The dress that turned Liz Hurley into a Pin-Up

A dress so special that it managed to propel the one time girlfriend of Hugh Grant to instant celebrity status. She went from abject obscurity to an overnight star. No wonder the black Versace dress she wore to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral has since developed a cult following. In 2008 it was voted the greatest red carpet gown of all time. In 2010 it came second in an online poll of the top ten dresses of the last fifty years (only to be trumped by Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack Dress). It surely proves how one can dress for success.


A dress held together with safety pins is hardly the most unassuming of choices and the impact on the media was huge. The day after the premiere in 1994 it was spread across the front pages of the press all over the world. It did little harm in promoting the fashion house Versace, so much so in fact Donatella released a newer version of it again in a collection in 2009. This dress has inspired a trend for a ‘barely there’ theme of dresses on the red carpet, for example the green Versace that Jennifer Lopez donned for the Grammy Awards. An icon in its own right and despite causing controversy for its revealing nature, the Versace gown is now simply referred to as ‘The Dress’. The reason for its resounding success and appraisal by many is largely due to it being quite different from the usual floor length couture. It was daring choice, a guaranteed head – turner. Gianni Versace stated it was punk inspired and termed it as ‘neo-punk’. Elizabeth Hurley has said that at the time she could not afford a dress to wear for the event and was given it to wear for free by the design house. Thirteen years later a copy was sold for £10,690 at Harrods in 2007 as part of an exhibition dedicated to the ‘little black dress’. We are now in full throes of the award season, I wonder if there will be many to rival Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin dress on the red carpet. Hugh Grant may have given a winning performance in the film but it was his one time girlfriend who won over the critics on that night. Caroline Barnes


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