Valentino. Just his name alone, even if you don’t say it breathlessly as I just did, evokes thoughts of gorgeous gowns fit for a queen.

After leaving an apprenticeship with Jean Desses that went sour in 1959, Valentino packed up, left Paris and set up shop in his native Italy to start his own fashion house. It was during this first year that Valentino became known for his dresses in a bright shade of red (that would eventually be called “Valentino red” in the fashion industry). There are very few who can claim such an honor as to have a color named after them.

It was a chance encounter in July of 1961 with Giancarlo Giammetti at Café de Paris in Rome that really brought Valentino’s dreams to life. Giammetti had such faith in Valentino that he dropped out of school to become his business partner. Although there would be ups and downs, and bankruptcy after their first year together, Valentino and Giammetti continued on, and by the mid-1960’s Valentino was known as the undisputed “maestro” of Italian couture. In 1967, he received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award for his accomplishments in the fashion field and had already designed dresses for some of the biggest stars of the time.

Valentino is an expert in making every woman feel like royalty even if she isn’t. Here are some of the most memorable of his designs and the women who were lucky enough to wear them.