The 18 Best Cannes Dresses of All Time, According to Bazaar Editors

cannes, france may 19 rihanna attends the okja screening during the 70th annual cannes film festival at palais des festivals on may 19, 2017 in cannes, france photo by laurent koffelgamma rapho via getty images
The 18 Best Cannes Dresses of All TimeLaurent KOFFEL

When people complain that red carpets have lost their pizzazz, you can be nearly certain they’re not talking about Cannes. The annual film festival’s parade of dresses is notoriously the most glamorous of the season. Idyllically located on the French Riviera, with enough space to accommodate swanning around in billowing gowns, Cannes recalls a bygone era of glitz and glamour.

The festival’s carpet also has a strict set of unspoken rules: No shorts. High heels only. Short skirts not preferred. Some of the most iconic looks in Cannes history have broken the code, like Madonna stripping down to a Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra in 1991, or Kristen Stewart taking off her Christian Louboutin stilettos to walk the carpet barefoot in 2018. But others—such as Princess Diana’s icy-blue Catherine Walker gown in 1987, or Rihanna’s strapless taffeta Dior Couture from 2017—perfectly encapsulate what people envision when they think of unadulterated elegance.

The 18 best looks, according to Bazaar’s fashion team, run the gamut from risk-taking to perfectly poised. But what they all have in common is an unapologetic air of opulence. See every single one below.

Madonna in Jean Paul Gaultier, 1991

On her Blond Ambition tour in the ’90s, Madonna would shed her pinstripe suit to reveal her Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra while performing “Express Yourself.” When she went to Cannes in 1991 to promote Madonna: Truth or Dare, which documented the controversial tour, she re-created the moment in a sea of black tuxedos and adoring fans.

She entered wearing a voluminous pink taffeta jacket by Gaultier, her hands visibly clutching it closed, only to quickly remove it two minutes later and reveal a white satin cone bra, high-waisted knickers, and garter belt. The Cannes red carpet has a strict set of rules—it’s recommended you don’t even wear a short skirt—but Madonna didn’t make her name by following the rules. I love watching the B-roll from this moment: The entire time she’s swanning down the carpet, you can see her trying to hide her red-lipped smirk, knowing what’s to come. This look further cemented Madonna as a true superstar, unafraid to, well, express herself. —Tara Gonzalez, senior fashion editor

cannes, france 1991 actress madonna arrives for the premiere of her film in bed with madonna in 1991 at the cannes film festival, france photo by dave hogangetty images
Dave Hogan

Sharon Stone in Valentino, 1995

Four years after Madonna, Sharon Stone also took a risk on the Cannes red carpet in an unbuttoned look for the premiere of Isaac Mizrahi documentary Unzipped. Her silver Valentino skirt was buttoned only once, revealing a pair of hand-beaded hot pants underneath. While still considered moderately scandalous, it was not nearly as contentious as Madonna’s fit. Still, Stone set a new precedent, proving that Cannes looks don’t have to be entirely serious to ooze the glamour the red carpet is famous for. —TG

cannes festival people arriving at the olympia cinema photo by stephane cardinalesygma via getty images
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis

Priyanka Chopra in Georges Hobeika, 2019

Cinderella came to life when Priyanka Chopra wore a Georges Hobeika gown at the 2019 Cannes Film festival. From the slicked-back hairdo to the perfect diamond additions, I thought she looked flawless. —Alicia Banilivy, fashion and retail credits editor

Getty Images

Natalie Portman in Dior, 2023

Where were you when Natalie Portman made Cannes fashion history in this petaled Dior gown? You might recognize it as the famous Junon dress, which originally debuted in Christian Dior’s Fall/Winter 1949–50 runway collection—but fear not, fashion preservationists. Portman actually wore a re-creation of the Junon dress, complete with an ivory strapless bodice, a skirt made up of petal-like tiers, and flecks of ocean-blue sequins and beads embroidered throughout. —Chelsey Sanchez, associate editor

cannes, france may 20 natalie portman and charles melton attend the may december red carpet during the 76th annual cannes film festival at palais des festivals on may 20, 2023 in cannes, france photo by stephane cardinale corbiscorbis via getty images
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis

