The Iconic Spice Girls Union Jack Dress Was Designed By Ginger Herself

In 1997, The Spice Girls — made up of Sporty (Mel C), Scary (Mel B), Posh (Victoria Beckham née Adams), Baby (Emma Bunton), and Ginger (Geri Halliwell) — were on top of the world. They had released their debut album the year prior, and their hits like "Wannabe," "Say You'll Be There," and "2 Become 1" were tearing up the charts. So by the time the '97 Brit Awards rolled around, they were the big headliners. The audience went wild, and the "Girl Power" group ended up winning big that night, taking home both best British video and best British single for "Wannabe." Two other major events happened that night, too. First, in response to Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher telling the press he "would smack" the Spice Girls if he ran into them (via The Evening Standard), Mel C used her time at the podium to call him out, yelling, "Liam, come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!" Talk about "Girl Power!" The second major event occurred during their iconic performance of "Who Do You Think You Are?," when Ginger wore a stretchy minidress with the British Union Jack on the front and a massive peace sign on the back. A pop culture touchstone was born. 


It turns out, that wasn't just some fun frock that a costume designer picked out. Ginger herself designed the dress, and with a very strong message in mind. That one dress defined the Spice Girls era, and became one of the most legendary celebrity moments of the '90s.

Geri Halliwell spiced up the dress herself with a tea towel

In 2020, Geri Halliwell spoke with Vogue, revealing that when she was presented with a plain black Gucci dress to wear to the '97 Brit Awards, she wanted to (ahem) spice up the life of the frock. The Spice Girls always accompanied their music with a strong ethos of girl power, women's strength, raising your voice, and being heard. And during the '90s, there was a Cool Britannia wave in pop culture, so she wanted to tap into it with fashion. As she tells it, it was her idea to take a Union Jack tea towel and sew it onto the Gucci dress. "My sister did it 'cause she was better at sewing than I am," Halliwell laughed about the dress hack. Her stylist told her, "You cannot wear that, it's racist. It's National Front," which was an alt-right fascist party in the UK. "So that's why I put the peace sign on the back!" She adds that she spray-painted her boots fire-engine red to match. "So the length of the dress is the sexuality and the big bobber boots is saying, you know what, you're not gonna mess with me either!"


As the "It's Raining Men" songstress recalls, it was the dress that launched a thousand ships. "I woke up the next morning and the picture of me in that dress was on the front page of every newspaper. That dress really became the identity of what girl power stood for."

The Union Jack dress' legacy is still felt today

As Wendy Williams might say, Geri Halliwell in the Union Jack dress was "an icon ... a legend, and she is the moment." So much so that in 1998, when Halliwell auctioned the dress off at Sotheby's to benefit a children's cancer charity, it fetched over £36,000, MTV News reported at the time, and with a 15% commission added on top, the total sum equaled around $70,000. Director Molly Dineen was filming a documentary on Halliwell at the time and captured the moment backstage after Halliwell hit the gavel on the sale. "£36,000!," she screams backstage. "Can you believe it? Oh my God!" CNN reports that it holds the record for the most expensive auctioned item from a pop star's closet.


And its legacy lives on today. In 2021, "Levitating" hitmaker Dua Lipa wore a Union Jack skirt directly inspired by Halliwell's dress when she performed on stage, per The Mirror, and Halliwell posted about it on Instagram, writing, "All these years later to see it worn by a fellow sister is so special. #girlpower." She also posted in her Instagram Stories, via Billboard, writing, "Girl power! Loved the outfit and the performance @dualipa."

The lasting impact of the dress is summed up perfectly by Ginger Spice in her IG caption: "This dress is a reminder to follow your instincts and be yourself."