WHERE WERE YOU WHEN: That dress made Elizabeth Hurley a star

Elizabeth Hurley’s Versace gown turned heads – and left Hugh Grant in a supporting role.

Elizabeth Hurley Versace dress
Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images

The evening was supposed to be all about the floppy-haired guy – Hugh Grant – who was poised to become a global movie star and sex symbol, yet barely anyone remembers the moment this way. When his girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley accompanied him to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral in a figure-hugging gown slashed at the thigh, plunging at the front and split at the side, barely held together with gold safety pins, it was all about her – and ‘that dress’.

The phrase entered our lexicon and the dress became so iconic that it even has its own Wikipedia page. Inspired by punk and created by Gianni Versace (whose murder was still three years into the future), the dress had already been worn on the catwalk by supermodel Helena Christensen, but no one remembers that either. It was an outfit that would catapult Elizabeth into the limelight and set her up as a star. While it wasn’t the first ‘dare to bare’ outfit worn on a red carpet – Cher went see-through at the Oscars with husband Sonny Bono in 1973 – there hadn’t been anything quite like this before.

Elizabeth and Hugh had been together for seven years after meeting on the set of the obscure 1988 film Rowing with the Wind. He was 27 back then, she was 22, and by 1994 they were inseparable, said Hugh, because of their years spent living together in a little flat as struggling actors. Their relationship would survive Hugh’s arrest in LA in 1995, when he was caught with prostitute Divine Brown in his car, but they would part in 2000. Elizabeth said the break-up happened because the Bafta winner – called Grumpelstiltskin by her pals – was ‘very annoying’. They remain good friends. That dress, meanwhile, would be revived by Lady Gaga in 2012 during a visit to the Versace headquarters in Milan.

Also that month …

  • Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, four years after he was released from 27 years in prison.
Image: Leo Mason/Popperfoto/Getty Images
  • Brazilian Formula One champion Ayrton Senna was killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix. He was just 34.
  • Labour Party leader John Smith died of a heart attack aged 55.
  • The Channel Tunnel opened.
Image: Stephane Cardinale/Sygma via Getty Images
  • Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were married.

Report by Chris Harvey