Rihanna in Dior, 2017

No one does red-carpet cool quite like Rihanna. Even at an event like Cannes—which, while glamorous, can be viewed as a bit stuffy—she was able to bring her signature edge to the festival with a creamy white Dior ball gown, matching floor-length cape, and teeny micro-glasses. The look is the perfectly curated eclectic mix, pairing a traditional Dior dress silhouette and a sleek chignon with classically Rih accessories like chunky bangle bracelets and emerald-green earrings. —Bianca Betancourt, culture editor

cannes, france may 19 rihanna attends the okja screening during the 70th annual cannes film festival at palais des festivals on may 19, 2017 in cannes, france photo by venturelliwireimage
Daniele Venturelli

Lupita Nyong’o in Gucci, 2015

What makes the Cannes red carpet different from any other is that the location allows for the carpet itself to be huge—perfect for accommodating dresses that take up space. It also means you can really see the movement of each gown, and Lupita Nyong’o’s Gucci dress from 2015 proves it. Alessandro Michele had just recently taken over at Gucci, and this was one of his first big Hollywood red-carpet moments. Nyong’o personified the celestial energy his looks would later become known for, twirling down the carpet like an otherworldly fairy in chiffon. —TG

cannes, france may 13 actress lupita nyongo attends the opening ceremony and premiere of la tete haute standing tall during the 68th annual cannes film festival on may 13, 2015 in cannes, france photo by dominique charriauwireimage
Dominique Charriau

Pamela Anderson, 1995

Pam Anderson in a chic black leather corset and black pants was such a moment at Cannes in the early ’90s. I love the silliness and rebelliousness of it all: her getting off a Barb Wire–branded sailboat and standing on a dock doing full S&M, bombshell fashion camp in the French Riviera. Parfaite! —Brooke Bobb, fashion news director

cannes festival pamela anderson photo by eric robertsygmasygma via getty images
Eric Robert

Cameron Diaz in Versace, 2002

"Let it be known that Cameron Diaz did the transparent trend before it became a trend. She wore this sparkly one-shoulder Versace number to Cannes back in 2002. While daring in its own right (Diaz appears to wear little else underneath besides some black briefs), it’s easily a piece I could imagine going viral today. I love how bold the playful checkered print is, as well as some of the more understated details like the twisted draping converging into a high-hip cutout."—Chelsey Sanchez, associate editor

cameron diaz photo by j vespawireimage
J. Vespa

Kate Moss in Jean Dessès, 1998

Vintage fashion queen Kate Moss looked amazing in a black feathered 1950s Jean Dessès dress she wore to Cannes in 1998—long before wearing archival dresses on the red carpet was popular. —Nicole Fritton, executive fashion director

johnny depp kate moss during 51st cannes film festival in cannes, france photo by sgranitzwireimage
Steve Granitz

Gemma Chan in Oscar de la Renta, 2021

I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw Gemma Chan in this custom Oscar de la Renta dress at Cannes in 2021. It just does such cool things to the idea of the red carpet “naked” dress. I love the interplay of the gold flowers and the cutout parts, especially the giant bloom by her neck, and it fits her like a dream. —Izzy Grinspan, digital director

cannes, france july 17 gemma chan attends the final screening of oss 117 from africa with love and closing ceremony during the 74th annual cannes film festival on july 17, 2021 in cannes, france photo by daniele venturelliwireimage
Daniele Venturelli

Princess Diana in Catherine Walker, 1987

Her Royal Highness Diana’s 1987 ice-blue draped custom Catherine Walker gown was inspired by the one worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief—an homage from one fashionably glamorous princess to another. —Miguel Enamorado, accessories director

cannes, france may 15 princess diana at the cannes film festival, france photo by tim graham photo library via getty images
Tim Graham

Chloë Sevigny in Loewe, 2019

The Cannes red carpet isn’t effortless. It is painstakingly considered. The amount of work that goes into each look is impossible to ignore. And yet, somehow, without fail, every time, Chloë Sevigny always looks like she just threw something amazing on and happened to stumble into a movie premiere.

