A Complete History Of The Modern Cut-Out Dress: From 1934 To 2023

The peek-a-boo style has been worn by nearly all of Hollywood.

Florence Pugh wears a white strapless gown with a tummy hole to the 2023 Met Gala.
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It’s not an exaggeration when I say: Nearly every A-lister has worn some version of the cut-out dress, several times over. From more recent patrons including Florence Pugh, Hailey Bieber, and Dua Lipa, who’ve taken the look to the daring extreme, to the Jennifers (Aniston and Lopez) who rocked it in the ’90s, the skin-baring aesthetic has been a staple on red carpets and off-duty ‘fits alike.

The peek-a-boo style’s roots go far beyond its ’90s heyday, however. Old Hollywood icons like Mary Astor and Lauren Bacall have flaunted skin in holey gowns in their ’30s-era films.

In the ’60s, the look came back in Pop Art-style iterations, where playful geometric shapes punctuated A-line shift dresses. Think: lone squares smack dab in the center of one’s décolletage or artfully-placed circles across a torso. (This more whimsical take on the look is a major move from the trend’s spicier associations.)

The fervor for the cut-out style reached an all-time high in the ’90s, after the release of Pretty Woman. In the now-iconic scene, Julia Roberts parades along Rodeo Drive in a two-toned cut-out dress (which salespeople scoffed at). Since then, the garment has been reimagined by a majority of today’s top fashion designers.

Don’t worry, though. The look isn’t getting old — far from it. Interpretations on the incisions just keep getting more creative, with no body part left behind. (Butt cut-outs, navels, you name it — it’s all fair game.) During the Winter 2023 fashion season, for example, designers like LaQuan Smith and Acne Studios sent versions down runways. Meanwhile, out on the streets, style savants rocked belly button cut-outs.

Ahead, a look at the complete history of the cut-out dress, from the 1930s to now.

1934: Mary Astor Wears The Style In Easy To Love

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In 1934, actor Mary Astor donned a few cut-out gowns in her film Easy to Love, including this one with a discreet keyhole.

Astor wasn’t the only star to show skin in this peek-a-boo manner. Another golden girl, Marlene Dietrich, donned a dress with a more conservative cut-out placement: her shoulders.

1945: Lauren Bacall Wears A Cut-Out Dress In To Have and Have Not

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A decade later, Lauren Bacall wore a belly-centric version of the cut-out look in To Have and Have Not. Everything about this look — the ring hardware, pointy shoulder pads, and her Old Hollywood ‘do — made it one for the books.

1967: Pierre Cardin Creates Prim Cut-Out Looks

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In the ’60s, pop art became mainstream and it was artist Bridget Riley who introduced the concept to fashion, adding cut-outs to clothes. Designers quickly followed suit, from Mary Quant to Pierre Cardin (above), geometric shapes punctuated the shift dresses of the decade.

1968: Cardin Takes The Cut-Out Dress Look To Swimsuits

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A year later, Cardin went even bolder with his cut-outs and created a swimsuit-dress hybrid with massive holes around the waist — a look recalled by many stars today.

1969: Jane Birkin Rocks The Risqué Style

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The late Jane Birkin, AKA ’70s biggest it girl, rocked a few ‘fits that had major peek-a-boo details. Case in point: this daring lace number which featured a belly hole.

1972: Cher Rocks The Look

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Cher was always ahead of today’s sauciest trends, rocking them half a century before the KarJenners et al ever did. Naked dresses, visible thongs, you name it — cut-out dresses, too. The “Do You Believe” singer was already rocking the look as early as 1972, in criss-cross cut-outs that bared her midriff almost entirely.

1974: Courrèges Unveils A Butt Cut-Out

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By 1974, Courrèges has already unveiled several cut-out dresses. But when the designer sent a model down its Fall/Winter 1994 runway with a gaping triangular butt panel, it was a moment.

Style stars would harken back to booty-baring details in the decades to come. Fashion innovator Julia Fox is a particular fan of this one, rocking the revealing look not once, but twice.

1990: Julia Roberts Wears A Cut-Out Dress In Pretty Woman


While the style was pretty much dormant through the ’80s, Julia Roberts ensured the return of the style — in its spiciest iteration yet — when she wore the infamous two-toned mini dress in the 1990 classic Pretty Woman.

1993: Demi Moore Makes It Casual

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Three years later, another dress earned icon status on film — Demi Moore’s Thierry Mugler black dress in Indecent Proposal, where two slashes sat atop her breasts. She repeated the trend IRL wearing a belly-button-revealing dress paired with a wraparound jacket, combat boots, and a cross necklace. Grunge at its finest.

1994: Elizabeth Hurley Wears Versace

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Versace’s safety pins may be iconic now, but in 1994, it was Elizabeth Hurley’s outing that cemented the look in pop culture canon. (And to think the moment almost didn’t happen.) The gilded brooches were stacked one atop the other to accentuate the vertical cut-out at Hurley’s side.

