With the Oscars right around the corner, attention has turned to the year’s biggest films, actors and most celebrated directors. However, there’s one other very important star in movies: the fashion. Elaborate wardrobes and costumes can help convey a story on screen and make a movie especially memorable. The following pieces have featured such lavish costumes and flawless fashion that these films simply would not have been the same without their spectacular, and in some cases iconic, costumes. Here is a list of the most unforgettable movie fashion of all time in order of date released.
10 The Great Gatsby (2013): Final film budget $100 million
This glamorous movie certainly had an exciting take on the fashion from the roaring ‘20s. The film’s costume designer, Catherine Martin, took on a monumental task as far as wardrobes go: the glitzy parties hosted by the illusive Gatsby (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) required around 300 extras on set, each with a unique costume that evoked the film’s extravagant setting of 1920s New York. Brooks Brothers supplied the men’s suits and Prada offered help with the women’s costumes, inspired by all of the glamour of the time period. Tiffany & Co. provided the all-important jewels for the stars: a security guard was provided by the jeweller to be with the diamonds when they were out of the safe. Despite all of the chic cocktail dresses and sleek gowns that featured sequins, metallic fabrics, and feathers in ample amounts, the most expensive single costume in the film was a satin pyjama set that the leading lady, played by Carey Mulligan, lounged in. Overall, the costumes looked as fresh and thrilling to modern audiences as similar designs must have seemed to New York socialites back in the 1920s. The final budget of the film was a massive $100 million.
9 Anna Karenina (2012): Film budget $31 million
The tasteful high fashion of this adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel embraced the spirit of the fashion of Imperial Russia, rather than getting caught up in precisely copying the designs from the era. Costume designer Jaqueline Durran has noted that she did not try to recreate historically accurate costumes from the 19th century; rather, she was inspired by 1950s dresses by the likes of Dior when developing the stars’ looks. The mostly dark and sumptuous gowns focused on shape rather than detail and provided a sense of drama throughout the film, helping to unfold the emotional story of Anna Karenina (played by Kiera Knightley). Although the glamorous gowns looked expensive and would have been right at home on a runway, the movie had a relatively tight overall budget of only $31 million.
8 Coco Before Chanel (2009): Production budget of $26 million
In this biographical French film about the iconic designer’s early life and career starring Audrey Tatou, the costumes were largely focused on what Coco might have worn during her days as a young, struggling seamstress. As the story about the young Chanel unfolds throughout the movie, clothing choices provide subtle clues as to how her signature style evolved. The clever use of clothing pieces by the movie’s costume designer Catherine Leterrier, such as a striped fisherman’s shirt elevated to a chic separate by Coco in one scene of the film, provides hints as to where Coco drew her inspiration. Perhaps one of the most memorable outfits in the movie, however, was when the young Coco was wearing a simple, chic, impeccably cut ball gown dancing in a room with other woman wearing frilly, stiff and clearly outdated pastel gowns, a clear indication of just how revolutionary the designer’s mind was. The movie’s production budget was around $26 million.
7 Marie Antoinette (2006): Kristen Dunst wore 60 different gowns
Designer Milena Canonero brought the sumptuousness of 18th century French aristocracy to life with her work on Marie Antoinette. Pastels, rich brocades, impeccable detailing helped bring the ladies of 1700s Versailles back to life. The dozens of looks worn by the French queen (played by Kristen Dunst) throughout the film evoked the rococo era and extravagant atmosphere of Versailles. Kristen Dunst wore 60 different gowns in the movie, not to mention several larger-than-life tall wigs like the ones that the iconic queen once modeled. The sometimes over-the-top costumes, pastel shoes and candy-colored jewels reflected the rigid atmosphere of Versailles, while in some more pastoral scenes of the movie, the dresses lightened up when Marie Antoinette relaxed in her country escape. Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette had a budget of $40 million.
