Before blog culture, selfies, and the 360-degree mirror, we had good, old-fashioned cameras and the ability to forget.
The former, some of us can take or leave. But the latter is kind of the worst: despite the impact Emmys red carpet fashion made a few years ago, they’ve been buried under more recent looks, dresses, and our criticism.
So to that we say no more. With the 2014 Emmys airing on Monday, August 25, we figured it’s time for us to channel our nostalgic selves and sing the praises of Emmy dresses we might not have been alive to see, or that we forgot, or that we just didn’t know about because we were hoping "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" would win all the awards. (Did it? We still don’t know.)
That being said, here’s some of the best Emmys dresses from the 1970s onward.
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1. Lucille Ball, 1968
Hello, old Hollywood. With a cigarette in one hand, a feather boa draped around her, and winged eyeliner to top it all off, Lucille Ball embodied the best parts of vintage glamour (and continued to do so until her death in 1989). There’s really no way else to put it: the woman always knew how to style herself, and her style contributions to the 1968 Emmy Awards are absolutely no exception.
2. Cicely Tyson, 1974
Now enter: Cicely Tyson, who brought the disco era to the Emmys red carpet and brightened it with an oversize floral print, and the drapiest fabric you could possibly ask for. And thank goodness: it’s moments like these that keep award shows exciting because instead of safe, structured designer-wear, looks like these allow whoever’s wearing them to boldly stand out. (And as she should: Cicely Tyson is no wallflower, and her pieces rightfully reflect that.)
3. Cindy Williams, 1979
White dresses seem commonplace until you actually search for one when trying to write a piece about Emmys fashion. Turns out they’re not – at least not when looking for white dresses that are interesting or even remotely notable. However, Cindy Williams stepped out of her cute, "Laverne & Shirley" wardrobe for the 1979 Emmys and paid homage to the last days of disco with a detailed halter dress that was both hip and a little daring. That neckline takes a plunge, but it doesn’t seem as daring thanks to the dress being capped off with a bow. (It’s the little things, right? Wear white like this, everyone.)
4. Stockard Channing, 1979
In a dress that would make the "American Hustle" costume designer proud, Stockard Channing donned a simple, metallic dress at the same awards, and let both it and its matching clutch speak for itself. Here’s a lesson in minimalism: with no accessories aside from what was needed (read: her purse), Channing let she and her dress stand out. In terms of keeping it simple, Stockard is our new god(dess).
5. Tina Yothers, 1986
Oh, absolutely we'll defend this. First, after scrolling through pages of old Emmys fashion, this was the first look in years that actually jumped out. Why? Because it embodies the best parts of 1986 and teen girl fashion: the gold bag and shoes match and contrast the lightness of the fabric, the hair is young and on-point with the era’s aesthetic, and the skirt is as overwhelming and as over-the-top as the decade itself. Instead of abiding by timely, grown-up rules, Tina Yothers wore trends she was excited about. And if that’s not what style is – red carpet or not – then ugh, maybe we should all just move on and wear uniforms already.
6. Justine Bateman, 1987
The same can be said for Justine Bateman’s 1987 look, which saw her reject the floor-length dress code for pieces she could actually wear. Red carpet style doesn’t have to be stuffy or old; it can take risks, provoke conversation, and make challenges – which is exactly what Bateman did. By pairing a nude mini dress with a contrasting cropped jacket, she brought street style to an award show that lacked it. (And still does, if we want to get real which we always do.)
7. Victoria Rowell, 1992
Frankly, it was hard to narrow down the "best" Victoria Rowell look, but if you want to take glamour to the Emmys, here’s how to do it. While her beaded, floor-length gown evokes old (and we mean very old) Hollywood, the cropped front keeps her style young. Through this, Victoria proves there’s a way to merge the worlds of dress code appropriate-ness and fun, and in doing so, taught a lesson that we should still be abiding by now.
8. Michelle Pfieffer, 1994
Risks! Metallics! Simplicity! The gang’s all here! The mid-‘90s (as we all know) ushered in a lighter, much-needed era of mixing and matching. Suddenly, the existing dress code was being challenged by counter culture, a brief disco revival, and the remnants of 1980s opulence. (And eventually, the complete rejection of it.) Here, Michelle represents that freshness by rejecting trends: she picks an easy, classic dress – one we’d wear even now – and treats the Emmys as what they are: an award show. Not a visit to Buckingham Palace.
9. Jennifer Aniston, 1995
On the flipside, Jennifer Aniston did treat the 1995 Emmy Awards like a formal fashion event, but in a way so kitschy that her look seemed less like a safe bet and more like a costume (in a good way, obviously). Channeling vintage glam through elbow-length gloves, a diamond bracelet, and a strapless formal gown, she brought her red carpet style back to the ‘90s with her iconic "Rachel" cut and date Matthew Perry, who was over collared shirts, obviously (which was very trendy at the time).
10. Brandy, 1998
It’s as simple as this: Brandy’s 1998 Emmy gown was a literal inspiration for teen girls everywhere, trying to figure out what to wear to prom. Which is as it should be. "Moesha" was a TV show about a teen girl, and Brandy’s career was directed to young girls who wanted to be her. In this case, she showed that a Emmys-approved floor-length dress could still be grad night-appropriate thanks to a subtle floral print. (Which is likely why we still care so much about ‘90s floral print today.)