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11 of the most iconic movie costumes of all time

Cate Blanchett in Carol, 2015

Whether you’re seeking dress-up inspiration from the big screen or simply want to delve into cinema’s greatest style hits, look no further than the movies renowned for their striking sartorial credentials. By KATIE BERRINGTON


Carol, 2015

Award-winning costume designer Sandy Powell looked to 1950s high fashion for the structured silhouettes and extravagant materials worn by Cate Blanchett as the titular character in Todd Haynes’ Manhattan-based romantic drama. Her wardrobe, reflecting her socialite status and the upper-class trends of the era, is sumptuous, but the key element lies in the elegant accessorizing – from spectacular jewelry sets and leather gloves to statement scarves and hats.

Gemma Chan in Crazy Rich Asians, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians, 2018

The costumes shared center stage with the cast – which includes Constance Wu, Gemma Chan and Michelle Yeoh – in the onscreen adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 best-selling book. Costume designer Mary E. Vogt incorporated couture from major fashion houses, such as Marchesa and Ralph & Russo, as well as bespoke pieces into the enviable wardrobes of the characters, from sleek pin-striped suiting to a frothy confection of gowns.

Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim, 2019

Queen & Slim, 2019

Melina Matsoukas’ critically acclaimed movie debut brought in esteemed stylist Shiona Turini, who spotlighted a number of Black designers – both established and rising stars – to make the film’s visuals as impactful as its story (penned by Lena Waithe). Particularly memorable is Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen’s on-the-run attire: the brown, form-fitting Adam Selman mini dress paired with Brother Vellies snakeskin boots.

Pulp Fiction, 1994

Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 cult classic has really quite workable style for those looking for dress-up ideas that don’t deviate from wardrobe staples. Her most well-known outfit is, of course, the crisp white shirt and cropped black pants, complete with ballet flats kicked off for that dance scene. To truly channel her look, though, a sharp black bob is essential.

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, 1994
Lupita Nyong’o in Black Panther, 2018

Black Panther, 2018

Amongst the many plaudits that Marvel’s Black Panther received was an Oscar for costume designer Ruth E. Carter, whose exquisite, elaborate garments were inspired by extensive research into indigenous dress, armor and artwork rooted in African traditions. The designs were reimagined without the influence of colonization and into a fantasy superhero future for the wardrobes of the fictional Wakanda, where color was critical in delineating the different tribes of characters. Cutting-edge technology was used to bring the designs into fruition – such as the regal shoulder mantle and crown, worn by Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, inspired by traditional Zulu hats and created with 3D printing.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961

It is nigh-on impossible to talk about fashion on film without mentioning Audrey Hepburn’s most famous onscreen turn, as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. As legendary as its leading lady herself is her instantly recognizable and oft-imitated poster ensemble – consisting of a black sheath dress (two were custom-made by Hubert de Givenchy for the film) with diamonds, elbow-length velvet gloves and oversized sunglasses.

Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001

The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001

Any Wes Anderson movie can be relied on for its eye-catching visuals, with costumes playing a significant part in the storyline and character development. The Royal Tenenbaums was no different, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Margot Tenenbaum has since become something of a sartorial icon, thanks to her signature look of Hermès handbag, striped tennis dress, statement coat and barrette-shaped bob.

Mahogany, 1975

Starring Diana Ross as Tracy Chambers, a struggling student who attains global stardom as a supermodel then fashion designer, the wardrobe in this rags-to-riches story (produced by Motown Productions) is – unsurprisingly – as sumptuous as the soundtrack. A lesson in maximalist style, think dramatic eyelashes and even more dramatic gowns.

Diana Ross in Mahogany, 1975
Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby, 2013

The Great Gatsby, 2013

Baz Luhrmann’s glitzy 2013 cinematic adaptation of the 1920s novel enlisted the likes of Prada and Miu Miu to collaborate with costumer Catherine Martin on opulent outfitting for the cast. The results were a visual feast, as the decade’s legendary glamour was brought to life through a contemporary lens – making for ideal inspiration to party like it’s 1925. Beading and embroidery galore.

Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love, 2000

In the Mood for Love, 2000

Costume and color palette play a key role in Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 love story, set in 1960s Hong Kong – so much so that it has since been cited as references for several designers’ runway collections. Maggie Cheung in the leading role of Mrs Chan is impeccably dressed in an array of brightly hued and intricately designed cheongsams. These were slightly revised in style from the traditional garment popularized in 1920s Shanghai, to keep with the movie’s ’60s backdrop.

Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash, 2015

A Bigger Splash, 2015

For Luca Guadagnino’s characteristically stylish 2015 movie, Tilda Swinton played David Bowie-esque rock star Marianne. Her costumes are suitably impressive (many designed by Raf Simons in his Dior days) and evocative of the kind of summer nostalgia that Guadagnino does so brilliantly. The laid-back Sicilian chic comprizes easy shirt dresses, striped one-pieces and many scene-stealing pairs of sunglasses.

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