Geri Halliwell on Her Iconic Spice Girls Union Jack Dress - and Why a Stylist Told Her Not to Wear It
When you think of Geri Halliwell Horner (Ginger Spice), her Union Jack dress is probably the first thing that comes to mind — it’s one of the most memorable fashion moments of the ’90s, and the Spice Girl is sharing all the behind-the-scenes secrets of how it came to be in a new video interview for Vogue.
From sexy Calvin Klein ads to Kate Moss, ’90s pop culture had what Halliwell describes as “a real strong flavor.” Much like the ’60s, she says it was a “really flourishing time in so many ways,” making it the perfect time for the Spice Girls to break into the scene.
In 1996, Halliwell, Melanie ‘Mel B’ Brown (Scary Spice), Melanie ‘Mel C’ Chisholm (Scary Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) and Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) dropped their debut album Spice to massive success, and performed at the BRIT Awards one year later: “It felt like everything we had worked for lead up to that moment,” Halliwell said in the video.
For her stage look, the star says a Gucci mini dress that resembled a 1950s Marilyn Monroe-inspired swimsuit was presented to her.
“Tom Ford was working with Gucci at the time and he made it sexy,” Halliwell added.
Still, the star thought it needed a little something extra, and given the occasion, the British flag seemed fitting. But since cutting up a flag is widely viewed as a sign disrespect, Halliwell said she used a tea towel instead.
“My sister did it because she’s better at sewing than I am,” Halliwell recalled in the clip. “I remember showing it to a stylist and she said to me, ‘You can’t wear that.’ She actually said, ‘You cannot wear that. It’s racist’…We celebrate all cultures so that’s why i put the peace sign on the back.”
Halliwell famously topped off the outfit with red latex platform boots (that she spray painted herself!)
“The length of the dress is the sexuality and the big boots are saying, ‘You know what? You’re not going to mess with me either’,” she explained.
After the Spice Girls’ show-stopping Brit Awards performance, the former singer told Vogue she woke up to find pictures of herself on the cover of every major newspaper and magazine: “When that tea towel was stitched to that little black Gucci dress, I had no idea the reaction that was going to come,” Halliwell admitted.
The outfit soon became a worldwide symbol of girl power, and everyone from Kate Moss to Prince William started wearing British flag-embroidered pieces.
When Halliwell left the band in 1998, the iconic garment was auctioned off for a record-breaking 41,000 pounds (approximately $47,000). So, who was the lucky winner? The Hard Rock Cafe.
In 2017, the Spice Girls reunited, much to the delight of their fans around the world. She wore a similar [Roberto] Cavalli design on tour, but this time, it was completely covered in crystals.
“For me, wearing the Union Jack dress, I’m always quite mindful because it’s had such a moment,” she explained. “We really needed to sort of turn the volume up on it and Cavalli did that with crystals.”
At the time, the singer said she was at a crossroads in her life — 10 years older than she was at the start of her career, but wanting to prove that she was still just as sexy.
“I think it’s quite a hard age to be…where do you belong?” Horner said. “That dress, the Cavalli dress, absolutely epitomizes everything I was feeling.”
In 2019, the gang came together once more for a major reunion tour, and all four members channeled updated versions of their legendary 1997 Brit Awards outfits. For Halliwell, this meant a full-length Union Jack ballgown that featured a corset and a drop-waist.
“The way I dress has always reflected how I feel about myself at that time,” the singer, who got married and had children between 2007 and 2019, concluded. “I felt a sense of power in developing the dress into something different. Something even more timeless…for me, it shows the revolution of being a woman.”
“Every little bit helps,” she said. So, thank you. Take care.”
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