Every girl's got one. From history or the movies—eight times out of 10 following a makeover sequence set to pop music—here are 31 unforgettable party dress moments that continue to take our breath away.
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Marchesa Luisa Casati, 1922
Whoa, right? The Marchesa Luisa Casati, who famously said she wanted to be a living work of art, rocked this diamond-net costume by Worth at what must have been one epic fancy-dress party.
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Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind, 1939
Rhett forces Scarlett to attend a birthday bash in this scandalous dress to alert the townspeople to her badness, but really—who cares whom you've been snogging when you look this glam?
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Cinderella in Cinderella, 1950
"Why is this one important?" said no one ever.
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Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, 1954
Mega sparkly? Check. Tiara? Check. Posh accent? Check check. This was the ultimate to our 7-year-old selves, and we haven't forgotten it since.
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Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, 1954
Note to self: Go to culinary school in France. Befriend a baron. Return home such a sophisticated woman no one recognizes you. Oh yeah—and bring back a high-low Givenchy (or was it Edith Head?) ballgown.
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Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
Everybody just adores Holly Golightly's black Givenchy, but we've always been partial to this full-skirted little number. Because if you're going to go postal on your vanity after receiving some very distressing news, you might as well do it wearing hot pink.
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Olivia Newton-John in Grease, 1978
We're staunchly #TeamGoodSandy, which is why her sweet, true-personality-reflecting prom dress—and not her leathery "You're The One That I Want" get-up—made the cut. (Plus, you know, this isn't "The Most Memorable Leggings and Big Hair Ever.")
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Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, 1986
We'll level with you: This Home Ec pillowcase isn't anyone's ideal, but she did put a lot of effort into splicing Iona's dress and the one her dad bought her together. Bottom line is we can recall what Andie wore to the prom, and that's a lot more than we can say for some other film heroines.
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Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, 1990
Brava, costume designer Marilyn Vance. Vivian's transformation from hooker with a heart of gold to La Traviata-appreciating lady wouldn't have been complete without this draped, off-the-shoulder scarlet frock.
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Belle in Beauty and the Beast, 1991
Duh.
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Princess Diana at the Serpentine Gallery, 1994
They don't call it the Revenge Dress for nothing. After her separation from Prince Charles, Diana brought out the big guns, aka this stunning Christina Stambolian ensemble, which she had previously considered too sexy.
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Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, 1995
To die in a red Alaïa would be a heavenly way to die. Except it's actually "an a-what-a" according to her mugger, and Cher Horowitz lived to wear a whole slew of preppy designer outfits. (P.S. The party scene itself is definitely in our top 10.)
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Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 2003
"Yellow silk" sounds like a hella wrinkly and impossible-to-pull-off combo, but Andie Anderson made it so that, at every school dance, there was at least one girl trying to pass as Composure magazine's how-to columnist. Bonus points if that was you at Homecoming.
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Kate Moss in vintage at an AnOther Magazine party, 2003
In Kate Moss' impressive fashion oeuvre, this dress from renowned vintage store Lily et Cie still stands out—so much so that the model herself recreated it for her most recent Topshop collaboration.
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Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story, 2004
Let this be a testament to Monique Lhuillier: When you borrow one of her dresses—even if it is rather bridal for prom—Chad Michael Murray falls in love with you, and you run away to Princeton together.
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Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, 2004
Why doesn't every movie have a dress that marks its turning point? It would be so much easier to time your bathroom breaks that way, although in this one, Cady Heron blowing chunks all over Aaron Samuels kind of gives it away things are about to take a turn for the worse.
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Kate Moss at her 30th birthday party, 2004
Told you it was too hard to pick just one Kate look. This one's from her The Beautiful and the Damned-themed birthday party at Agent Provocateur founder Serena Rees' house.
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Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, 2004
While Carrie and her Russian artist beau took a detour to Mickey D.'s in this scene, our hearts merged onto Oscar de la Renta Highway. We imagine SJP's did too, judging by her lifelong friendship with the designer.
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Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2005
Every girl wants to live Hermione's Yule Ball scene: You step onto the foyer. Your hair is the best it's ever going to look. The music swells, and Ron and Harry kick themselves for not asking you out first.
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Sarah Jessica Parker in Alexander McQueen at the 2006 Met Gala
Every time we see this picture, we sob a little inside because that tartan-tulle confection is the work of a madcap genius who died much too young.
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Keira Knightley in Atonement, 2007
Some girls dreamt of James McAvoy and that white-hot library scene; our thoughts were filled with this sweeping emerald gown by designer Jacqueline Durran, which has (rightfully) topped every "best film costume" list this side of 2000.
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Michelle Obama in Jason Wu at the 2009 Inaugural Ball
How could you not love a first lady who can get down with a turnip and glamorous dresses by then-up-and-coming designers? This was a big moment for America but an even bigger one for Michelle O.'s lookbook.
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Kate Moss in Marc Jacobs at the 2009 Met Gala
The theme was "The Model as Muse." That's pretty much all you need to know.
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Blake Lively in Marchesa at the 2010 Met Gala
With her up-to-there stems and professional-level posing, Blake Lively cemented her status as Bona Fide Movie Star and fashion darling that very night.
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Leighton Meester in Gossip Girl, 2010
Well, what else would you wear but red-orange Oscar de la Renta to persuade Chuck Bass to go home while standing on Avenue Montaigne? #nobrainer
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Carine Roitfeld at the Vogue Paris 90th Anniversary Party, 2010
We don't know any 56-year-olds who've ever pulled off anything like this.
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Anna Dello Russo in Emilio Pucci, Gareth Pugh at the Vogue Paris 90th Anniversary Party, 2010
How do you stand out at arguably the fashion-iest fashion party of all time? Stick on a steel-feather headdress with your room-filling white gown.
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Kate Middleton in Jenny Packham at the 10th Annual ARK Gala, 2011
If you bring your face really close to the screen, you can see Kate Middleton turning into a full-fledged princess right when this photo was taken.
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Florence Welch in Alexander McQueen at the 2012 Met Gala
This is what happens when you put the right girl in the right dress: magic.
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Beyoncé in Givenchy Couture at the 2012 Met Gala
Beyoncé's patented guide to making an entrance: 1. Arrive late. 2. Breeze in right before the photographers pack up wearing plumed, transparent haute couture—with a staircase-draping train.
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