutton wearing custom Christian Dior in Tout feu tout flamme, 1982

During his 30 year career at Christian Dior, Marc Bohan clothed actresses from the realms of cinema (Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor) to opera (the incomparable Maria Callas). The Parisian designer’s most iconic cinematic look, however, belongs to Lauren Hutton. In 1982, Bohan was tasked with creating two gowns for French comedy film Tout feu tout flamme. For the film’s lead actress, Isabelle Adjani, the designer designed a classic strapless ballgown, much in keeping with the house’s mid-century codes. For Lauren Hutton’s character, Jane, however, Bohan crafted a sexy gold lamé dress with plunging neckline. It was a new look for the storied house, and one that defined the era to a tee, bridging the gap between 70s disco theatrics and the newfound opulence of the early 80s.

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Princess Diana wearing Dior Haute Couture at the Met Gala, 1996

Did you know that Princess Diana almost didn’t wear her iconic 1996 Christian Dior Met Gala ensemble? With its lingerie inflections, the gown -- a lace-trimmed navy slip created by British designer John Galliano in his first-ever Dior Couture outing -- was considered riské for its time, especially for a member of the British monarchy, and Diana feared the look would cause a media maelstrom that might embarrass her young sons. Ultimately, the late princess did decide to don the Dior Couture gown in what is now one of her most memorable -- and most significant -- fashion moments of all time. Worn just a few months after her infamous Panorama interview, and a few months before her divorce was finalized, the look signalled a firm break between Diana and the monarchy’s conservatism; it was emblematic of a new, modern -- and fashion-forward -- type of princess. The cherry on top of the historical look is the Lady Dior handbag on Diana’s arm. In 1996, Dior honoured the late princess by naming the elegant top handle bag after her former title: Lady Diana Spencer.

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Nicole Kidman wearing Dior Haute Couture at the Academy Awards, 1997

In 1997, Nicole Kidman -- and the house of Christian Dior -- revolutionized red carpet dressing forever. To the year’s annual Academy Awards ceremony, the Australian actress -- accompanied by then-husband Tom Cruise -- donned an electrifying chartreuse gown, designed by the house’s newly-minted creative director, John Galliano. Compared to the demure fare usually worn on the Oscars red carpet, the unconventional -- and undeniably show-stopping -- gown was a huge risk. But it was one that paid off. At the time, Oscars pre-awards show host Melissa Rivers referred to the Dior confection as the red carpet’s “first true couture dress.” Since, the dress has gone on to earn its place among some of the most influential gowns to grace the Academy Awards red carpet.

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Sarah Jessica Parker wearing Christian Dior RTW Spring 2000 in Sex and the City 2, 2010

Without question, Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw -- and, by proxy, Sarah Jessica Parker -- is the most sartorially influential figure to grace the small screen, ever. With a closet that’s taken in stylish names from Donna Karan to Prada, snagging the #1 spot in Carrie Bradshaw’s ultra-stylish wardrobe is definitely no easy feat. That accolade, however, belongs squarely to the house of Dior. In episode 17 of the show’s third season, Carrie wore a bias-cut newsprint dress (you know the one), designed by Dior creative John Galliano for the house’s Fall 2000 ready-to-wear collection. The unconventional -- but immediately covetable -- dress drew, and continues to draw, both admirers and imitators. The dress was so iconic that Carrie -- and SATC stylist Patricia Field -- revisited the look in the second Sex and the City movie, seen here, a decade later.

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Jennifer Lawrence wearing Dior Haute Couture at the Academy Awards, 2013

In one of the most memorable Oscars moments in recent memory, Jennifer took to the Dolby Theatre stage to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, only to tumble over the voluminous hem of her Christian Dior couture gown on her way up the steps. It was the fall -- and the dress -- that was seen all over the world. The gorgeous drop-waist gown was designed by Belgian designer -- and newly appointed Dior creative director -- Raf Simons for his sophomore Dior Couture outing. During his stint with Dior, Raf -- known for his youthful, avant-garde designs -- modernized the house’s codes for the millennial generation. This dress -- and this moment -- wholly embodied Raf’s vision for the French house: a truly modern gown, for a truly modern -- truly millennial -- starlet.

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Rihanna wearing custom Dior Couture at Cannes Film Festival, 2017

When in Cannes! While attending the premiere of Okja, Rihanna paid homage to the Old Hollywood looks of Cannes Film Festivals past in an extravagant custom number designed by Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. Crafted from silk taffeta in the house’s Paris atelier, the ensemble featured a full-skirted, strapless gown with an accompanying off-the-shoulder coat. Of course, the fashion icon that she is, Rihanna accessorized the timeless look with ultra-futuristic shades, perfect for blocking out the Riviera’s tropical rays. As recent as it was worn, the stunning set has already earned its place among the Cannes Film Festival’s most iconic red carpet outfits ever.

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Elle Fanning wearing custom Dior Couture at Cannes Film Festival, 2019

In 2019, Elle Fanning was appointed a member of the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious jury, the committee tasked with decided which films will take home the festival’s awards, including its prestigious Palme D’Or. As a juror (the youngest one of all time, at that!) Elle made the complete festival circuit, attending all of its many red carpet premieres. Out of the star’s myriad fashion-forward red carpet looks, Elle’s custom Dior ensemble was the most memorable. And for good reason: the look epitomized Dior Haute Couture past and present, highlighting both the house’s craft and heritage. Drawn from the house’s archives by creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, the nipped-waist ensemble was heavily inspired by Dior’s 1947 New Look. The full look -- organza shirt and full tulle skirt topped with an era appropriate cannage effect hat -- took over 450 hours to create. The look has earned its place not only in Cannes red carpet hall of fame but within the Dior Heritage history books, merging Dior’s legendary past with its modern-day vision, spearheaded by Maria Grazia Chiuri.

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Fashion
Dior