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The History of Safety Pin Dresses: From Togas in Ancient Greece to Elizabeth Hurley in Versace and Miley Cyrus in Margiela

While wearing clasps has been in style since ancient Greece (brooches that fastened to togas were the mode du jour), the humble safety pin made its way into the fashion zeitgeist thanks to the emergence of punk rock. The gritty aesthetic, favored by artists like Johnny Rotten, eventually translated to the runways of Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren, among others, elevating punk style from subculture to pop culture.

Since the late ’70s, designers have used safety pins to make fashion statements. Labels like Versace, Moschino and Balmain have feminized the safety pin, affixing them to daring dresses and edgy gowns: Elizabeth Hurley famously made a splash after sporting a safety pin-embellished Versace dress in 1994 at the premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” while John Galliano reinvented one of his vintage designs for Miley Cyrus at the 2024 Grammys, draping her in 14,000 gold safety pins.

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Ahead, WWD looks back at the evolution of the safety pin dress.

Zandra Rhodes

Model wears Zandra Rhodes safety pin bridal dress, history of safety pin dresses trends
Zandra Rhodes’ 1978 bridal gown.

Along with contemporaries like McLaren, Westwood and Stephen Sprouse, Zandra Rhodes made punk fashion mainstream. For her “conceptual-chic” collection inspired by London street style, the British designer flipped the traditional couture “bride” on its head by crafting a white gown adorned with safety pins and ball chains.

Versace

Elizabeth Hurley wears a Versace safety pin dress.
Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley attend the premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” in 1994.

In 1994, Versace put Hurley on the map by dressing her in a daring safety pin dress. Her appearance alongside then-boyfriend Hugh Grant at the London premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” is largely credited with raising her celebrity profile: a year later, Hurley was tapped as a spokesmodel for Estée Lauder. Since catapulting their visibility in the 1990s, safety pins have become one of Versace’s most popular motifs.

John Galliano

A model in John Galliano's fall 1997 show wearing a safety pin gown, history of safety pin dresses trends
John Galliano’s fall 1997 fashion show.

Before Miley Cyrus wore John Galliano’s Margiela safety pin dress, the British designer debuted two of his own designs in 1997. Galliano’s fall collection, which was partially inspired by ancient Egyptian regalia, featured two gowns made from safety pins.

Moschino

Model wears Moschino Spring 1998 safety pin dress, history of safety pin dresses trends
Stella Tennant walks the runway for Moschino’s spring 1998 collection.

Moschino, a label known for its campy creations, has also dabbled in the safety pin dress. For the brand’s spring 1998 collection, creative director Franco Moschino sent Stella Tennant down the runway in a simple shift adorned with silver embellishments, including safety pins.

Gareth Pugh

Gareth Pugh's safety pin dress, history of safety pin dresses trends
Gareth Pugh’s fall 2008 runway.

Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue have all favored Gareth Pugh’s edgy designs. For his fall 2008 collection, the British couturier created two dresses decorated with rows of silver safety pins.

Balmain

Kristen Stewart wears a Balmain safety pin dress, history of safety pin dresses trends
Kristen Stewart at the MTV Movie Awards in 2011.

Balmain’s spring 2011 line featured a flurry of leather garments embellished with safety pins. Kristen Stewart, who was then in her “Twilight” heyday, wore a custom Balmain design based on the punk-inspired collection at the MTV Movie Awards.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier's safety pin dress, history of safety pin dresses trends
Jean Paul Gaultier’s fall 2022 haute couture show.

Following his retirement in 2020, Jean Paul Gaultier tapped the talents of several designers to create collections for his eponymous label. Balmain’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing, took the helm for Gaultier’s fall 2022 haute couture show, designing a floor-length gown that was partially held together by gold safety pins.

Versace

Anne Hathaway wears a Versace safety pin dress at the 2023 Met Gala, history of safety pin dresses trends
Anne Hathaway at the 2023 Met Gala.

Versace reinvented its safety pin dress to pay homage to Karl Lagerfeld at the 2023 Met Gala. The Italian label dressed Anne Hathaway in a gown that mixed Chanel’s classic motifs (pearls, camellias and tweed) with Versace’s Medusa-emblazoned clasps.

Maison Margiela

Miley Cyrus at the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Crypto.com Arena on February 4, 2024 in Los Angeles, California, history of safety pin dresses trends, miley cyrus naked dress
Miley Cyrus at the 2024 Grammys.

Galliano referenced his old work to design a new dress for Cyrus at the Grammys. Under the Maison Margiela label, he created a gold frock made from 14,000 safety pins.

Launch Gallery: Safety Pin Dresses Through the Years: Miley Cyrus, Elizabeth Hurley & More [PHOTOS]

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