Red Carpet Dresses That Left Little To The Imagination

Whether an outrageous Met Gala outfit or a timelessly elegant Oscars ensemble, there is an undeniable art to red carpet dressing. For the longest time, the red carpet was a platform for exhibiting modesty and stoicism. It was less about being ritzy and eye-catching, with the focus on understated glamor. Old-school Hollywood icons such as Grace Kelly and Carole Lombard, for instance, utilized their star power on the red carpet, but their clothing — despite the hefty price tag — was always emblematic of quiet luxury fashion. This all changed in the late '60s when celebs were encouraged to embrace the red carpet as a means of showcasing their personal style, coinciding with the sexual revolution. A notable example of this was Barbra Streisand debuting a see-through pantsuit at the 1969 Oscars — something that had been unheard of hitherto.

Indeed, to quote the old proverb, sometimes less is more. These celebs prove that it doesn't take layers of lace and hours of intricate styling to turn heads on the red carpet. Prepare to drape yourselves in sheer chiffon, don a nude bustier, and perhaps most importantly, learn the art of strategically placed embroidery, as we take a look at red carpet dresses that left little to the imagination.

Cher wore an unconventional ensemble at the 1986 Oscars

Cher has always been a pioneer of unconventional red carpet looks, paving the way for the camp fashionistas who followed in her footsteps years later (we're looking at you, Lady Gaga). In 1986, Cher attended the Oscars wearing an unforgettable black dress consisting of a lattice bodice that just about covered her bust, and an extremely low-cut skirt; one false move and this skimpy number would have almost certainly resulted in a wardrobe malfunction. She also donned an enormous feathered hat. It was Cher who came up with the idea for the unforgettable gown, telling her longtime collaborator Bob Mackie that she wanted to wear the most OTT ensemble imaginable.

While the abdomen-baring take on the LBD may not seem particularly contentious by today's standards (the nearly-naked dress has become a staple of red carpet fashion today), it was viewed as a giant act of protest against the fashion police back in the day. "I had the idea mostly because the Academy didn't really like me," Cher explained to Vogue. "They hated the way I dressed and I had young boyfriends and they thought I wasn't serious, so I came out and said, 'As you can see I got my handbook on how to dress like a serious actress.'" Moreover, Cher's outfit served as something of a revenge dress against the Academy for snubbing her following her powerhouse performance in "Mask."

Rose McGowan's infamous 1998 VMAs mesh dress was an act of protest

Rose McGowan continued the trend of risky red carpet looks with her eye-popping gown at the 1998 VMAs. McGowan, who attended the ceremony with her contentious then-boyfriend Marilyn Manson, was the talk of the town in the gothic-inspired number, consisting of sparkly black mesh that exposed her derriere and a matching thong. In the years that followed, she was mocked by the press for her choice of attire, with some sexualizing the star and likening her to an adult entertainer.

In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment in 2020, McGowan called out critics of her get-up, noting that she was simultaneously leered at and slut-shamed for wearing the provocative gown. For the actor-turned-activist, the outfit was an act of protest. Having been sexually assaulted by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, McGowan was determined to make a statement to the industry that she believed was complicit in her abuse. "I just felt like, 'Oh, Hollywood, would you want a body just that you can use and throw away? Then I've got one for you!' ... Most of the women that are dressed like that on the red carpet, it's a calculated, sexy move to turn people on," she said. "Mine was like, 'I'm gonna f*** with your brain' ... And nobody had done it."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Jennifer Lopez's infamous green dress at the 2000 Grammys became a cultural movement

When it comes to iconic red carpet looks, few come close to Jennifer Lopez barely concealing her famous figure in a green Versace dress. The songstress donned the skimpy number — dubbed the "jungle dress" — at the 2000 Grammy Awards. The flowy, chiffon maxi left very little to the imagination, with the low-cut neckline extending past Lopez's navel and flowing into a see-through slit. At the time, Lopez had no idea that the plunging frock would go viral. In fact, she grabbed the Versace gown at the very last minute as she had nothing to wear for the ceremony. "The first time I wore it, I actually didn't have another dress," she told Vanity Fair in 2020. "Usually I have choices. It was a last-minute thing that caused a sensation that was unexpected."

The dress spawned many imitators and was humorously modified by "South Park" co-creator Trey Parker during his appearance at the 2000 Oscars (his iteration of the dress wasn't quite so risqué, however, with the comedy writer pairing it with sequined boxers). But no one can quite match the original as Lopez's look lives on in the fashion history books. "It caused quite a stir," Lopez told Vogue. "I guess every generation needs its iconic kind of Marilyn dress, and this is that dress for this generation."

