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The naked dress phenomenon, Angelina Jolie's up-to-there slit, and just about every deep-V gown can be traced back to one red carpet moment: Elizabeth Hurley at the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral. In a conversation with Harper's Bazaar, Hurley revisits the career-making dress and explains just how much of an impact those not-so-simple gold safety pins had on her life.
"I was so unprepared for what happened that night," Hurley said of that fateful night. "I urgently needed to find a dress to wear for Hugh's premiere, and in those days I had no idea about fashion."
Her experience illuminates just how far celebrity dressing has come. A quarter-century ago, Hurley picked the dress up herself, did her own hair and makeup, and had no idea what a huge splash she'd be making when she — a still relatively unknown — arrived on Hugh Grant's arm and immediately stole the spotlight.
"I remember going to an office where they literally fished a dress out of a white plastic bag," she adds. "I took it home and did my own hair and makeup, fighting Hugh for the mirror, which wasn't even full-length, in our tiny one-bedroom flat. It was all very unglamorous compared to how things get done these days."
Hurley knows that she owes a lot to that one dress. Less than a year after she wore it, she became a spokesperson for Estée Lauder, landed a role in the Austin Powers franchise, and became a good friend of the Versace family. That friendship could be why the famed fashion house decided to update the safety pin dress. Hurley's new version includes one sleeve, a more demure bodice, and a slash across the stomach. It's all held together with the same signature gold safety pins. That leg-baring slit is still present and accounted for. Hurley explains that while the original dress would still fit her, the new version is much more appropriate.
"Because it still fits doesn’t mean I would wear it today — it wouldn’t be appropriate!" she said.
Donatella Versace offered up a moment of reflection, too. She explained to Bazaar that the dress was designed to be worn by a woman who wasn't afraid to go against the status quo. 25 years ago, the red carpet was a place where fashion risks were basically forbidden. Thanks to Hurley, however, today's red carpet is a place where individuality is celebrated.
"Gianni made that dress for a woman who is sure of herself and who isn't afraid to break the rules," Versace said of her late brother. "Liz embodied all of this in an extraordinary way."