Anne Hathaway recalled the style at the 2023 Met Gala, when she donned a white iteration of the classic Versace look.

1996: Gucci Sends A Gilded Look Down The Runway

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Tom Ford’s era at Gucci was marked by one saucy collection after another. In his Fall 1996 show for the label, he glamorized the cut-out style by sending models down the runway with strategically-placed holes and adding luxe gold hardware.

Bella Hadid paid homage to the collection when she attended the 2022 Cannes film festival in an archival Gucci number. It’s that iconic.

1996: Toni Braxton Rocks A Gucci Look In Her “Un-Break My Heart” Video

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Toni Braxton was one of the biggest fans of the cut-out style. While she’s worn the look to red-carpet events in the most revealing of numbers, it’s her white dress in the music video for “Un-Break My Heart” that remains iconic.

1998: Jennifer Lopez Wears It To The Golden Globes

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Another early adopter of trends, Jennifer Lopez took the trend for a spin on the 1998 Golden Globes red carpet. In a tri-colored gown with a one-shoulder detail and an asymmetrical slice across her torso, she looked phenomenal.

2001: Naomi Campbell Stuns At The CFDA Awards

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Fashion girls know that practically every outfit Naomi Campbell wears earns Hall of Fame status. But when she attended the 2001 CFDA Awards in a gold quasi-mermaid gown with cut-outs on either side of her waist, the look made fashion history.

2001: Destiny’s Child Takes On The Look At The Grammys

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I’d argue that the most creative interpretations of cut-outs came in the form of Destiny’s Child’s matching costumes. Exhibit A.

2003: Jennifer Lopez Returns To The Cut-Out Trend

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While Lopez has rocked the style countless times since the ’90s, one of her most memorable — and most talked-about moments — was in 2003. Though it made waves mostly because of its romantic implications (it was her last red carpet with then-fiancè Ben Affleck before they broke up), the gown — with its ladder of cut-outs — was definitely worth noting.

2003: Kim Cattrall Embraces The Hole-y Trend

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In the early aughts, Kim Cattrall fully leaned into her SATC character Samantha Jones — sartorially, I mean. She frequently stepped out in spicy cut-out ‘fits to attend events. This black, zig-zag number was one of her most eccentrically saucy. Samantha would approve.

2003: Jennifer Aniston Gives It A Minimalist Twist

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The look was everywhere in 2003, including at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, when Jennifer Aniston rocked a more minimalist take. The ’90s-esque silhouette was perfectly punctuated by the daring cleavage-baring parts of her gown. It’s one of her best looks to date, IMO.

2004: Y2K Stars Take On The Look

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After the turn of the millennium, Y2K-era icons fully embraced the look. For better or worse, the style saw its most chaotic interpretations — from Tara Reid’s strapless mini to Jessica Simpson’s striped midi.

Paris Hilton wore the look to several functions, including the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards, where she showed a hint of underboob.

2004: Lil’ Kim Wows At The Grammy Awards

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Lil’ Kim also loved the style, incorporating holes in her ensembles on-stage and off. However, it was her 2004 Grammy look that was considered one of her most risqué.

2017: Kendall Jenner Rocks A Massive Asymmetrical Cut-Out At The Met Gala

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As fashion is cyclical, the look had a dip in popularity for a decade or so. That is, until Kendall Jenner wore a see-through gown with a massive asymmetrical hole to the 2017 Met Gala.

2022: Dua Lipa Wears Extreme Cut-Outs On Main

In recent years, the revealing trend has been pushed to the limit — the less fabric, the better. Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, and Dua Lipa have all taken to this daring look.

2022: Euphoria Revives The Cut-Out Dress

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HBO’s hit show Euphoria, reintroduced the style to a new generation when Maddy (Alexa Demie) wore a black dress to a party. (Fans know exactly what I’m talking about.)

It’s not the first time Maddy rocked the sliver-baring look either. In Season 1, she wore those iconic I.AM.GIA pants that had cut-outs across both hips.

2023: Julia Fox Wears A Micro Hole It To Fashion Week

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During the fashion week circuit, holes were a major trend on and off the runway. Several style stars rocked navel-baring holes — some even accessorized with piercings.

Julia Fox, for example, took to the trend in an ultra-sheer black dress with a nanohole that fully showcased her belly button ring.

2023: Florence Pugh Piles On The Romance At The Met Gala

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For even more present-day inspiration, browse red carpet looks from this year’s Met Gala. Jennifer Lopez, Olivia Wilde, and Anne Hathaway all revealed slivers of skin in varied ways.

Florence Pugh also made quite the entrance in a Valentino gown which featured a lone statement hole on the tummy, romantically accented with a bow.