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The best dresses to ever grace the Cannes Film Festival red carpet

 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the last true bastions of Old Hollywood glamour, and nowhere is this more reflected than in its fashion offering. While social media has turned premieres into virality contests (just think of Lil Nas X’s butt-bearing Dior thong to the 2023 Met Gala), the magnificent Croisette boulevard is a strictly sophisticated affair.

Founded in September 1946 (although World War II meant there was a seven-year wait before its first opening ceremony), the prestigious film festival has provided us with over 70 years of style inspiration. With its 80-metre red carpet welcoming A listers like Kate Moss, who wore marabou feathers as she sashayed alongside then-boyfriend Johnny Depp in 1998, Naomi Campbell in a custom Roberto Cavalli chainmail dress that screamed elegance for her 2010 appearance and Isabelle Huppert’s modern, skintight Balenciaga ensemble last year.

Isabelle Huppert in Balenciaga (Getty Images)
Isabelle Huppert in Balenciaga (Getty Images)

Although the red carpet has unspoken fashion rules: no short dresses or flats for women, and mandatory black tie jackets and ties for men (that includes the event’s official photographers, too), as the famous idiom goes: rules are made to be broken. The most iconic fashion rebel moments include Madonna stripping off her long pink robe to reveal a Jean Paul Gauliter cone bra and garter underneath and Kristen Stewart ditching her Christian Louboutin stilettos mid-carpet.

Kristen Stewart ditches her heels on the red carpet (Antonin Thuillier/AFP/Getty Images)
Kristen Stewart ditches her heels on the red carpet (Antonin Thuillier/AFP/Getty Images)

"There’s definitely, like, a distinct dress code, right? People get very upset at you if you, like, don’t wear heels or something—whatever," Stewart later told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. "But I feel like you can’t ask people that anymore. Like, if you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me either.”

More recently the Cannes red carpet has been dominated by celebrities pulling vintage pieces from the archives. Last year Bella Hadid wowed in five vintage dresses, including a 1987 peplum strapless black Versace gown, another ‘80s number by Chanel and a rare Tom Ford-era Gucci dress complete with a hip baring, metal buckle cut-out from the autumn/ winter 1996 collection. Also on the sustainable movement is Priyanka Chopra, who drew for a glimmering gown from the Roberto Cavalli archives in 2019 and Penélope Cruz in a dramatic lace Chanel frock in 2018.

Rihanna in Dior (Getty Images for Kering)
Rihanna in Dior (Getty Images for Kering)

Of course, no best dressed round up would be complete without a Rihanna nod, who made her Cannes debut at the Okja premiere in 2017 wearing an ivory Dior couture strapless bustier gown with an XL matching coat and Matrix-esque shades. While Schiaparelli has undeniably produced some of the most jaw-dropping, surrealist looks of any brand, including supermodel Bella Hadid’s avant-garde lung neckline dress (complete with rhinestone studded bronchioles) and French singer Yseult’s conical bra detailed coat and torso-shaped bag from the house’s fall 2022 collection.

Bella Hadid’s viral  Schiaparelli moment (AFP via Getty Images)
Bella Hadid’s viral Schiaparelli moment (AFP via Getty Images)

With Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore all confirmed for this year’s festivities, they’ll certainly be more looks etched into the Canne’s fashion hall of fame. Until then, scroll through the gallery at the top of the page to see the most memorable Cannes Film Festival dresses of all time