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It was first shown in the summer before 9/11 back in 2001, but soon after, Catherine Malandrino’s American flag-printed dress became an iconic — not to mention, timeless — piece.
When the dress made its red-carpet debut on Halle Berry at the Swordfish photocall on Sept. 1, 2001, there was no way the French designer could have known the symbolism the chiffon shirt dress would hold in the coming months when it would be worn by Julia Roberts, Sharon Stone and Madonna as an emblem of patriotism. At the time she created the piece, she noted that she was simply inspired by the Americana fashion of the film Easy Rider.
In 2008, Malandrino relaunched the dress to commemorate the historic election of President Barack Obama (the price jumped from $375 to $475). Following the election, it was worn by Kelly Ripa on Live With Regis and Kelly, and vocal Hollywood Democrat Meryl Streep first stepped out in the patriotic number at the Paris photo call for Doubt in January 2009; Malandrino herself wore it to a charity event a few months later.
In July of that same year, it was featured in the exhibit, “Fashion and Politics” at the Museum at Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology, on display next to a floor-length flag gown circa 1889. (Fashion history sidenote: wearing American flags was not always a celebrated practice. In 1968, social activist and anarchist Abbie Hoffman was arrested for wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the flag.)
AMERICA’S FAVE DRESS: Catherine Malandrino in 2009; Tatyana Ali in 2012; 2014 Miss USA Nia Sanches in 2014. (Photos: Getty Images)
But America’s obsession with the look didn’t stop there. In another election year — 2012 — the print caught the eye of The New York Times‘ Bill Cunningham, who snapped a young Manhattanite wearing the dress on Fifth Avenue. Tatyana Ali, too, was photographed in the look at the 2012 BET Upfronts.
Though the designer herself took a two year break from the industry following the presentation of her spring 2014 collection, the dress continued to reign. Wendy Williams and former Miss USA, Nia Sanchez, wore the gown for press events in 2014, and even Katy Perry took the look for a spin in 2013, posting a July Fourth photo of herself and then-boyfriend John Mayer decked out in stars and stripes.
And at last night’s 2016 Democratic National Convention, the dress made an appearance for its third landmark moment in American history, thanks to Streep. The actress chose to wear the shirt dress for her speech in celebration of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who broke new ground last night as the first woman ever to win a major party’s nomination.
SHE’S WITH HER: Meryl Streep at the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 26. (Photo: Getty Images)
Malandrino herself will soon be returning to the design game, too. Following a two year hiatus, the designer revealed to Vogue that she has a ready-to-wear collection for HSN that will be available beginning tomorrow.
And don’t worry, she’s also aware of the staying power of her 15-year-old classic piece — so much so that she outfitted a model in the look to promote her brand new fine jewelry collection. Talk about a classic.
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