Jennifer Lopez’s “last-minute” choice to wear a navel-bearing green Versace gown to the Grammy Awards in 2000 was an unexpected coup on fashion, pop culture and technology. Now, 20 years later, with a skimpier redesign, a cameo on Saturday Night Live and a new Versace campaign, the silk chiffon gown is just as relevant. Ahead of the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, here’s the story behind “the dress.”
Lopez wasn’t the first celeb to wear the dress. As a nominee for her hit song “Waiting for Tonight,” Lopez needed an unforgettable look. But there was a problem with the dress from Versace’s Spring-Summer 2000 collection: It wasn’t new. In September, Lopez told Vogue that her stylist feared the dress wouldn’t make a statement.“She was like, ‘No, you can’t wear that one, somebody else has worn it, actually, Donatella herself has worn it. One of the Spice Girls has worn it. Sandra Bullock has worn it in another color,” said Lopez. “I said, ‘This is what we’re going to wear. This is it.’ I really didn’t think about it. I didn’t think it was all that risqué, to be honest. I was more excited that it was the Grammys. I wasn’t even really thinking about the dress that much. I was just glad I had something to wear.”
A wardrobe malfunction seemed inescapable. Lopez loved the dress but the low-cut design gave pause. “The only concern was, whether or not my boobs were going to pop out on stage or anywhere along the way,” Lopez said during the “Moments in Fashion” YouTube series. “Because it was so low-cut, we literally laid double-stick [tape] down, toupee tape, and we stuck the dress to it,” Lopez later said, “but there was never any danger of that. I was so securely stuck into that thing, that there was going to be no mishaps.”
Then-boyfriend Sean Combs, a.k.a. Diddy, predicted the dress would put Lopez on the map. “Just wow,” Diddy (then Puff Daddy) told Entertainment Tonight in 2017. “We were just stepping up our game as far as what we were wearing and how we were gonna use fashion.” He added, “I thought it was gonna really change the game as far as for her and fashion. I didn’t know how big it was gonna be, but it was a great moment for her.”
Related: Watch J.Lo Tell the Story of Her Green Versace Dress
Desire to see the dress online spawned Google Images. There were so many internet searches to view the dress that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google Images. “After all, people wanted more than just text,” Google’s former executive chairman Eric Schmidt wrote in a 2015 essay published in Project Syndicate. “This first became apparent after the 2000 Grammy Awards, where Jennifer Lopez wore a green dress that, well, caught the world’s attention. At the time, it was the most popular search query we had ever seen. But we had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: J. Lo wearing that dress. Google Image Search was born.”
The design galvanized spoofs, knock-offs, and Halloween costumes. In November, Versace reportedly filed a lawsuit against company Fashion Nova, citing “flagrant infringement” with a similar dress. Celebs have also parodied the look — during the 2000 Academy Awards, South Park co-creator Trey Parker dressed as Lopez (co-creator Matt Stone impersonated Gwyneth Paltrow in her pink Ralph Lauren Oscars dress). And last Halloween, Real Housewives’ Lisa Rinna wore a costume version of the green gown.
Versace continues to spread its legacy. In 2019, Versace sold $1,075 “Jungle Print Chain Reaction Sneakers” and Versace’s Spring-Summer 2020 collection will include The Medusa Frame watch with a band in the same pattern. Fans can purchase Versace’s “Jungle Printed Silk Cutout Dress” for $9,795 at Neiman Marcus. And a spokesperson from Versace tells Yahoo Lifestyle that both the classic and updated dresses will be available in select Versace stores nationwide in February.
The dress broke the internet (again) during Milan Fashion Week 2019. In September, Lopez closed the Milan Spring 2020 Versace fashion show by walking the runway in a remake of the dress, a secret plan brokered by the designer and the singer at the Met Ball in May. “She said yes right away ... she came to Milan ... and everything was really undercover,” Donatella told Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in October. “Nobody knew she was going to do that.” Later, Lopez told Vanity Fair, “The second time I wore it and walked out there, it was such an empowering thing. Twenty years had gone by, and I think for women, knowing you can put on a dress 20 years later—it resonated. It was like, “Yes, you know, life is not over at 20!”
The 2019 redesign made a cameo on Saturday Night Live. On Dec. 7, Lopez hosted Saturday Night Live and during her monologue, she dished on the dress. “I walked the runway in Milan for the first time wearing a dress I wore 20 years ago,” she said. “Now, some people said I look better now than I did then. And I’m not bragging, that’s just you know, gossip.” Then, singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” with the Radio City Rockettes, Lopez popped off her tux, under which she wore the green number.
The dress continues to reinvent itself: The friendship between Lopez and Donatella Versace began long before “the dress,” but it powers their business relationship — this month, Lopez announced a new partnership with the fashion house. “I am so excited I can finally reveal that I am the face of the #VersaceSS20 campaign!” she wrote on Instagram, sharing a photo of herself wearing a low-cut suit bearing the pattern. Even younger generations are paying respects to the dress. In the campaign, Kendall Jenner models jungle-print shorts and a matching jacket.
It was destined to become part of history. “The secret of the dress's success is the combination of Jennifer Lopez plus Versace plus the dress itself,” Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Or to put it slightly differently: Sexy Woman Celebrity Whose Music Is World Famous PLUS Designer of Notoriously Sexy Clothes Often Worn by Celebrities PLUS Quintessentially-Versace Body-Revealing, Vividly-Colored-and-Patterned Dress that Exposes a Lot of the Superstar's Sexy Body.”
Lopez also summed it up. “In terms of my career, this dress really marked the moment in time, if you don’t know my music and you don’t know my movies, people know about that moment and that dress,” she told Vogue in September. “That was it.”
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