With a big project in the works, I’ve embarked on a mission to uncover 17 great historical fashion in film moments that every chic girl should know about and have in her DVD collection. These fashion films have played a significant role in cinema. They may not be groundbreaking when it comes to cinematic plot, but are definitely at the forefront of establishing great fashion in film. If you haven’t already watched these movies, put them on your radar now, better yet, add them to your movie collection!
1 “Pandora’s Box” (1929) stars Louise Brooks, who was a style icon in her own right—having made the bob a roaring twenties must ‘do. This silent film set the tone for fashion being a prominent character in a film. Viewers may not have been able to hear dialogue, but costuming help bring the characters to life.
2 “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1951) stars Audrey Hepburn as the whimsical and affable Holly Golightly, a working girl with style and grace. With the styling and designing expertise of Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy, Holly lives in a simple apartment in the city, but has an enviable wardrobe ranging from a bubble gum pink cocktail to the classic little black dress. And oh, she has a thing for Tiffanys!
3 “To Catch A Thief” (1957) stars Grace Kelly as a socialite, who becomes the prey to an international jewel thief played by Carey Grant. His and her fashion is outstanding in this film, from head-to-toe black cat burglar ensembles to gorgeous gowns and debonair tuxes—the film drips with elegance. Oh, and the jewelry is beyond beautiful—definitely worthy of an accessory heist.
4 “Funny Face” (1957) stars Audrey Hepburn as Jo Stockton, who is a bookstore clerk who gets discovered as a model. No onscreen darling has captured the style of a Parisienne quite like Hepburn in this film—her iconic fitted turtleneck, slim capris, and ballet flats have inspired myriad wardrobes of fashionistas around the world.
5 “Cleopatra” (1963) stars Elizabeth Taylor as the title character, telling the fated story of the last Pharaoh to rule over Egypt in the Ptolemaic era. The costumes for this film are one of the costliest in history with some being fashioned from 24k gold cloth. The film was a cinematic bomb, but the fashions were a style BOMB!
6 “Charade” (1963) stars Audrey Hepburn as a socialite who becomes embroiled in an international murder mystery when her wealthy husband disappears. She’s on the run, but that doesn’t stop her from having the chicest wardrobe ever—featuring a classic trench, a pullover fur, and oversize sunnies that take the spotlight.
7 “Belle de Jour” (1967) stars Catherine Deneuve as mild-mannered housewife who transforms into a ‘lady of the evening’ in this film set in Paris. The 60’s fashion in this film are stellar, but how can you go wrong when your costumes are created by legendary designer Yves Saint Laurent?
8 “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as real life outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Hollywood’s hot duo of the day made a big bang in theaters as the most wanted couple in America. Government officials may have wanted them dead or alive, but fashion enthusiasts coveted Bonnie’s style featuring side-cocked berets and classic pencil skirts, and Clyde’s dapper duds including double-breasted suits?
9 “Mahogany” (1975) stars Diana Ross as an aspirational designer from the wrong side of the tracks in Chicago, who puts herself through design school, much like the real-life story of the actress. Before Diana Ross became a singing sensation with the Supremes in the 60s, she studied fashion design, which is why this film is befitting of the iconic diva, who also designed the costumes! The ’70s fashions in this film are to die for, from oversize fedoras to flowing maxi dress gowns.
10 “Annie Hall” (1977) stars Diane Keaton a ditzy girl with a penchant for haberdashery. Her character’s sense of style helped usher in an era of menswear as womenswear including trouser, vests, derbies, and ties.
11 “Clueless” (1995) stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, an affluent and popular teen, who spends her days shopping on Rodeo Drive and sharing worldly advice to her high-school contemporaries. She’s every fashion girl’s favorite onscreen BFF and with an enviable wardrobe so vast, she needs a rotating closet rack and computer program to help her coordinate her daily look. No movie can instantly inspire a shopping spree quite like this one. As if!
12 “The Fifth Element” (1997) stars model Mill Jovovich and features futuristic fashions including styles that would make bandage-inspired looks popular, to this day. For the film, couturier Jean Paul Gaultier created nearly a thousand outfits and they were out of this world!
13 “Down With Love” (2003) stars Renée Zellweger as an advice author in 1960’s New York. This film evokes the style, energy, and attitude of the era and the 50s and 60s-inspired looks, featured in brilliant color, gives this film wings. The outfits whimsically remind us what made us love fashion as little girls.
14 “Marie Antoinette” (2006), stars Kristen Dunst as the style savvy, famous French Queen who infamously-said “Let them eat cake” to her subjects, leading to the downfall of a monarchial empire. The film beautifully immortalized the queen’s opulent style with awe-inspiring costumes that brilliantly echoed a time far gone. This film is just the beginning of director and writer Sofia Coppola’s penchant for showcasing fabulous fashion in film.
15 “Love and Other Disasters (2006) stars Brittany Murphy as a love lorn American girl in London. The film is chock full of 60’s fashion inspiration, with her character echoing the style sentiment of Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffanys” (1951). The film wasn’t a cinematic success, but the fashion was a style sensation.
16 “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) stars Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway as an editor-in-chief and her assistant at fictional “Runway” magazine. This film reads like a Who’s Who in fashion, with designer looks running the gamut from Dolce & Gabbana to, of course, Prada. The fashions in this film were as instrumental in telling the story as the talented actresses that help create the memorable characters in the movie, not to mention that the “Runway” closet is ever girl’s dream come true.
17 “The Great Gatsby” (2013) stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as long lost lovers who fatefully meet again in prohibition-era New York. With fashion featuring flapper dresses and pinstripe suits, the characters in this film shined on the big screen. Both the ladies and gents are dapper in this blockbuster adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name thanks to Miuccia Prada and Brooks Brothers. The roaring ’20s never looked so fabulous!
Image source: Warner Bros. Pictures