Only Beyoncé could pull off a revealing all-sheer gown at the 2015 Met Gala

Admittedly, Beyoncé could wear a sack and still look phenomenal. Inevitably, the same can be said when the singer wears very little. Bey made an unforgettable entrance to the 2015 Met Gala, wearing a completely sheer Givenchy gown. The exquisite jeweled detailing just about stopped the get-up from heading into NSFW territory. While her dress didn't quite fit that year's theme of "China: Through The Looking Glass," Beyoncé nonetheless stole the show after arriving fashionably late to the Met.

Though the superstar appeared nearly nude on the red carpet, it was all a clever illusion. "As light as it looked — she looks like she's butt naked, but she's not — it was the heaviest dress," Ty Hunter, the singer's stylist, told Business Insider. "Normally, I get her to the front, she goes off, and then I'll sit down somewhere. But this night, I never really left." Queen Bey's fetching look is proof that an outfit can be at once risqué and elegant.

The dress was so popular that then-18-year-old fan India Ross expertly recreated it for her school prom. "I loved all of the diamonds and crystals," Ross told Cosmopolitan in 2016. "Everything about the outfit just caught my attention."

Megan Fox championed the barely-there dress at the 2021 VMAs

Throughout the years, Megan Fox has undergone a stunning transformation from mid-aughts it-girl to punk-infused alt-heroine. But one thing remains unchanged: the star is committed to barely-there red carpet looks. As she explained in a chat with Elle, she opts for revealing clothes because she finds them more flattering on her petite frame. "I would love to put on a pair of parachute pants, but it just doesn't work on my body!" she joked.

Attending the 2021 VMAs with her partner Machine Gun Kelly, Fox wore a flesh-toned, figure-hugging Mugler gown with a neckline that gave new meaning to the term "plunging." At first glance, it may have appeared that Fox was — in the words of Ned Flanders — wearing nothing at all. Thanks to some strategically placed embellishments and a glittery thong, Fox was left with a semblance of camouflage for her private parts.

These days, nude dresses have become so ubiquitous on the red carpet that it's pretty tough for one to go viral. But Fox was up for the challenge, with social media abuzz over her sheer look. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Fox revealed that the dress was actually her beau's idea. "He was like, 'You're gonna be naked tonight,'" she said. "I was like, 'Whatever you say, daddy!'"

Zoë Kravitz was harassed online for her 2021 Met Gala gown

The 2021 Met Gala was all about "American Independence," with attendees presenting their interpretations of the theme. For Zoë Kravitz, this meant wearing an Yves Saint Laurent mesh dress that left nothing to the imagination — save for a skimpy bra and thong set that just about covered her nether regions.

Despite the fact that Kravitz was by no means the first (nor last) person to appear scantily clad on the red carpet, she faced a major backlash for the revealing number. Responding to one irate fan, who shamed the actor for showing off her figure, Kravitz commented, "Being uncomfortable with the human body is colonization / brainwashing. It's just a body. We all got em" (via Page Six).

When the negativity became overwhelming, she ended up deleting most of her Instagram posts and was gaslighted into questioning her decision to sport the dress in the first place. "The fact that I'm like, 'Should I have not worn that?”" she told Elle. "No, I do what I want to do, and I make what I want to make, and if I'm now starting to be afraid of what other people are going to say or think, I'm no longer doing my job as an artist."

Rihanna took maternity chic to a whole new level at Paris Fashion Week in 2022

As one would expect from the queen of red carpet chic, Rihanna has showcased some of the best maternity red carpet looks of all time. RiRi's fashion show fits are always a delight, and the songstress did not disappoint when attending the Dior fall/winter show at Paris Fashion Week in 2022. The superstar wore a sheer black slip dress over lacy lingerie, showcasing her prominent baby bump. To finish off the look, she donned a pair of black patent stiletto boots.

With this daring drip, Rihanna was arguably challenging sexist notions of how pregnant women ought to present themselves in public. A smock dress may be comfy and all, but that's just not Rihanna.

Indeed, as Rihanna told Refinery29 earlier that year, she was intent on dismantling such restrictive notions. "When women get pregnant, society tends to make it feel like you hide, hide your sexy, and that you're not sexy right now ... and I don't believe in that s***," she said. "So I'm trying stuff that I might not have even had the confidence to try before I was pregnant. The strappiest, the thinnest, and the more cut-outs the better for me." Subsequently, as the singer proves, there's no reason why maternity fashion can't be sexy, daring, and most importantly, a reflection of one's own idiosyncratic sense of style.

Julia Fox left nothing to the imagination at the 2022 CFDA fashion awards

These days, Julia Fox's outrageous outfits seem to generate more publicity than her professional work. There's no denying that the actor is adept at creating a viral and meme-worthy look. Appearing at the CFDA Fashion Awards in 2022, Fox debuted her gray hair, which served as a tribute to the beauty of aging. While her age-positive message was commendable, all eyes were on her revealing fit.

