Beat this if you want to break the internet, says J.Lo
How Jennifer Lopez’s Versace dress hastened the launch of Google Images and set new levels of fame
Ever since Kim Kardashian’s Paper magazine cover appeared in November 2014 bearing an image of the reality star in nothing but a string of pearls and black gloves with her famous ultra-curvaceous derrière taking pride of place, its “break the internet” cover line has set the bar of aspiration for attention-grabbing red carpet looks.
On the day of its debut, the magazine’s website accounted for 1% of total web traffic in the US and the picture was tweeted and Instagrammed hundreds of thousands of times. Now, when a revealing or particularly outlandish dress is worn, saying that it’s “broken the internet” is the highest possible compliment.
But how about “catalysing the need for an entirely new section of the internet”? It’s not quite as catchy, granted, but Jennifer Lopez is on a mission to reassert the Versace look she wore for the Grammys in 2000 as the ultimate benchmark of fashion fame.
You may remember the dress. You’ll certainly recognise it – slashed to the crotch, held in place (just about) with a crystal brooch and comprised of a gauzy leaf-printed fabric which in true Versace tradition left little to the imagination.
Looking at it now, it actually appears quite demure by today’s standards. I feel that if said dress appeared on a red carpet now, it might raise an internet eyebrow for an evening but would hardly shock amid the mesh catsuits and naked dresses granted to us by the Hadids, Beyoncés and Rihannas of now. At the time, however, internet searches were so stratospheric that Google was moved to create its image search function in response.
In a new video, Lopez has revealed fresh details about the Versace design, which she maintains was an entirely accidental fashion moment. “The Grammys are tomorrow, we have no time to do a fitting, there’s nothing out there,” she remembers her stylist Andrea Lieberman telling her while she was filming The Wedding Planner. So instead of the “tons of dresses” she’d usually have to choose from, it was between a white dress and the leafy Versace.
Worried that Donatella Versace and several other stars had already worn the jungle gown, Lieberman lobbied for the white alternative. “I came out in the dress and Benny, my longtime manager, was like, ‘That’s it!’ but my stylist was mortified, saying, ‘It’s been worn before, you can’t.’ But the guys were adamant,” says Lopez.
“The only concern was whether my boobs were going to pop out on stage or anywhere along the way,” she adds, crystalising the eventual reason for the dress’s fame, although there was no doubt in her own mind; “I was so securely stuck into that dress, there were going to be no mishaps.”
Lopez pinpoints the red carpet and her subsequent stage appearance as when she knew her look had unwittingly become a fashion phenomenon. “We hit the red carpet and it was a frenzy, in a way that it isn’t usually, there was this extra kinetic energy. I had no idea that it was about this dress,” she recalls, before detailing the audience’s collective gasp as she walked on stage and the dress blew open at her legs so that it only came together at the most crucial point.
“It was the craziest thing,” she says. “It goes to show the power of fashion, it can be made frivolous at times. It puts a beautiful moment out into the world and one dress can change the way people dress for 10 years.”
We might not all have been rushing to bear our belly buttons, but low necklines and high hemlines were a major takeaway trend of the noughties.
Given that Donatella and Geri Halliwell had worn the gown on the red carpet before Lopez, and that it had been seen on Amber Valletta on the catwalk and in Versace’s ad campaign, how did its outing on J.Lo suddenly catapult the design from just another red carpet look to forever fame status? It all comes down to physics, of course: the precariousness of the material placement and the superstar power of Lopez.
“Years later, I found out that because of that night and because of that dress, Google Images was created because so many people went searching for this and there was no way to search for an image at that time,” Lopez says in the video, filmed for her YouTube channel.
“I’m just wondering, ‘Where’s my cheque?’ Because I heard we crashed the system that night.” Crashed the system being her way of saying broke the internet. Take that, Kim.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)