Book Review: 100 Unforgettable Dresses

Beauty & the Book

For those who love fashion and books, Hal Rubenstein’s 100 Unforgettable Dresses is a delicious sarto-literary milkshake.

Rubenstein includes a ton of well-known and memorable gowns.  He picked a number of no-brainers, like Audrey Hepburn’s black slinky dress from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Marilyn Monroe’s white halter from The Seven Year Itch, and Elizabeth Taylor’s slip from Butterfield 8.

Iconic women, iconic dresses

He also picked a number of dresses seen more recently on the red carpet, that you didn’t realize were exactly ground-breaking, but as soon as you see the photos, you immediately remember them, which is probably the mark of an iconic dress.  For instance, the Elie Saab dress Halle Berry wore in 2002 when she won a Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball.  Think you don’t know it?  You do:


The burgundy color of the dress against Halle’s skin, plus the see-through bodice with strategically placed embroidered flowers is still considered gorgeous, risky, and unique.  It’s picks like these that make Rubenstein’s book a joy to read–rediscovering the fashion of yesterday that has led us to where we are today.

Rubenstein does include some gowns most readers are unlikely to have ever heard of.  For instance, the “Galaxy Dress” by Roland Mouret from 2005 which is a pretty, but unremarkable navy blue tea-length dress with cap sleeves and square neckline.  And, there are some questionable choices: the vintage “Yellow Chiffon Gown” by John Desses worn by Renee Zellweger in 2001, which is a terrible yellow-green shade that made Ms. Zellweger look sickly.  The draping is lovely, but the bodice looks bumpy and awkwardly-constructed, so it’s hard to know what the appeal is there.

Bottom line: a great book for anyone who loves classic style, big beautiful photos, and competent writing.

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