Never before has a flag looked so good. Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress that she wore during the 1997 Brit Awards is one of the most iconic images of the decade and for a few months made Great Britain one of the trendiest countries in the world.
The Spice Girls had just cracked America and Spicemania was well and truly running wild across the globe. After their first album had gone straight to number one around the world, the famous five were to scoop the main prizes at British music’s big awards show.
With the girls due to perform during the event, Geri was going to wear a plain black number but the sassiest member of the five decided it was too dull, so her sister went out and bought a Union Jack tea-towel and sewed it onto the front. It was worn during the Spice’s performance of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and instantly became a fashion classic.
The dress got plenty of attention around the world, and the fact that her knickers were on show was shocking at the time for many, but the lads loved it. Ginger Spice became everyone’s favourite Spice Girl and made Miss Halliwell the sexiest redhead ever, yes even ahead of Anne Robinson, Paul Scholes and Basil Brush.
It also added fuel to the Cool Britannia term that was being used at the time. With New Labour being ushered into power with a youthful Tony Blair at its helm, the rise of Britpop, the success of Euro 96 and films such as Austin Powers and James Bond, the dress typified the excitement on our small island.
It also started a trend which saw everything emblazoned with the Union Jack. I remember going to London a year later and went into a shop that just sold merchandise that featured the red, white and blue. Boxer shorts, toilet seats and money boxes were all available, and the latter coming with as much money inside it as today’s British economy.
Upon quitting the group in 1998, Geri auctioned off that dress and it was bought by the owner of the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas for £41,320, still a record for a piece of pop memorabilia. When the girls announced their comeback a couple of years Ginger tried to get the original back to perform in, but had to settle with a sparkly replica instead.
It was probably a good thing though, as the stick-thin Geri of today wouldn’t have had the same impact as back in 1997 when she squeezed her curves into the sexiest dress of all time. Just goes to show that women and tea-towels definitely belong together…