Clothes may make the man, but a dress can make an icon. That’s especially true if it’s see-though, held together by safety pins, or made of slowly decomposing meat.

A model presents a dress inspired by painter Piet Mondrian during French legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's farewell show. (Remy De La Mauviniere/AP)

Rubenstein recounts the tales behind some of fashion’s most iconic dresses, and they’re not all pretty: Phyllis Diller’s tent dresses make the list, for example. Rubenstein describes her look in the book as, “a violent cross between a Pucci mini and a Hawaiian muumuu attacked by a rhinestone stun gun and a flock of peacocks,” but included her for the statement that her clothing made as part of her comedic schtick.

But the dresses that catch our attention are also windows into our psychological state, revealing how we perceive beauty, says Rubenstein. That’s why a well-chosen dress can make a woman a star, as in the case of Elizabeth Hurley’s safety-pinned Versace worn to the premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

“The Versace safety-pin dress is the greatest example of the power of clothing. It made a woman famous overnight. Elizabeth Hurley was a pretty girl on Hugh Grant’s arm who no one knew. The next day it was, ‘Who’s that girl?’”

View Photo Gallery: InStyle fashion director Hal Rubenstein named the most iconic and significant dresses in fashion history in his new book, “100 Unforgettable Dresses.” Here are some of the Post’s picks for the most memorable gowns.

If your favorite dress isn’t a choice above, tell us about it in the comments.