How J.Lo's Grammy Gown Became The First Viral Dress

Jennifer Lopez
Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Jennifer Lopez backstage at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2000. 

The 62nd Grammy Awards will mark 20 years since Jennifer Lopez changed red-carpet fashion forever.

There was no time for options. It was February 2000, and Jennifer Lopez was enjoying an ascent to superstar status thanks to the success of her 1999 debut album, On the 6, and a hit film career. But amid the chaos of filming The Wedding Planner and starting a new LP, Jenny From the Block found herself without a dress the day before the Grammys.

“I was preparing for a last-minute fitting with [Lopez] in New York, driving down Fifth Avenue in a taxi, and I remember seeing that green dress in the window of the Versace boutique,” recalls former stylist Andrea Lieberman. “When she tried it on, everyone knew it was the dress.”

The now-iconic emerald silk chiffon dress, which plunged all the way down to below the navel, landed Lopez on the front page of major newspapers -- even though she didn’t win any awards that night (she was nominated for best dance recording for “Waiting for Tonight”). And instead of breaking the internet, it helped build it: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has credited the dress with inspiring Google Images after it became “the most popular search query we had ever seen,” he wrote in a 2015 essay.

The dress, conservatively valued at $100,000 to $200,000, defined Lopez’s elegant yet unabashedly sexy style, but it also changed how artists approached red carpets. “Bodily exposure to this degree had not been seen at an awards show before,” says Kevin Jones, curator of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum. “It was one of the first [looks] to establish a formula that has become expected of celebrities at popular music awards shows today: make a confident entrance, and make people’s jaws drop.”

In the 20 years that followed, artists began showing more skin, stylists began wielding more double-sided tape and Donatella Versace -- who took over her namesake Italian fashion house after her brother Gianni’s death in 1997 -- became a Grammys red-carpet mainstay for musicians looking to make a sexed-up statement. “It’s one of those moments in time that’s so difficult to repeat, almost like Lady Gaga’s meat dress,” says Darren Julien, president/CEO of Julien’s Auction House. “It will definitely be one of Jennifer’s holy grail items as far as collectibility. But it’s really a piece that belongs in a museum.”   

Scott Gries/ImageDirect
Jennifer Lopez backstage at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2000.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 21 issue of Billboard.

2020 Grammy Awards