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Jennifer Lopez's Grammy Awards Dress Sparked Invention of Google Image Search: Pop Culture History

Jennifer Lopez
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
The A-lister wore a reimagined version for the 20th anniversary of the Grammy moment.

It was at the 2000 Grammy Awards, when Lopez's emerald green and blue palm leaf printed Versace dress became one of fashion history's most enduring outfits.

Editor's note: Delving into the archives of pop culture history, Remember When? is a CNN Style series offering a nostalgic look at the celebrity outfits that defined their eras.

(CNN) — More than two decades ago, Jennifer Lopez changed the internet forever when she wore a dress so striking it inspired engineers to build Google Image Search.

It was at the 2000 Grammy Awards, when Lopez's emerald green and blue palm leaf printed Versace dress became one of fashion history's most enduring outfits.

Cut titillatingly low, the gown's neckline plunged past Lopez's navel and had a revealing central split. Every step forward sent a dramatic cascade of chiffon behind her, and kept on-lookers guessing about the structural integrity of the gown.

"The dress was provocative enough I guess, to make people really interested, Lopez told Vogue years later, on the 20th anniversary of wearing it. "When it blew open, everybody was like 'What's going to happen next?' Nothing. It's all taped down."

It became the most searched query on Google at the time, according to former Google CEO and executive chairman Eric Schmidt. "People wanted more than just text," he wrote for Project Syndicate, an opinion commentary publication, in 2015. "But we had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: JLo wearing that dress. Google Image Search was born."

In the days before Google Image Search, any results page would consist entirely of website links and text. The scandalous Versace gown — a pop culture moment that had to be seen to be understood — exposed a hole in the search engine's offering. The tool was launched in July 2001.

The now-iconic frock was one of three dresses offered to Lopez ahead of the awards show by her then stylist Andrea Lieberman. And although the green dress has become synonymous with Lopez, she was not the first celebrity to wear it. First donned by its designer Donatella Versace herself for the Met Gala in 1999, the dress was later worn by Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell to the NRJ Music Awards in 2000, just a month before Lopez. But neither outing had caused such a stir as when it was worn to the Grammys.

To mark the 20th anniversary of that moment, Versace sent a reimagined version of the legendary dress down the runway to close its Spring-Summer 2020 show at Milan Fashion Week — enlisting the help of Lopez once more to bring the garment to life. When the crowd saw the reworked gown (now sleeveless with even more skin-baring cut-outs at the hip and embellished with sequins), they rose to their feet and applauded. "It was amazing," Lopez said after the show, "the power of a moment in time, the power of fashion."

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Leah Dolan