Elton John and Donatella Versace on October 22, 1991 in New York. Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Images/Getty Images

7 of donatella versace's most iconic outfits

A tribute to decades of platinum hair, skin-tight outfits, and sky-high heels.

by Brittany Natale
04 September 2019, 11:00am

Elton John and Donatella Versace on October 22, 1991 in New York. Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Images/Getty Images

Donatella Versace is most definitely an icon, both for her glorious work on the runway, and the camp yet vulnerable persona she has adopted for the public. As artistic director of Versace since her brother's untimely death in 1997, she has fiercely protected the Versace legacy, and taken the legendary house to new heights of both creativity and commerce. Remixed Versace prints are seemingly everywhere, as she mines her archive for inspiration. Her own look, comprised of platinum hair, skin-tight outfits, and sky-high heels, has become her calling card, lovingly emulated by her friend Lady Gaga (and Maya Rudolph, perhaps not her friend, in a series of memorable SNL sketches).

Her influence is felt far outside the once insular fashion industry. The label has been the subject of various songs (does “Versace, Versace, we stay at the mansion when we in Miami” ring a bell?), the Versace story has inspired a TV series — with Donatella played by Penelope Cruz, nonetheless — and her celebrity friendships are the stuff of legend. Jennifer Lopez has been wearing her work religiously for decades, speaking to the loyalty Donatella inspires in people, while newer fans include Kendall and Kylie, whose feathered looks decimated the Met Gala this year. Essentially, Donatella is truly an icon in every sense of the word.

In honor of the inimitable Italian, i-D takes a look at some of her most memorable style moments throughout time.

Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace. Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images.

Donatella and brother Gianni in NYC, 1993
In 1993, Donatella attended a New York City fashion event with brother, Gianni, dressed in a bondage-inspired top, leather skirt, and tall black boots with gold chain detailing. The look was from Versace’s 1992 Fall collection, titled “Miss S&M”, which featured plenty of intricate straps, gold hardware, and studded harnesses. Nearly three decades later Kim Kardashian would wear a piece from this vintage collection for a Versace Met Gala afterparty.

Donatella Versace and Elizabeth Taylor. Photo by PAT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Photo by PAT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

With Gianni and Elizabeth Taylor at Opening of the Paris boutique, 1991
In June of 1991 Donatella was photographed with her brother and iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor at the opening of the Versace boutique not far from the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Donatella is shown wearing a blazer featuring Andy Warhol’s famous technicolor print of the late Marilyn Monroe paired with silver earrings. The jacket was from Versace’s 1992 collection where supermodels such as Naomi Campbell walked the runway wearing patterns of the late screen siren. This look was later revived in Versace’s Spring 2018 collection shown at Milan Fashion Week which paid tribute to Gianni and his incredible eye for design.

Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace (1946 - 1997) with his sister Donatella Versace, Lake Como, Italy, 1988. Photo by Evelyn Hofer/Getty Images

Photographed in Lake Como, 1988
In the late-80s a glamorously outfitted Donatella was photographed by famed photographer, Evelyn Hofer, in Lake Como, Italy for Vanity Fair. In 1977, Gianni bought an ornate palazzo on the lake, called Villa Fontanelle, that was once owned by a friend of music composer Giuseppe Verdi. Throughout the 80s and 90s the Versace family often enjoyed the company of countless celebrities, such as Elton John, Madonna, Princess Diana and more, at their estate. In fact, Jennifer Lopez even had her honeymoon here in 2001 after she wed Chris Judd and is said to have been one of the only visitors to Villa Fontanelle after Gianni’s death in 1997. The mini-palace was eventually sold in 2008.

Met Gala 2019
Donatella arrived to the 2019 Met Gala’s pink carpet with neon hair dressed in an elaborately detailed lime green gown with the words “More Divine” emblazoned on it. For this year’s Met Gala, Versace dressed big names such as Serena Wiliams, Kylie Jenner, and, of course, Jennifer Lopez. Lopez and Donatella have been close friends for over twenty years and have collaborated with each other countless times. In fact, the plunging green gown that Lopez famously wore to the 2000 Grammys was created by Versace and is still talked about until this day.

Donatella Versace and Elton John. Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Images/Getty Images
Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Images/Getty Images

Donatella and Elton John out in NYC, 1991
Donatella, dressed in a beaded body-hugging sleeveless gown, and Elton John, decked out in an all-purple ensemble, were photographed in New York City in October of 1991 by celebrity photographer and Club 54 regular Sonia Moskowitz. Donatella and John have been close friends for years — John was especially close with Gianni’s and the two were connected numerous times throughout their careers: Gianni designed John’s stage costumes for his 1992 tour, The One Tour, whereas John dedicated his 1997 album The Big Picture to Gianni after his untimely passing a few months before the album’s release.

Photo by Gotham/GC Images
Photo by Gotham/GC Images

Pride NYC 2019
At WorldPride NYC 2019 Donatella was seen on a parade float wearing a rainbow sequin long sleeve minidress complete with thigh-high rainbow boots, similar to the custom Versace pair Lady Gaga wore for Stonewall Day just a few days earlier. The designer has been a fierce supporter and advocate of LGBTQ+ rights for years and officially became a Stonewall ambassador this past Pride, joining the likes of Anna Wintour and Whoopi Goldberg who also have been given this title. In fact, to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, Versace created a line of Stonewall tees especially for the occasion with proceeds benefiting Stonewall Day and Pride Live.

Maya Rudolph as Donatella at the VH1 Fashion Awards
Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph famously impersonated Donatella on Saturday Night Live in the early 2000s, perfectly parodying the Italian fashion designer’s flashy looks and fiery personality. During the VH1 Fashion Awards in 2002 Donatella actually showed up on-stage, cigarette and all, in a floor-length gold sequined gown while Rudolph spoofed her — creating a memorable (and meta) moment in pop history. As it turns out, Donatella actually got on the phone with Maya Rudolph earlier to give her some insider tips on how to imitate her.

Elton John
Italian fashion
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7 Iconic Outfits