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Ss 1995 Versace White Dress

Versace SS 1995 butterfly runway dress
By Gianni Versace
Located in London, GB
dress in the white butterfly print was worn on the runway for the Versace S/S 1995 show. The print has
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Gianni Versace for sale on 1stDibs

The signature extravagance of legendary fashion designer Gianni Versace — forever aligned with glamour, sex, celebrity and spectacle — can overshadow the Italian couturier’s broad and deep engagement with history and culture. Today, his vintage dresses and gowns, handbags, sunglasses and other accessories look astonishingly fresh and freshly relevant.

More than any designer before him, Versace mined celebrity, music and Pop art for inspiration, and his subversive, maximalist and unabashedly seductive designs infused high fashion with an entirely new ethos. “I don’t believe in good taste,” he once explained. Instead, he had a sexy good time with fashion — as he did with life. 

Gianni Versace was born in Calabria, Italy. His mother was a successful dressmaker who employed more than 40 seamstresses. As a child, little Gianni marveled at her workshop, which would become a university of sorts, where he learned the exceptional construction techniques that were at the foundation of his creative expression.

In 1972, at age 25, he moved to Milan to work in fashion. He launched his first collection — and his label — in 1978, with his older brother Santo managing the business concerns. Soon, sister Donatella, whom Gianni dressed and took to discos when she was still a child, joined the family venture, where she had a creative role and managed enormously popular ready-to-wear lines such as Versus.

Vintage Versace — and Gianni Versace Couture, which debuted in 1989 — has become catnip for modern fashion enthusiasts who seek out the now-iconic house codes that originated in the designs of the 1980s and 1990s. His glamorous and seductive apparel — the clingy skirts and slender, strappy party dresses, as well as the erotic magazine ads that publicized them — looms large, but Versace’s art and historical influences were also vast.

Versace was an art collector, and he took on commissions to create costumes for theatrical performances during the 1980s and spoke of looking to numerous cultures for inspiration. The New York Times noted in 1997 that the fashion industry “is now driven by contemporary culture because Mr. Versace made it that way.”

Insiders consider his 1991/1992 Autumn/Winter runway show — which featured supermodels Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista lip-synching George Michael’s “Freedom” — as the moment when the two worlds of fashion and pop culture became one, changing both forever.

Versace's adventurous spirit of design resulted in his creating jewel-toned prints rooted in Grecian motifs, Etruscan symbols, the Italian Baroque and Andy Warholʼs Marilyn Monroe. There were slinky dresses in Oroton, his patented chain-mail textile that draped like satin, and leather bondage ensembles. Sex sold, for both women and men. Wrote the late curator Richard Martin, “[Versace] became the standard-bearer of gay men’s fashion because he eschewed decorum and designed for desire.”

Following Versace’s tragic murder in 1997, Donatella took over the role of artistic director and continued to evolve the house codes with a twist of her feminine and feminist perspective. Today, Santo Versace is chief executive officer of Versace and Donatella is its chief creative officer.

Browse an extraordinary collection of vintage Gianni Versace evening dresses, handbags, day dresses and more on 1stDibs.

Fashion of the 1990s

For fashion lovers, the 1990s have become associated with styles adopted by today’s supermodels and influencers, who never wear the same thing twice. And because fast fashion didn’t yet exist, the design associated with 1990s fashion — vintage '90s handbags, clothing and accessories — has a quality appreciated by the millennial generation: authenticity.

If there was one concept unifying fashion in the 1990s, it was the lean silhouette. “Fashion is a game of proportion,” Alexander Fury wrote in the New York Times in 2016. “Narrow-shouldered and narrow-hipped, the ’90s were skinny.”

If it takes a practiced eye to identify that single concept, that’s because in truth, ’90s fashion was many things to many people. After the 1980s era of strong-shouldered working women, glossy aerobicized bodies and Madonna, fashion branched out.

The industry gained momentum from big-money relaunches of the great Paris houses Dior, Givenchy and Balenciaga, rescued at long last from the constraints of licensing. Japan and Belgium gave fashion new avant-garde ideas to play with. From America came denim, minimalism, '90s grunge fashion and hip-hop. From Italy came sex appeal. And Prada.

