What are the most sustainable vintage red carpet outfits of all time?

Photo credit: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock

Fast fashion is one of the biggest threats to the environment today, with the industry producing 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, using an estimated 1.5 trillion litres of water annually, and polluting the planet – from chemical waste to microplastics. 

Many of us are guilty of buying into fast fashion and purchasing new outfits for special occasions. Celebrities are no exception, with many donning brand new designer outfits on the red carpet – with some even wearing more than one outfit across a single event! 

However, more and more celebrities are choosing to recycle and reinvent old outfits on the red carpet, resulting in environmentally conscious and money-savvy consumers following suit by renting clothes, buying vintage, or recycling clothing instead. 

In fact, celebrities such as Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda and Rita Moreno are all fond of reworking an old favourite – even the Duchess of Cambridge recycles her outfits, as seen in our Eco-Friendly Royals Index.

In a bid to find out which celebrities are the most sustainable with their fashion choices on the red carpet, we compiled a list of the top 50 best vintage red carpet outfits (as cited by fashion publications such as ELLE and Vogue) and studied how many times each celebrity was mentioned in the top 50, as well as which vintage designer brands were most worn.

Which celebrities are vintage red carpet icons?

1. Kim Kardashian-West

Kim Kardashian-West features six times on the best ‘vintage’ dressed list, wearing iconic vintage outfits at the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty in 2020, the 2nd Annual American Influencer Awards in 2019, and the 2015 Met Gala, to name a few. 

Kim’s best vintage red carpet looks include: 

  • Alexander McQueen dress from the SS04 'Shipwrecked' collection, worn in 2020

  • Vivienne Westwood's 1999 collection, worn in 2019

  • John Galliano for Christian Dior AW97, worn in 2019

  • Mugler, worn in 2019

  • Versace, worn in 2018

  • Versace, worn in 2017

2. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen 

The Olsen twins feature a total of five times in the top 50, sporting vintage looks together and individually. Mary-Kate and Ashley wore vintage red carpet outfits at the Through The Looking Glass-themed Met Gala in 2015 and the Notes on Fashion-themed Met Gala 2019. 

The Olsen twins best vintage red carpet looks include: 

  • Vintage leather Chanel, worn in 2019

  • John Galliano for Christian Dior, worn in 2015

  • Vintage Dior, worn in 2013

  • Christian Dior, worn in 2011

  • Vintage Christian LaCroix, worn in 2009

3. Kate Moss 

Following closely behind the Olsen twins is Kate Moss, who feature four times in the top 50. Kate opted for vintage at the Another Magazine and Svedka Vodka Party in 2003, the Loving Premiere at the 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival in 2016, The Golden Age of Couture Party in 2007, and the 51st Cannes Film Festival in 1998. 

Kate’s best vintage red carpet looks include:

  • Halston, worn in 2016

  • Vintage Christian Dior, worn in 2007

  • 1950s dress by French couturier Jean Dessès, worn in 2003

  • Vintage dress, worn in 1998

What are the most worn vintage brands on the red carpet?

Reese Witherspoon wearing a 1955 Christian Dior gown at the 78th Annual Academy Awards, 2006 | Photo credit: Everett Collection / Shutterstock 

Of the top 50 best vintage red carpet looks of all time, we sought to unveil which vintage designer brands are worn the most. We can reveal that vintage Christian Dior came out on top, with 11 celebrities on the best dressed vintage list wearing the brand – that equates to one in five outfits. Celebrities donning Dior include Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian-West, Kate Moss and Reese Witherspoon to name a few. 

Vintage Versace followed, with seven vintage outfits made by the brand. Following shortly behind is vintage Valentino, as the third most common brand among the top 50 best vintage red carpet looks, with the brand worn on five times. 

Other designers like Chanel, Mugler and Saint Laurent also featured more than once among the top 50, including vintage leather Chanel sported by the Olsen twins, and Yves Saint Laurent worn by Amal Clooney.  

What are the 10 best vintage red carpet outfits?

To determine the top 10 best vintage red carpet outfits of all time, we asked 3,446 fashionistas to vote on their favourite recycled or reinvented red carpet looks.

1. Jennifer Aniston (Dior)

Taking the top spot is Jennifer Aniston’s vintage red carpet outfit at the SAG Awards in 2020, where she wore a John Galliano for Christian Dior dress. This outfit was a winner, taking a quarter of the vote (24%).

2. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (Dior)

The second most popular vintage red carpet outfit was that of the Olsen twins (Mary-Kate and Ashley), both of whom also wore John Galliano for Christian Dior. Flaunting their vintage and eco-conscious designer wear at the Through The Looking Glass themed Met Gala in 2015, the twins outfits were voted as the best vintage red carpet look of all time, taking 17% of the vote. 

3. Reese Witherspoon (Dior)

Reese Witherspoon’s vintage 1955 Christian Dior dress worn at the 78th Annual Academy Awards in 2006 followed shortly behind, voted as the best vintage red carpet look by 15% of those surveyed. 

4. Kim Kardashian-West (Dior)

John Galliano for Christian Dior seems incredibly popular among celebrities on the red carpet, since Kim Kardashian-West’s John Galliano for Christian Dior AW97 outfit at the second annual American Influencer Awards in 2019 ranked as the fourth most popular vintage red carpet look, receiving 13% of the vote. 

5. Kate Moss (Vintage)

In fifth spot is the vintage dress Kate Moss wore at the 52nd Cannes Film Festival in 1998, with one in 10 voting for this look as the best vintage red carpet outfit of all time (11%). 

6. Amal Clooney (Stephane Rolland)

Amal Clooney’s Jean-Louis Scherrer by Stephane Rolland gown was voted as the sixth best vintage red carpet outfit of all time, taking 8% of the vote. The vintage classic was worn to The Prince’s Trust at Buckingham Palace in 2019.

7. Renee Zellweger (1950s Jean Dessès)

In seventh place was Renee Zellweger’s vintage red carpet outfit at the 73rd Annual Academy Awards in 2001, where she wore a 1950s Jean Dessès dress. This particular vintage red carpet outfit was voted as favourite by 5% of those surveyed. 

8. Natalie Portman (Dior)

Natalie Portman’s bold red 1954 Christian Dior outfit was crowned the eighth best vintage red carpet of all time, receiving 3% of the vote.  

10. Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez (Valentino)

In ninth spot and receiving 2% of the vote is Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez. Both celebrities wore vintage Valentino gowns that were deemed the best vintage red carpet outfits of all time at the 73rd Annual Academy Awards in 2001 and 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003, respectively.

Top tips for shopping vintage

Photo credit: Iamjohnhult / Shutterstock

If you’re looking to do your bit for the environment and invest in a more eco-conscious wardrobe, here are a few expert tips:

1. Know your size

Vintage fashion often has measurements described rather than the size because the clothes of the past were not sized like they are now. For example, pre-1960s garments were handmade or tailored, so there would be no label. Therefore, it is a good idea to know your size. This can be done by measuring a piece of clothing that fits you well, rather than your body, as the former is larger than the latter. Using this, always approach shopping vintage with these measurements in mind.

2. Check the condition 

Ultimately, vintage fashion is old, so you may expect wear and tear. However, before you buy, you need to establish if this wear and tear will worsen over time, essentially making it redundant. When you find an item that you like, hold it up to the light and check for holes, often caused by moths or storage. Also check for stains and marks, as these may be ingrained and therefore challenging to remove. Likewise, be wary of odours, so give all vintage clothing a good sniff first. A reputable vintage store will have washed, repaired, and pressed every piece, however, making checks like these are still good practice! 

3. Look at the labels! 

Lastly, it is important to pay attention to labels. It is important to work out whether a garment is genuine, particularly if you are buying designer vintage, since these garments often carry a hefty price tag. Here are some key things to bear in mind to ensure you’re buying genuine vintage wear: 

  • A modern white label was not introduced until the 1960s

  • If it says made in China, it will be post-1990s

  • Made in the United Kingdom tends to be from the 1980s, meanwhile made in Great Britain tends to stem from the 1960s-1970s. 

  • If a dress is labelled as 1950s yet has a care label, it is likely to be from a later era instead.

Methodology:

  1. To determine the best vintage red carpet outfits of all time, SaveOnEnergy compiled a list of 50 of the best vintage red carpet outfits, championed in multiple articles by fashion publications such as ELLE and Vogue. 

  2. To determine which celebrities were the most recurring vintage icons, SaveOnEnergy went on to study how many times each celebrity was mentioned in the list of the 50 outfits, with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian-West, who wore six of the ranked outfits, placing as the most likely recurring vintage icon. 

  3. We then asked 3,446 fashionistas to vote on their favourite looks. We then analysed the results to determine which celebrity vintage red carpet outfits were the most popular and therefore the “best” of all time.