Twenty-five years ago, Elizabeth Hurley was invited to the London premiere, Four Weddings and a Funeral, starred Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant. At the after-party, which took place at a crumbling building in Piccadilly, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, the excitement over the release was quickly eclipsed by the scandalous appearance of Grant’s girlfriend, a little-known actress who had shown up in a black stretch-silk Versace dress so revealing that it only just managed to conceal her impressive breasts. It was slit to her upper thigh, and—most memorably—held together by large gold safety pins. Elizabeth Hurley had arrived on the scene.
“I was so unprepared for what happened that night,” recalls Hurley. “I urgently needed to find a dress to wear for Hugh’s premiere, and in those days I had no idea about fashion.” Hurley was given the number of a PR agency that had offered to lend her something. “I remember going to an office where they literally fished a dress out of a white plastic bag,” she says. “I took it home and did my own hair and makeup, fighting Hugh for the mirror, which wasn’t even full-length, in our tiny one-bedroom flat. It was all very unglamorous compared to how things get done these days.”
Afterward Hurley’s life changed rapidly. She acknowledges her debt to that dress, both for the doors it opened—within a year she became the face of Estée Lauder (she currently serves as the global ambassador for the brand’s breast cancer campaign)—and for the friendship it began with the Versaces.