Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: Elegant Opera Dress

Pretty Woman (1990) is your typical Hollywood rags to riches story.

Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) is a young woman who finds herself down and out; struggling financially, unable to make the rent and ‘forced’ to sell her body on the street. By dramatic coincidence she happens to enter the car (and world) of newly single, and rich, businessman Edward Lewis (Richard Gere)

Vivian’s transformation from prostitute to elegant lady of luxury is highlighted through her clothes. Costume designer Marilyn Vance-Straker and her team created an array of stylish and contemporary outfits, beginning with the white and blue revealing dress with thigh-high boots that Roberts dons at the start of the film to Vivian’s most famous costume of all, her floor-sweeping red ball gown worn for the opera sequence.

This red dress represents the pinnacle of her progression to ‘lady’. Its bright, eye-catching colouration, daring deep v-cut or ‘dart’ neckline and ruffled, off-the shoulder sleeves elevate Vivian as an emblematic vision of beauty.

Accessorised sophisticatedly with white silk gloves, glistening necklace and stylish clutch bag, this gown is accentuated by delicate finishing touches. Attention is drawn to Vivian’s figure as the silk fabric of the dress is brought in at the waist before flowing out to the floor.

It seems that this design may have been inspiration for a number of recent designer pieces, including Christian Dior’s bow-back dress, and is even filtering through to high street prom dress boutiques.

A classically timeless example then of how movie fashion extends beyond the screen.

© 2010 – 2018, Lord Christopher Laverty.