The Pretty Woman romantic comedy, directed by Garry Marshall, is to date the perfect love story for any woman fantasising about living the opulent fashion lifestyle. In the late 80s and 90s women were portrayed very differently, but what I adore about this love story were the fashion outfits that Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts, wore to transform herself from a sex worker in the red light district on Hollywood Boulevard to a Beverly Hills pretty woman. It was a role played so well by Julia Roberts that got her her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

It was the wealthy businessman and corporate raider Edward Lewis played by actor Richard Gere that rescued her and made her inner beauty shine. In return, Vivian made Edward a softer more likeable person.

The relationship between Vivian and Edward is between a rich educated man versus a poor, down to earth and streetwise woman. What is great about Vivian is that she is rough around the edges when it comes to etiquette. There are plenty of women like her, including me, that want to be swept off our feet this way. For me, pretty women are all those girls who dream of an opulent lifestyle.

Marilyn Vance

All credit to American costume designer Marilyn Vance who transformed prostitute Vivian Ward throughout various costumes from patent high boots to Haute couture off the shoulder red gown. In the movie, Vivian’s fashion outfits were iconic in her transformation.

Let’s take a closer look at the outfits she wore.

Red Light Rebel

If you need a good example of body confidence this is the outfit. Edward, from New York, was on business in Los Angeles staying at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, was lost. He was driving uncomfortably in his lawyers manual operated Lotus as he stops on Hollywood boulevard and asks Vivian for directions.

This is how we see Vivian in her first outfit. She wore knee-high leather boots with a safety pin on the zipper. I have trended these as well over the years. Her outfit was complemented by an oversized pink jacket, blue skirt, a white sleeveless crop top, and various necklaces and bracelets. This whole outfit could only be worn by a woman with a stunning figure like this. To disguise her identity she wore a blond wig and a dark cap. It’s the beginning of the rags to the riches love story.

julia Robert pretty woma

What I admire in Vivian throughout the movie is that she stays truthful and friends with her fellow prostitute friend Kit De Luca, played by actress Laura San Giacomo.

Striped Short Pants Suit

The first outfit where we see her looking lovely in the short pants suit. A perfect example of practicality meets glamour. I loved the striped lining and mesh material sleeves. The perfect daywear outfit for ordering a pizza.

The White Rodeo Drive Dress

It was a beautiful moment in fashion film where we see the first posh dress. When she walked down Beverly Hills and entered into a Rodeo Drive boutique and wore the white dress with white gloves with that black hat. Its an example of how fashion can give one the confidence to fit into the rich man’s world.

How many of us can relate to Vivian where she simply was judged by what she wore the first time she went into the fashion store. Her job title as a prostitute was evident but not the cash to spend.

They treated her ever so poorly, as she did not belong to the etiquette that this boutique was looking for regarding its customers. Vivian asked the staff, “you work on commission right” to which the replied “yes” and she responded “Big Mistake. Big Huge!”

Pretty woman 1980s white dress Julia robert

Don’t ever judge a book by its cover. The way one dresses does not mean they don’t have the cash to spend. The great nostalgia about this outfit is it’s just as relevant in today’s wardrobe. I wonder where I could find this dress today?

Black Lace Cocktail Dress

How elegant and classy did she look. Every woman should own a lace black cocktail dress. No matter what the occasion it can never ever date. Black lace cocktail dresses are worth the investment. It’s like walking the red carpet.

Black Lace Cocktail Dress

Polka Dot Dress

I often think about this dress. When heading to a game of Polo I try to replicate it. Her elegance and confidence shone here. It was and still is the most popular polka style dress that can be worn year after year.

Her fear in approaching people in high places such as attending a game of Polo was terrifying. One that all of us can relate too. But when wearing a dress that empowers you, then make sure you adopt the whole outfit. Unfortunately, Edward let it slip to his lawyer Philip Stuckey, played by Jason Alexander that Vivian is a hooker. Philip then shows a misogynistic side and treats her badly.

pretty woman brown polka dot dress polo match
Pretty Woman Brown Polka Dot dress at the polo match

One of her traits was she was always fiddling. This movie is all about money and when it comes to expensive clothing everyone can look chic. Vivian taught us throughout the movie that clothes can empower any of us. It can be very impactful when trying to land a job or opportunity to convince others to work with you.

You All Have Special Gifts

The highlight of the movie is when Vivian Ward is greeted by Edward Lewis in the corridor of the Beverly Wilshire hotel in her red gown before heading to attend an opera in San Francisco by private jet. Edward responds by saying there is something missing, before showing her a stunning ruby and diamond neckless by Fred Joaillier. The neckless featured 23 pear-cut rubies surrounded by diamond-encrusted hearts.

Vivian’s inner beauty and her outfit really shine as she is emotionally taken by the Verdi’s La Traviata opera when she sheds a few tears.

This is the red dress that any woman could wear. Red is powerful, red is passion and class. There are dresses throughout my life I still love and hold onto. It is difficult to let go of fashion items we all truly love within our wardrobe.

Ponder through your wardrobe to remind yourself why you keep holding onto your love story dress moment.

Pretty woman Julia roberts 1980s fashion red dress

Burnt Orange Suit

I just adore this burnt orange suit. To this day one could trend this 1990s classic summer suit. The colour is timeless and can never date. It is a brilliant suit for summer meetings on the esplanade around the globe.

burnt orange suit julia roberts 1980 Pretty Woman

This suit is the moment she empowers herself to stand up to Edward Lewis and makes it clear she wants the love story, not his cash or an apartment. It is in these moments where inspirational lifestyle for just one week teamed with dressing up can change one’s life forever.

The Red Hair

Julia’s hair throughout the movie was worn in so many styles. I was inspired by her hairstyle looks throughout the movie and one which is relevant in the world of business today.

Her hairstyle to this day is that iconic moment when the blonde wig gets taken off. She walks in the room with her natural glowing red curls and that huge smile. It’s at this moment Edward sees her for what she is. Only Vivian can rock a hotel white robe which is still trending after thirty years.

So make sure you work the hairstyle that empowers you to walk in any room and rock your own look. Another style icon with natural long hair I admire from the 1980s is Sophia Loren.

Some Interesting Facts

Whilst I am listening to the Pretty woman soundtrack with Roy Orbison singing “Oh pretty woman” and Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love”, let me tell you some interesting facts about this movie.

The role of Vivian Ward was also offered to Molly Ringwald who felt uncomfortable playing a prostitute. The role was also turned down by Daryl Hannah.

The role of Edward Lewis was offered to Christopher Reeve, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kevin Kline, Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino and Denzel Washington. Richard Gere initially turned it down but when meeting Julia Roberts she persuaded him.

Both actors did another romantic movie together in Runaway Bride.