Ah, yes, the dress that invented Google Images. This appeared on the catwalk on the back of Amber Valletta in September of 1999, a fashion show we have in NEITHER of our major image provider archives and which Vogue only has in blurry form. But it was not, I would argue, truly BORN until Jennifer Lopez slipped into it for the 2000 Grammys, which put her on the map and gave Google engineers a search-engine-changing project. Yes, without J.Lo, we would never be able to find GIFs.
By current standards, of course, this is no big deal. It’s downright modest when you stack it up next to some of the stuff people would wear to Golden Globes afterparties. In 2000, it felt major, though — and what’s odd about that is, these deep dives of the past year in quarantine have reminded me that this was hardly the first time anyone wore anything racy. Had everyone forgotten about freaking Cher, to name just one example? I don’t know what caused people to obsess over this, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the convergence of a charismatic star in the making and the wide availability of the Internet. Nobody had to wait anymore for People magazine to come out; pictures and news articles were in front of the world with a couple keystrokes, and with that plus e-mail, you could spread the word that much faster. And maybe some of it was the fact that the world treated people like Cher as cultural anomalies — “It’s just Cher being Cher!” — and were surprised to see someone else so confidently owning her sex appeal. It’s hard to know, but replicas of the dress have been in the Grammy museum and in other fashion exhibits as representative of the biggest moments of the decade. And that was 21 years ago; think how many J.Lo has had since, and yet how distinctive this one remains.