For the colorful corsets of her 1990 Portrait collection, audacious British designer Dame Vivienne Westwood drew on 18th-century oil paintings — her models donned the pearl choker necklaces that have become a social media star and a favorite of influencers and fashion lovers all over the world. For a jacket-and-shorts suit from her Fall/Winter 1996–97 Storm in a Teacup line, the designer used the extreme asymmetry of a tartan mash-up to confront, according to Westwood, “the horror of uniformity and minimalism.”

“The ethos of the time was, you could have style, you could be into all kinds of cool stuff. It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about status,” says Katy Rodriguez, cofounder of Resurrection. In contrast, “our last 10 years have seen the domination of nonstop luxury, money and status.”

Vintage 1990s Chanel bags, for example, are among the most prized of the brand’s offerings — at Newfound Luxury, proprietor L. Kiyana Macon has "clients who only buy ’90s Chanel because they recognize that it is the best quality.” 

Things were different in the ’90s, and the difference is reflected in the clothes. Pull up any recent “How to Do the 1990s” fashion article (or look at photos of current supermodels Gigi, Kendall and Bella), and you’ll see iconic '90s outfits — knee socks, cardigans, fanny packs, fishnet stockings, slip dresses, flannel shirts and combat boots.

Rodriguez has recently noticed something similar happening. Before COVID, customers searched 1990s stock “for very sexy Galliano, Dior, Cavalli — that kind of thing,” she explains, noting that just a few months ago, “people were posting [on social media] the poshest things they could.” Now, in the age of shutdown, “that would just look out of touch.”

Instead, people are looking for “things that are cool but also easy and comfortable, not necessarily super-luxe,” Rodriguez continues. They’re “heading back to the more avant-garde, anti-fashion designers, like Helmut Lang, [Martin] Margiela and [Ann] Demeulemeester.”

Late designer Franco Moschino shocked and titillated the ’80s fashion elite with his whimsical, irreverent parodies of bourgeois finery. Whether emblazoning a sober blazer with smiley faces or embellishing a skirt suit with cutlery, Moschino rendered high style with a hearty wink. He famously said, “If you can’t be elegant, at least be extravagant” — words that, with all due respect to Susan Sontag, epitomize the essence of camp.

Vintage Moschino pants, jackets and other '90s Moschino garments remain so bold and fresh today that even the house's former creative director, Jeremy Scott, drew on the brand's past and the pop culture of the decade for his debut collection in 2014.

Find vintage 90s dresses, skirts, sweaters and other clothing and accessories on 1stDibs — shop Thierry Mugler, Miuccia Prada, Jean Paul Gaultier and more today.

Finding the Right evening-dresses for You

With entire museum exhibitions dedicated to examining fashion designers and their creations, we’re finally recognizing that costuming is art. Evening dresses over time have conveyed specific statements about social class, position and beliefs. Fashion is a powerful means of self-expression, and sophisticated vintage evening dresses and gowns by our favorite couturier play no small role in making us feel wonderful but, perhaps more importantly, making us feel like ourselves.

In the 16th century, dresses and gowns were so important that England's Queen Elizabeth I defined rules about what dresses women could wear — guidance included long skirts and fitted bodices. Forward-thinking designers have responded to this history.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel reimagined traditionally masculine garments for feminine shapes, and her elegant evening dresses and gowns promoted comfort and grace in women’s wear that had been dominated in the previous century by layers of fabric. Christian Dior's gowns celebrated luxury and femininity in the late 1940s — and gave to women the gift of glamour they’d lost in the miserable years of the war. French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent introduced innovative and highly coveted dress designs in the 1960s while at the same time challenging sexist stereotypes about which members of society could wear tuxedos.

Works by unconventional British designer John Galliano — featured in houses like Givenchy and Dior — redefined limits that dressmakers faced in terms of material, construction and vision during the late 20th century. From his embroidered absinthe-green Oscars gown for actress Nicole Kidman to the iconic sleeveless Dior newspaper dress that Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw made famous, Galliano’s intricate and multifaceted work is reliably collectible and newsworthy

Today’s designers target an increasingly broad audience with their boundary-crossing work, and their tendency to play off of each other’s ideas means that every walk down the runway is also a walk through an entire history of fashion design and dress craftsmanship.

Whether you gravitate toward backless maxi dresses or silk charmeuse gowns by Alexander McQueen or embellished, ruffled floral-print designs by Chloe or Versace, there is an extraordinary collection of vintage and designer evening dresses and gowns waiting for you on 1stDibs.