6 Moulin Rouge (2001): Film budget of $53 million
This frenzied movie provided viewers with a visual overload and, fittingly, earned an Oscar for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. Feathers, boas, over-the-top sparkle: not necessarily meant to be historically accurate to the belle époque era of Paris when the Moulin Rouge nightclub was enjoying its heyday, Baz Lurhmann’s movie nonetheless captured the exuberance, energy and excitement of the era through artistic details such as the flamboyant costumes. Designed by Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie, the costumes were an integral part of the storytelling, emphasizing the various moods of the movie’s main character: from seductive black to frothy and fun pink feathers, to a dramatic red gown during a pivotal scene where the main character Satine, played by Nicole Kidman, falls in love, the costumes were very much a part of this story. The movie’s budget was around $53 million. To this day, a number of seamstresses sell knock-off versions of Satine’s iconic red dress online for several hundred dollars.
5 Titanic (1997): Film budget of $200 million
Although the fashion captured the sophistication of the ladies of the first class on one of the world’s most luxurious, albeit doomed, ocean liners of all time, the most memorable item worn in the movie would probably be that recognizable jewel-encrusted blue “diamond” heart necklace worn by the main character, Rose, played by Kate Winslet. The actual necklace used in the movie was not a real diamond (or even sapphire); instead, it was cubic zirconia set in white gold and cost $10,000. The costumes were historically accurate to the period and took a year for the wardrobe department to make. The movie, one of the highest-grossing films of all time at about 1.8 trillion dollars grossed worldwide from its initial theatrical release, came with a steep price tag: it had a $200 million budget.
4 Evita (1996): Gown worn by Madonna sold at auction for over $22,000
Fashion certainly played a prominent role in this movie, which starred one of the world’s most famous style icons, Madonna, as one of history’s greatest fashion icons, Eva Peron, in the dramatic film adaptation of the musical. In the movie, Madonna had 85 costume changes, which earned a Guinness World Record for the most costume changes in a single movie. Many of the film’s costumes were actually based off of the stunning outfits that the real Evita once wore when addressing her beloved Argentinian people or making public appearances. Among the movie’s most iconic costumes were a mink coat copied from an actual coat Evita once wore, serious and chic suits, a glamorous pale ball gown worn in a pivotal tango scene, and delicate silk robes. In 2011, a black ball gown worn by Madonna in the film sold at auction for over $22,000.
3 My Fair Lady (1964): Iconic dress sold at auction for $4.5 million
Starring one of the greatest fashion icons of the 20th century, Audrey Hepburn wore many unforgettable pieces in this 1964 film based on the classic play Pygmalion, about the transformation of a lower-class girl into a sophisticated lady. Considering the story, clothing was intrinsic to the unfolding tale of the woman transforming into a social butterfly. One of the film’s most iconic costumes, the Ascot dress, a frothy white lace gown with glamorous black velvet ribbon trim, is the definition of a showstopper, especially when it was paired with a dramatic picture hat trimmed in black with white and black ostrich feathers. The look was created by famed costume designer Cecil Beaton, who won the Oscar for the best costume design for his work on this film. In 2011, the Ascot dress sold at auction for a staggering $4.5 million dollars.
2 Cleopatra (1963): One of the most expensive movies ever made
One of the most fashionable ladies in the history of Hollywood, Liz Taylor, wore some of the most regal outfits that cinema had ever seen in her role as the infamous empress in this 1963 film. To begin with, Cleopatra was one of the most expensive movies ever made: it has been estimated that, in present-day dollars, the film cost around $300 million to make and the budget for Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes alone was around $1.4 million in today’s dollars. Liz wore 65 different costumes in the movie, which featured metallic fabrics, elaborate headpieces, a stunning winged cape, and of course plenty of accessories with jewels and coins. Fit for a queen, some of the costumes were even made with 24kt gold. The work of the film’s costume designers, Renie Conley, Vittorio Nino Novarese and Irene Sharaff, earned them an Academy Award.
1 Gone With the Wind (1939): Dress worn by Vivien Leigh auctioned for over $56,000
Despite being in black and white, this 1939 classic featured ball gowns that took viewers back to the beautiful 19th century Southern U.S. The movie’s costumes were worthy of the film’s epic status. Iconic outfits that featured hoop skirts, corsets and bonnets were swoon-worthy on their own. The star, Vivien Leigh, wore an unforgettable green “curtain dress” as well as a beautiful, and aptly colored, red dress in one of the movie’s most poignant scenes. A blue accordion-sleeved negligée dress worn by Vivien in the film was auctioned in 2013 for over $56,000.
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