The "Uncut Gems" star was draped in a black cut-off dress that exposed a whole lot of skin, as well as her matching bra and panties. Fox was in her bleached brows era, which lent the outfit an overall futuristic, cyberpunk aesthetic. She went on to pose with Martha Stewart at the event, with the snap of the prim-and-proper celeb chef standing beside the scantily-clad, alienesque Fox going viral.

In an interview with The New Yorker the following year, Fox reflected on the significance behind some of her more outrageous sartorial moments. "The eyebrows, the clothes, all the things I did — I think I was going for grotesque," she revealed. "I wanted to look a certain way where the girls would appreciate it and the men would despise it."

Doja Cat freed the nipple at the 2024 Grammys

Queen of all things kooky and kitsch, Doja Cat has showcased everything from cat cosplays to horror movie-adjacent facepaint on the red carpet. Chatting to Harper's Bazaar in 2023, Doja Cat revealed that she wanted to take her ensuing red carpet looks in a new direction. "I'm in this kind of chaotic place right now when it comes to fashion, where I've just been going into my closet and picking out the most random, weird, not-fitting thing to mix with another thing that does not really fit," she explained.

Subsequently, hopes were high for the star's 2024 Grammys look. But when she arrived at the ceremony in a nude corset dress, one would be forgiven for thinking that Doja had toned things down a notch. Upon closer inspection, however, this was a seriously NSFW drip.

Doja's Dilara Findikoglu corset dress was popping — quite literally — with the rapper getting her girls out for the ceremony. She paired the dress with librarian glasses and faux body tattoos, including one of Findikoglu's name emblazoned across her forehead. While she stayed true to her aforementioned promise to bring mismatched chaos to the red carpet, Doja found herself among the worst-dressed stars of the 2024 Grammys for her Frankenstein's monster-esque take on the barely-there dress.

Dakota Johnson spun a web at her movie premiere in 2024

"Madame Web" may have been a forgettable flop, but its star, Dakota Johnson, showcased a red carpet look that no one's likely to forget any time soon. Attending the flick's premiere in 2024, Johnson paid tribute to the titular Marvel superhero by donning a sheer Gucci dress with intricate webbed detailing. Though it may have appeared that the star was practically naked on the red carpet, she wore a delicate nude insert that cleverly matched her skin tone, merely creating the illusion of being full frontal.

As eye-catching as the look was, don't expect Johnson to sport another arachnidian fit any time soon. Chatting to Bustle, the actor admitted that she had sworn off the MCU following "Madame Web's" poor box office performance. "It was definitely an experience for me to make that movie," she said. "I had never done anything like it before. I probably will never do anything like it again because I don't make sense in that world." Be that as it may, one cannot help but admire her willingness to thematically commit to the franchise on the red carpet.

Kendall Jenner turned heads in an eye-popping frock at the 2024 Oscars afterparty

The Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty is an opportunity for celebrities to experiment with fashion statements. In 2024, Kendall Jenner attended the event in a totally transparent couture gown by Maison Margiela. The black dress featured a snatched corset, cut-out detailing along the bodice, and strategically placed lace along the bust. It was something of a Garden of Eve-esque ensemble but with lace and tulle in place of fig leaves.

The gown contrasts the red carpet that style fans have grown accustomed to seeing from Jenner. The model often favors Y2K-imbued cool girl chic, with her Oscars afterparty look signifying a more mature yet provocative transition in her personal aesthetic. In 2023, Jenner spoke to W Magazine about her ever-evolving approach to red carpet fashion. The model revealed that she was taking style inspiration from the late it-girl Jane Birkin, who was unafraid of exposing her body at high-profile events. "She was the coolest and so elegant, but there was so much sex appeal," she said. "Sometimes she'd wear something sheer and her boobs and butt would be out, and I love stuff like that. She was really not afraid to take risks."

Emily Ratajkowski proved she's queen of the barely-there ensemble at the 2024 Oscars afterparty

If there's one person fashion fans can count on to leave little to the imagination on the red carpet, it's Emily Ratajkowski. Throughout the years, Ratajkowski has sported a number of skimpy outfits and in turn, faced backlash for doing so. Back in 2016, Tim Gunn branded the model's sense of style "vulgar." But EmRata has remained defiant in the face of critics, refusing to tone down her aesthetic. Indeed, as she once told InStyle, she wants to reclaim the term "bimbo" as a positive rather than a pejorative.

Attending the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty in 2024, Ratajkowski looked at once effortlessly chic and NSFW in a white gown. The leaning bodice, which barely covered the star's left breast, was giving Greek goddess. While the dress was a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen, earlier that year, EmRata told Glamour that she was embracing provocative clothing more than ever. "I guess where I am is a little bit of a true liberation, in a personal sense, in the way that I just don't really give a f***," she enthused. As Ratajkowski highlights, the barely-there look can be reclaimed as one big bird-flip to the patriarchy.