I love all her Cannes looks, but this Loewe wool coat with the oversize scalloped collar from the Fall 2019 collection will forever be stuck in my brain. I think it has to do with the sunglasses. They make this look so cool and so Chloë in a way no one else can pull off. While some celebrities look like fabulous fish out of water at Cannes, Sevigny always looks exactly like herself. —TG

cannes, france may 15 chloe sevigny attends the photocall for
Daniele Venturelli

Parker Posey, 2015

I’ve always been a Parker Posey superfan—she brings that kind of “What’s she going to do next?” energy to everything she touches, and this Cannes look is no exception. I still remember when these photos came out, and I’m just as charmed today by how fully committed she is to the look—from the sequins to the turban to the shades to the posing. She is a constant delight! —Leah Chernikoff, executive editor

cannes, france may 15 parker posey attends the irrational man premiere during the 68th annual cannes film festival on may 15, 2015 in cannes, france photo by anthony harveyfilmmagic,
Anthony Harvey

Bella Hadid in Schiaparelli, 2021

Daniel Roseberry’s artful gown made Bella Hadid look as if she were breathing with lungs made of gold. It’s one of those red-carpet moments that made waves outside the fashion community—I had non-fashion friends asking me about this look for weeks after. And it’s not hard to understand why. The surrealism of Schiaparelli is a perfect fit for something as mythical as the Cannes red carpet. —TG

cannes, france july 11 bella hadid attends the
Samir Hussein

Milla Jovovich in John Galliano, 1997

The Fifth Element star Milla Jovovich wore the only beaded loincloth ever in the Cannes carpet’s history—at least to my knowledge. And the look by John Galliano puts every single “naked” dress out there to shame. The intricate embellishments make this entirely different from the famous white cutout bodysuit she wore in the film, als0 designed by Galliano. But there’s still a clear synergy with that look, and nothing feels more cinematic than her bringing the punk aesthetic of her character to the carpet. —TG

luc besson et milla jovovitch lors de la soirée d'ouverture du festival de cannes le 7 mai 1997, france photo by pool arnalcatarinacharriaugeralgamma rapho via getty images

Catherine Deneuve in Yves Saint Laurent, 1966

A muse to many—including designer Yves Saint Laurent—Catherine Deneuve may as well have written the handbook on how to wear a classic wardrobe staple but make it glamorous. She looked so elegant in her sparkling short-sleeved YSL dress on the 1966 carpet. —Jaclyn Alexandra Cohen, senior fashion and accessories editor

france october 05 catherine deneuve attends the screening of the film les cendres by andrzej wajda at the cannes film festival on may 6, 1966 photo by keystone francegamma keystone via getty images

Naomi Campbell in Roberto Cavalli, 2010

This custom Roberto Cavalli chainmail dress worn by Naomi Campbell is the epitome of elegance and glamour to me. She always looks statuesque, but this look makes her even more so, as if she had been dipped in shimmering gold for all of us to admire. —TG

cannes, france may 17 model naomi campbell attends the premiere of biutiful held at the palais des festivals during the 63rd annual international cannes film festival on may 17, 2010 in cannes, france photo by dominique charriauwireimage
Dominique Charriau

Bella Hadid in Gucci, 2022

"There never has and never will be anything better than Tom Ford era-Gucci. This white cutout gown from the fall 1996 collection was just such a jaw drop moment- so effortless yet so striking. Could cry! It's also one of the few times Hadid was styled by Law Roach. A duo that we can only hope returns."—Faith Brown, senior social media manager

bella hadid dress by gucci vintage, jewels by chopard, broker cannes film festival screening, 75th cannes film festival, may 26, 2022 photo by jacky godardphoto12universal images group via getty images

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