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Julia Roberts Pretty Woman
Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Womanvia washingtonpost.com

Julia Roberts’ top ten fashion moments

She’s rocked hairy armpits, thigh-high boots and oversized suits. Even her Oscars dress has its own Wikipedia page – we trace the new face of Givenchy’s style journey

It’s official: Julia Roberts is a fashion icon. This week, the 47-year-old Oscar winner and darling of American cinema was unveiled as the new face of Givenchy for SS15. Hand-picked by the brand’s creative director, Riccardo Tisci, the Hollywood star joins the likes of singer Erykah Badu, performance artist Marina Abramović and French actress Isabelle Hupert in Tisci’s family of celebrity muses. In the campaign, shot by Mert and Marcus, Roberts ditched her signature Hollywood smile and red carpet up-do for a moodier, tomboyish look. 

This isn’t the first time Roberts has landed in the lap of fashion; throughout the 90s, the Pretty Woman star became known for her slightly eccentric take on dressing, with some unconventional outfits that were as bold as her career moves. Here, we chart her talent for piquing attention with her clothes (both on-screen and off):

WEARING A SUIT TO THE GOLDEN GLOBES

At a time when most actresses would be hiring stylists to line their hotel suites with a litany of designer dresses for awards season, Roberts decided to wear an oversized men’s suit to collect her Golden Globe in 1990 (for best supporting actress in 1989’s Steel Magnolias). The coolest thing about it all? She didn’t care about any of the negative press. In what seemed like an ode to Diane Keaton, Roberts differentiated herself from her fellow twenty-something actresses with this bold move.

AS VIVIAN WARD IN PRETTY WOMAN

Still a go-to on Netflix for anyone looking for comfort on a Sunday afternoon, this 90s classic saw Roberts play Vivian, an LA sex worker with big hair and thigh-high boots (not dissimilar from what Tisci just sent down the Givenchy runway for SS15). In one of cinema’s most iconic love stories, Richard Gere plays the businessman who falls for Vivian and exposes her to the sort of privileged lifestyle she could only have dreamed of before. But the real joy comes when a clique of snooty Beverly Hills shop assistants who refused her service are forced to eat their words when she returns, restyled, to inform them about their “BIG mistake.”

ON THE COVER OF ROLLING STONE

Nothing says 1990 like double denim, and if there was ever an image that defined Julia in her comfort zone, this was it. With her preference being to kick back in jeans rather than wrap herself up in an evening gown, the actress joined the ranks of international rock stars by scoring the cover of the popular music magazine, where she sported a shorter crop instead of her usual mane of curls. Pretty woman, indeed!

BY HERB RITTS FOR VANITY FAIR

This 1990 shot by iconic American photographer Herb Ritts saw Roberts work her inner supermodel and was the start of a long-term relationship with Vanity Fair. In October 1993, she bagged her first cover, with a new marriage and a new role in grown-up crime drama The Pelican Brief to talk about. Back then, a VF cover usually required something raunchy or gimmicky (see Demi Moore’s baby bump or Cindy Crawford giving kd lang a wet shave), but not for Roberts. She went on to bag four more VF covers with more still to come, we’re sure.

AS ERIN IN ERIN BROCKOVICH

Roberts’ portrayal of the unconventional American legal clerk Erin Brockovich will go down in history as one of the most fearless Oscar-winning performances in US cinema (and not just because of its emotional pull). Erin Brockovich is a real person who won a very real lawsuit against an American gas and electric company in 1993. She had no formal legal training, but wasn’t afraid to show some cleavage or work a short skirt in order to get what she wanted from the powers that be. Of course, it was ultimately Brockovich’s sheer determination that got her through in the end – but in this Steven Soderbergh-directed film, Roberts tapped into her sassier side and pulled off a performance that’s hilarious, heartbreaking and revolutionary all at once.

ACCESSORISING ARMANI WITH HAIRY ARMPITS

The mother-of-three has developed a knack for taking short breaks from the press and returning a little while later to grab the world’s attention. She did this in 1999, when she showed up at the London premiere of Notting Hill in a sequin Armani dress and boasting very hairy armpits. Were we witnessing feminist Julia? We never really got an explanation. The film's successful reception meant that the armpits didn't steal the show, but Roberts did pull the whole thing off in her own wonderful way. 

WINNING AN OSCAR IN VALENTINO

Every actress who’s earned their red-carpet stripes has a key moment in which they capture the world’s attention the morning after a big awards ceremony. Hilary Swank did it chowing down on a burger after winning her second Oscar in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby, and Roberts did it when she wore Valentino to collect her Academy Award for best actress for Erin Brockovich. She acknowledged the dress – which has its own Wikipedia page – in her acceptance speech, and the occasion saw her secure a place on the list of most in-demand celebs for designers to dress.

AS KATHERINE ANN WATSON IN MONA LISA SMILE

Julia Roberts knows how to lead an ensemble cast. She did it in Mystic Pizza, in Steel Magnolias and again in this 2003 Mike Newell drama. Cast alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles, Roberts plays Katherine Ann Watson, an art teacher at a stuffy all-girls school in 50s America. Throughout an emotionally turbulent school year she touches the lives of her pupils by individually guiding them towards decent career paths (crying yet?). Naturally, her 50s wardrobe is pretty reference-worthy: much to her overtly-feminine peers’ dismay, she works mannish trousers, oversized coats and berets with aplomb.

 AS JOANNE HERRING IN CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR

Starring alongside Tom Hanks and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in this 2007 flick based on true events, Roberts played the glamorous Joanne Herring, a vision of that early-80s brand of Texas femininity first brought to screens with Dallas. Think big dresses, big earrings, and even bigger hair (though not quite as big as the bouffant she sported in Steel Magnolias). As the sixth wealthiest woman in the state, Herring knew a thing or two about philanthropy as well as jewels, and Roberts bagged a Golden Globe nomination for her work in the role.

IN GIVENCHY’S NEW CAMPAIGN

News of Julia Roberts turning fashion model spread like wildfire this week when Riccardo Tisci unveiled his new season muse. Sure, it’s not the first time the actress has fronted a campaign, but we’ve not seen her cross over into the realms of cool in such a bold way. After her recent turn in August: Osage County, it’s clear Julia is all about showing her more mature and serious side – and what better way to tap into that mindset than working with Tisci and photography duo Mert and Marcus in one high-fashion swoop?