Valentino Remakes Bjork's Infamous Swan Dress. Who's Laughing Now?

Joanna Douglas
·Senior Editor

Remember Bjork's swan dress she wore to the Oscars in 2001? Who could forget it. The controversial gown remains permanently fixed at the top of award season worst-dressed lists. But don't be surprised if you see a similar creation on the red carpet at this weekend's Grammy awards. Valentino sent a very similar looking swan dress, made out of tulle and hand-sewn feathers, down the runway at their spring 2014 haute couture show on Wednesday. Only this time around, people are eating it up.

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There are admittedly many differences between the Marhan Pejoski dress the Icelandic songstress wore to the Academy Awards and Valentino's new, subtler creation. Bjork's dress featured a full white skirt to resemble the body, and had a giant cartoonish swan head gazing out from her bust. Critics and comedians were particularly harsh. According to Richard Crouse's book "Reel Winners: Movie Award Trivia," Nathan Lane said, "The sad part is Bjork's swan dress was still alive at rehearsal," while resident fashion cop Joan Rivers said "the girl should be put into an asylum." The New York Observer was the only notable outlet who praised the look, saying it was "a total overall j'adore!" Bjork's response: "It's just a dress."

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At the time, Pejoski didn't mind the harsh critiques of his design. "Why a swan dress? Why not? I hate limits," the London-based designer told People."[Bjork] doesn't care about what others say...If my work either charms you or makes you want to puke I achieved something." It's true, because the dress has become iconic in a sense. Later that year, a copy of the swan dress was worn by Emmy Award host Ellen DeGeneres. Actor Kevin James wore a version to the People's Choice Award in 2002, and many jibes have been taken throughout pop culture ever since. Yahoo Shine reached out to Pejoski for comment, but have not heard back at press time.

Recreating such a ridiculed dress is an incredibly risky move for Valentino, and with all the uncanny similarities it seems unlikely that it's a coincidence. But the fashion house was very smart with their interpretation. For starters, it's crafted out of a more sophisticated flesh-toned tulle, and the swan serves as more of an accent than the focus of the dress. The head of the swan is also much smaller, lacking a bright orange beak, and positioned delicately at the nape of the neck. The elegant ballerinas of Swan Lake instantly come to mind.

The press release for Valentino's couture collection references nature, specifically "fragile, graceful creatures, ethereal and primordial, inhabit[ing] a dreamlike world." It says that "the clothes are as ephemeral as dreamy woven fabrics, as regal as majestic presence, and as vibrant as innocent expressions of untamed imagination," and that "dresses with unfinished tutus celebrate the sublime yearning of time." When described so eloquently, the dress feels more like wearable art than a comical costume.

While editor and fashion critics don't frequently criticize big name designers like Valentino, it seems many are positively smitten with this unusual creation.

Fashionista: "It's about time someone took another crack at the iconic and all-important 'swan dress'…we just weren't expecting it to be Valentino."

Lucky: "It's pretty awesome that Valentino interpreted such a big fashion 'don't' into something, well, cool."

Fashionologie:
"Luckily for Valentino creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpalo Piccioli, this version was far more tasteful."

Harper's Bazaar: "Valentino takes our breath away with another stunning couture collection."

Total Beauty: "Yes, yes, yes! The Bjork swan dress is back, as remade by Valentino! We love!"

ELLE: "It looks like Bjork and Marjan Pejoski are having the last laugh."

Will this updated swan dress make its own splash during award season? In the words of Racked, "Please, famous people, let's make the red carpet interesting."

For more on Bjork's infamous swan dress and other red carpet disasters, check out the video below.

Related links:
The Best and Worst Oscar Dresses Ever
Golden Globes: Best and Worst Looks of the Night
Designers Force Fanny Packs Upon Us, Yet Again