These dresses are the reason slow motion was invented.
You can always tell a truly iconic dress by the way time slows down when it comes on the screen. The frame glides up slowly from hem to head, cutting away only momentarily to show some slack-jawed male admirer as his brain liquefies in his skull. These are not just dresses; they are weapons of mass destruction and you don’t have to be a dude to fall victim to their time-stopping, brain-melting power.
1. Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind, 1940
Scarlett O’Hara was always a big believer in the importance of dressing well, especially when you know you’re going to see your ex. She turned her curtains into couture and Rhett Butler into man mush.
2. Cinderella, Cinderella, 1950
Cinderella may have gotten the perfect dress, hair, and makeup with just the wave of a wand, but she also had to wear glass slippers and be home by midnight, so, you know, trade offs.
3. Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953
Get those diamonds, girl. Ain’t no shame.
4. Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, 1955
IRL there is nothing fun or sexy about the breeze comes up from the subway grate. Is that garbage and urine I smell? Yes. Yes it is.
5. Grace Kelly, Rear Window, 1955
A giant tulle ball skirt is perfect for making home visits. If you’re Grace Kelly.
6. Leslie Caron, Gigi, 1958
When Gigi enters Maxim’s the entire restaurant is dumb-struck. They stand in silence, motionless, as she and Gaston are walked to their table. I’m holding my breath just thinking about it.
7. Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
The ultimate lady-brain-melter — Holly Golightly’s little black dress made (and continues to make) all non-LBD’s seem completely and utterly pointless. Aslo, I think I want a cigarette now, but only in a long, black cigarette holder. And long black gloves. I need those. We all do.
8. Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady, 1964
Only Audrey Hepburn could wear a giant hat, bows, feathers, flowers, and a parasol without looking like a complete mess. Audrey Hepburn and Rihanna. Rihanna can wear anything. Oh my god, is Rihanna the new Audrey Hepburn, or is my brain melting?
9. Michelle Pfeiffer, Scarface, 1983
You can tell by the way the fabric hangs and moves that there was no boob tape on the set of Scarface — a dangerous neckline for a dangerous woman.
10. Molly Ringwald, Pretty in Pink, 1986
Whether or not you like the very ’80s shape of Ringwald’s dress, you have to admit that her in that color is hypnotic. Clearly, that rule about redheads not being able to wear pink was invented by a jealous non-redhead trying to keep the gingers down.
11. Jessica Rabbit, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988
She’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way.
12. Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman, 1990
Not all iconic dresses are aspirational.
13. Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1992
With this look, Sharon stone took the idea of the virginal white dress and smashed it. Smashed it with a sledgehammer.
14. Alicia Silverstone, Clueless, 1995
It’s a dress. Calvin Klein said so.
15. Kate Winslet, Titanic, 1997
Oh my god! Jack and Rose. Together. Admit it, you’re kind of tearing up.
16. Rachael Leigh Cook, She’s All That, 1999
You’re too good for him, Laney Boggs! Get back up those stairs. He’s an idiot and that dress is working a black magic on all of you!
17. Kate Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 2003
Andie Anderson makes blonde hair and a yellow dress look like a good idea. A very good idea.
18. Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City, 2008
So much about this dress is wrong — it’s wrinkly and poufy and the boobs are all big and bunchy and gaping — but somehow it works. It’s magic. Movie fashion magic.