Best Dressed: Fashion’s Most Iconic Italian Dresses

Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La dolce Vita

Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La dolce Vita

Look at any bestlist in fashion, and you will find a group of Italian names who have become synonymous with la moda italiana:  Armani, Valentino, Versace. Fashion giants who have created empires with their business savvy, creative genius and hard work.  And nowhere is their talent more evident than when compiling a list of the best dresses ever made.

In fashion, dresses have a power like no other while the right dress has the ability to turn an unknown starlet into an overnight sensation, a young peasant girl named Cinderella into the belle of the ball.   While some fashion creations in the past have made headlines and caused a stir (Bjorks 1990 Swan Dress for example), these next dresses, on the other hand, are in a class of their own. With their meticulous details, beautiful lines, and sheer creative artistry, these next dresses have in many ways become as famous as the women who wore them.

5. Jennifer Lopez in Donatella Versaces Sea Green Dress

Donatella Versaces Tropical Green dress was an important fashion piece on many levels. At the 42nd Grammy Awards, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez arrived with her ex-boyfriend, Sean Combs.  As soon as she appeared, Lopez simply stole the show. The dress was a tropical vision, both delicate and sexy. While most award gowns were often traditional and in colors of black, red or gold, Versaces silk chiffon dress was like a tropical oasis of turquoise and green, patterned with leaf and bamboo motifs. The low cut neck and sheer cloth showcased Lopezs amazing body while the dress itself seemed effortlessly held together by a brooch. It would later be revealed that Lopez held Versaces creation up by using double sided tape.

Not only did the dress receive an enormous amount of attention and praise, but it also showed the world that despite the tremendous loss of Gianni Versace, the House of Versace would go on, and not only survive but prosper with his sister at the helm.

4. La Dolce Vita and Anita Eckberg

I doubt very much that one could think of the Trevi Fountain without picturing a gorgeous blond woman, Anita Eckberg, standing next to the ever dashing Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita. In what has been called one of the most iconic scenesin movie history,  the vision of Eckberg, the sultry Italian Swedish beauty, standing in the water and wearing a long black gown will be forever etched in our memory. The dress perfectly complimented her curves and beauty, and the overall mood of the film as it appeared as dark as the sky and looked almost like ink that ran into the water.

The brilliant stylist of the film was Piero Gherardi,  La Dolce Vitas costume and set designer. Born in Tuscany, Gherardi was self taught in art, design and architecture. He would later work on other Fellini films and whereas other designers of lesser talent had a tendency to create costumes that often distracted or overpowered a film, Gherardis pieces worked harmoniously with the films mood and feel.

3. Princess Diana and Valentinos Classic Red

To dress one of the worlds most beloved and recognized women in the world is certainly no easy featindeed, only a master of fashion could be up for the task. For its tribute issue to Princess Diana, Vogue magazine chose a photograph of the Princess wearing a red dress that was designed by one of fashions most legendary talents- Valentino.  

Born in Voghera, Lombardy, Valentino began designing clothes while in primary school under the guidance of his aunt Rosa and designer Ernestina Salvadeo.  In 1960, Valentino opened up his own fashion house in Rome and became known for his glamorous gowns. He worked with some of the most famous women in the world, including Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Although he had designed other dresses for Princess Diana, this one in particular was special. This flowing halter dress draped effortlessly around the Princess. Unlike other gowns which were glitzy and formal, this dress flowed and appeared as relaxed and unpretentious as the Princess herself.  She looked radiant and happy, showing the world perhaps a side we had begun to witness: mainly that Princess Diana was not just a princess, but she was also a mother, a humanitarian, and a woman in her own right.

2.  Elizabeth Hurley in Gianni Versace

It was the dress that was seen around the world. In one singular moment, the power of fashion showed its monumental pull when the then relatively unknown Elizabeth Hurley showed up on the red carpet with actor Hugh Grant. In 1994, at the premier of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant was by far the bigger star. That all changed as soon as Elizabeth came into view, and within moments, all eyes and cameras turned to her.

The English beauty wore one of Gianni Versaces most dazzling creations: a black dress held by a row of gold safety pins. No one had seen anything quite like it. Made of silk and lycra, and with a plunging neckline that showed off her ivory skin and bust, the dress was sexy and daring. The result?  Pure magic. Though there were some who criticized the dress as being too sexy, they failed to recognize its creativity, craftsmanship, and originality. And lets be honest. Can anything ever be too sexy?

1. The First Lady and the Jackie look

How do you define a legend most?  In Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedys case, it was a combination of deeds, good will and brilliant sense of style.  Though Mrs. Kennedys fashion sense was always sophisticated, it was not until she made Oleg Cassini her official designer that the Jackie lookwas created and clearly defined.

The son of an Italian countess, Cassini played soccer and tennis as a child but it was his love for fashion that took him to Rome where he studied fashion. He eventually got work at Paramount Studios and went onto to design for major films and the biggest names in Hollywood including Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable. and Gina Lollobrigida. In 1961, Kennedy named Cassini as her exclusive couturier. Some of Mrs. Kennedys signature fashion traits were large buttons, A line skirts and the use of silk and wool while her most noted dresses included a yellow day suit of wood and silk (Alaskine) in which she wore at a luncheon with President and Madame De Gaulle, and an apricot silk dress with an A-Line skirt and a matching jacket. But it was her ivory evening dress that she wore at the Inaugural Gala that took the worlds breath away.

The dress was elegant and had a freshness and understated elegance that no one had seen before. A full A lined skirt, a delicate bow, and a 3/4 sleeve length. The result: a dress that gave the world just a peek of what was soon to come: a dazzling display of fashion that was as elegant and graceful as the First Lady herself.

Gaya Lynn writes for several sites, has a couple of working gigs, and drinks way too much caffe’. For more, please go to her new site:

Receive More Stories Like This In Your Inbox



Neapolitan sugo di pomodori

The year was 1921, the place Ellis Island. My maternal grandmother, single, arrives into port from Napoli on the ship Patria to be with her sister...

New life for ancient wheat: Montespertoli’s ancient grains association

Wheat fields have decorated the rolling hills of Tuscany for thousands of years. Interspersed amongst linear vineyards and silver-leafed olive groves...

Just like getting a piece of Italy home every month: here’s EatTiamo!

Opening up a box we don’t know the content of: isn’t that magic? It’s like going back to our childhood’s Christmases, to all those moments of joy and...

Pasta Grannies: Italian nonne take YouTube by Storm

If you are familiar with all that’s trending on YouTube , then you may know The Pasta Grannies, a channel with more than 400.000 subscribers where...

Yabla: Learn Italian with TV, Film and Videos

You may have a little Italian under your belt, perhaps from family experience, travel, tutors, or classes, and you want to improve your skills in a...

Weekly in Italian

Recent Issues