The History of Valentino Red Dresses

Red is not just a colour


Valentino, a name that immediately brings to mind a particular shade of red, indeed the iconic Valentino red. While the fashion house has produced clothes, shoes and even bags, the story of Valentino’s red dresses has its’ very own chapter in the book of fashion history.

“For the Valentino maison, red is not just a colour; it is a non-fading mark, a logo, an iconic element of the brand, a value.” - Valentino Garavani

Born in 1932 in Lombardy, Italy, Garavani’s interest in fashion started at a young age. In 1945 his father took him to a production of Verdi’s La Traviata, after which he recalls, “All the costumes on the stage were red… All the women in the boxes were mostly dressed in red, and they leaned forward like geraniums on balconies, and the seats and drapes were red too… I realised that after black and white, there was no finer colour.”


Valentino Garavani

He worked his apprenticeship under Designers Jean Dessès, Christian Dior and Guy Laroche before partnering with architect Giancarlo Giammetti to start his own fashion house. Their aim was to create modern feminine fashion. Included in Valentino’s debut show in the Spring/Summer of 1959 was a dress called “Fiesta”, a strapless mid-length cocktail dress of draped tulle in a bright red poppy colour, which became an immediate success and subsequently a signature of the brand. A mix of 100% magenta, 100% yellow and 10% black, the designer’s trademarked red was officially featured on the Pantone colour chart as “Valentino Red”. Subsequently, every single collection ever produced by Valentino has included a red dress.


Valentino; a red chiffon full length evening gownValentino; a red chiffon full length evening gown

Estimate £150-£250


Over the years, Garavani experimented with a variety of shapes and necklines, always with the goal of creating the perfect balance to compliment and accentuate a woman’s beauty. He was also famously associated with American fashion icon, Jackie Kennedy, who in 1964 arranged to meet the designer in person. Following their newly formed friendship, she ordered six dresses from Valentino which she wore throughout her year of mourning for her husband John F. Kennedy. Indeed, she exclusively wore Valentino for several years after and even paraded a lace mini dress, personally designed by Garavani, down the aisle when she married her second husband Greek billionaire, Aristotle Onassis.



In 2007, Garavani announced his retirement and his last haute couture show in January 2008 ended with him taking his final runway walk through a sea of models wearing his signature red gowns, including legendary 90s supermodels Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova.

“I think that a woman dressed in red always looks amazing.” - Valentino Garavani

On the preowned market, a Valentino red dress can sell for as much as £7,000 and while design of the dress continuously evolves, it’s never out of trend. The Valentino brand is closely associated with the highest quality Italian design, and even after Valentino’s departure, the colour red continues to be showcased by new creative directors Alessandra Facchinetti, then Chiuri-Piccioli, and currently, Pierpaolo Piccioli. In fact, there have been several other shades of red introduced under the brand, symbolic of the deeply rooted historic ties to this signature colour.

Calling all lovers of fashion! Featuring a Valentino red dress, from the wardrobe of The Duchess of Abercorn, don’t miss our upcoming Luxury Handbags & Fashion auction on the 23rd of August (2pm start, BST). We look forward to welcoming you…


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