Jennifer Lopez wasn’t a nominee at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on this day in 2000. But she assured her domination of the next day’s fashion coverage when she walked the red carpet in a barely there, green, palm frond–print dress. The budding singer was already bound to make headlines as the arm candy of Sean Combs (who was then going by “Puff Daddy” and involved in a highly publicized legal drama). But a sheer silk chiffon dress, a pair of bejeweled panties and a neckline that plunged well below her navel, ensured that everyone was talking about J. Lo, and not the guy she arrived with. All it took was Donatella Versace’s brash design, a little toupee tape and a heck of a lot of self-confidence.
Versace designed the dress (and some have argued whether the mere wisps of fabric can be called a dress) while she was still struggling to find her groove as head of her brother Gianni’s fashion house after his death three years earlier. “[The dress] was an unexpected success,” Versace told the Canadian Press in 2008. “The next day [Lopez] was all over the place with people talking about her in that dress. It was one of those moments like Gianni had with Elizabeth Hurley and the safety-pin dress.” Versace credits the media attention as a turning point in her career and threw herself into designing for the “new Versace woman.” “[The Versace woman] is confident, for sure. Determined,” the designer noted, which may be an understatement when it comes to the cojones it took to wear what is now called “the Jungle Dress.”
When Lopez stepped on stage (alongside a quickly forgotten David Duchovny) to present the award for Best R&B album, the world watched with bated breath as she walked to the podium. Wasn’t everyone just waiting for the whole thing to just drop, for the inevitable nipple slip, or a very public display of her famous booty? But the evening continued free of any wardrobe malfunctions and Lopez survived to be alternately lambasted for looking like a streetwalker and praised for representing a modern, confident woman. She certainly carried the attitude of the latter, thanks to the aforementioned toupee tape and the fact that she was simply wearing a dress she truly loved. “I had to have it,” she said at the time. Later in an interview with People magazine she added, “It didn’t seem that out there to me. It was a good-looking dress. I had no idea it was going to be such a big deal.” It is this appreciation of Donatella Versace’s flashy aesthetic that keeps Lopez, who launched her own successful perfume and clothing line in 2003, in the celeb-filled front row of the house’s runway shows. In return, the designer keeps her atelier filled with sexy, body-conscious looks for women who, like Lopez, proudly represent the “new Versace woman.” —Rachel Chambers
Credits: Top: Reuters. Middle: Courtesy of Versace. Bottom: Courtesy CBS.