Swan Dress


The swan dress is an iconic dress resembling a white swan worn by the Icelandic artist Björk in 2001 at the 73rd Academy Awards. Created by Macedonian fashion designer Marjan Pejoski, the dress is modeled after a swan and at the ceremony Björk mimicked laying an egg on the red carpet. She later said: “I was very aware when I went to the Academy Awards that it would probably be my first and last time. So I thought my input should really be about fertility, and I thought I’d bring some eggs.”

It was described by film critic Emanuel Levy as ‘A giant swan dress, a full-body stocking that was covered with a giant swan whose neck wrapped around her with its head and beak resting on her breasts.’ She had two copies of the dress produced, given that it could not be taken to the dry cleaners. She later wore that dress on the cover of her 2001 record album ‘Vespertine’ and variations of it many times on the ‘Vespertine World Tour.’

The dress was talked about in the fashion and entertainment world for weeks after the event. It was widely criticized and seen as outrageous and outlandish and an outfit that ‘became the year’s fashion faux pas.’ Some viewed it as bizarre enough to be more than just a publicity stunt, something confirmed by Björk. Joan Rivers remarked ‘Later I saw her in the ladies room spreading papers on the floor…This girl should be put into an asylum.’ However, the dress was praised by some for its originality; The New York Observer’s verdict was ‘total overall j’adore’ and Melissa Etheridge was also reported to have praised the dress.

In response to the media hype, Björk said ‘It’s just a dress.’ She said, ‘I don’t really know why I’m obsessed with swans but as I said, everything about my new album is about winter and they’re a white, sort of winter bird. Obviously very romantic, being monogamous. It’s one of those things that maybe I’m too much in the middle of to describe. When you’re obsessed with something, you can explain it five years later, but in the moment, you don’t know exactly why. Right now, swans seem to sort of stand for a lot of things.’ The swan or water bird slung around the neck or hung limply under a person’s arm could be a reference to the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ written in 1798.

She told ‘CDNOW’: ‘I don’t watch many Hollywood films, and being from Iceland, it’s pretty accidental what gets over there. Most Hollywood films that I watch are Busby Berkeley musicals and … what’s that movie called with all the swimming? Esther Williams, that sort of thing, so I thought it’d be very appropriate to wear a swan. I guess they don’t do those things anymore, right? But it was a tribute to Busby Berkeley and that sort of elegance.’

The dress was later emulated by Ellen DeGeneres at the 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards. Kevin James wore a version of it at the 2002 People’s Choice Awards. In 2006, at the 78th Academy Awards, host Jon Stewart remarked ‘Björk couldn’t be here tonight…She was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her.’ in a reference to the Dick Cheney hunting incident. In 2007, the gown was proposed to take part in the year’s Oscar fashion show, highlighting the signature gowns from the red carpets of the Oscars from previous years. However, according to Oscar producer Laura Ziskin, Björk’s team refused to let the dress take part.

One Comment to “Swan Dress”

  1. Great article, amazing dress!

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