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  • Writer's pictureLIV The Fashion

The Unforgettable Costumes of Film

Many films over the last 100 years have not only become iconic because of their storyline and the actors who star in them but because of their unforgettable costumes. Costumes from films have the ability to stay with us for years to come, shaping some of the greatest fashion trends we have today.

From the feisty leather suit in Catwoman to Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's, below are 10 of the most iconic costumes from films in the last 100 years.


1. The Emerald Green Dress in 'Atonement'

The 1930's styled dress, created by Jacqueline Durran was certainly unexpected as the silk fabric and intense green colour was unfitting of the wartime setting. Although the dress was designed with elements which would be seen as fashionable in this time period, such as the bare shoulders, Durran incorporated modern influences to create an unpredicted style.


2. 'Catwoman's' Feisty Leather Suit

In the 1992 'Catwoman movie', Selina Kyle played by Michelle Pfeiffer pieces together her iconic outfit in her apartment. The skintight leather suit and clawed gloves transforms her into the feisty and dangerous character we associate 'Catwoman' as. The transformation of her appearance acts as a metaphor for her changing personality, from being defeated to becoming a strong and powerful character.


3. Audrey Hepburn's 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' Dress

The little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' is one of the most unforgettable dresses to ever appear in film and was designed by Hubert de Givenchy. The first design of the dress was rejected by Paramount pictures as it was deemed too revealing of Hepburn's legs. Costume supervisor Edith Head redesigned the lower half, creating it of a longer length, giving it a more elegant look.

Considering the dress is one of the most well-known film outfits, it is surprising how simple the design is. The simplicity of the dress enabled it to be loved by so many, causing the 'Little Black Dress' trend to take place for years to come. The iconic dress has been recreated by many other celebrities such as Natalie Portman in 2006 for Harpers Baazar.


4. 'Black Panther' and The Embroidered Red Armour

Lupita Nyong'o plays the character Nakia in the film 'Black Panther' and is seen wearing an empowering red armor outfit. The embroidery within the central fabric stands out as a beautiful piece of art that she is wearing. The armor which contains metal plates around her neck and wrists create a sense of strength and empowerment which captures Nakia's character perfectly.


5. The many influential costumes in 'Cleopatra'

Throughout the film, many extravagant outfits were worn by Elizabeth Taylor who played Cleopatra. The costume designer Renie Conley ensured the designs would emphasize the actresses beauty and sexuality which showed historical accuracy. Through her accurate portrayal of Cleopatra's personality through the outfits, Conley won the 1963 Academy Award for best costume design.

The costumes were extremely influential as they popularised trends such as maxi dresses, arm cuffs, snake rings, geometric haircuts and even the 'Cleopatra Eye' makeup trend, many of which we still see today.


6. The bright coloured outfits in 'House of Flying Daggers'

The art like outfits within the film were inspired by Chinese paintings of the period it was set in (859 AD), which added a sense of authenticity to the film. The costumes had remarkable detailing and used bright colours which was a signature of director Zhang Zimou's work. The detailing and strong colours led Emi Wada to win a BAFTA for best costume design in 2004.


7. The Droogs Dresscode in 'A Clockwork Orange'

'A Clockwork Orange' is set within a dystopian Britain where the Droogs are a group of hyper-violent criminals. The group are seen wearing futuristic and eccentric white jumpsuits paired with bowler hats, a cane and long fake eyelashes. The outlandish costumes are a reflection of the other-worldly and unsettling tone of the film.

Even though the outfits are quirky, they have a simplicity to them which has enabled them to appear on mood boards and catwalks for years to come, such as KTZ's Fall/ Winter 2015 collection.

The costume was designed by Milena Canonero and has elements of different classes. Though bowler hats were worn by the working class in the 19th century, both them and the canes are commonly associated with the upper class. Through physically attacking the upper class using symbols of privilege (the cane), he is making a mockery of them through his crimes. The costume itself can be associated as an attack against the upper class.


8. The Velvet Curtain Dress in 'Gone With The Wind'

Within the film, Scarlett O' Hara who is played by Vivien Leigh does not want the character Rhett Butler to know she can not afford a new dress when going to visit him in prison. Instead, she creates her own dress using curtains and her mothers pattern pieces. The costume designer Walter Plunkett used moss- green chartreuse velvet that he exposed to sunlight to achieve the faded appearance that the curtains would have.


9. Natalie Portman's Change of Outfit In 'Black Swan'

The character Nina Sayers struggles with her dark side throughout the film, which ends up entirely consuming her. This is portrayed within her change of outfit into a black feathered tutu which is embellished with Swarvoski crystals. The change from the white tutu which represents her vulnerable and pure side into the black tutu which represents her deceptive side demonstrated a struggle between good and evil. The black fabric of the costume is a representation of the danger the dark side will cause.


10. 'Easy Rider' Outfits Inspired By The Counterculture Movement In The US

The film 'Easy Rider' was set in 1969 when cultural rifts were emerging in the middle- class youths. The movie featured a biker duo who distanced themselves from society, in order to find freedom. The signature biker style of the two men became a representation of the counterculture movement which was taking place in that time period.

One of the main characters, Fonda wore a leather jacket with an American flag stitched on, which ironically became a symbol of alienation. Meanwhile, Hopper was known for wearing a fringed jacket and cowboy hat which became a modern-day symbol of American's most defined representations of freedom.


I hope you have found this blog useful and has provided you with some information on your favourite outfits from films. Please like and subscribe to the page below to get updates on the blog.

- Liv x

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Image bibliography:



Breakfast at Tiffany's:

Black Panther:


House of Flying Daggers:

A Clockwork Orange:

Gone with the wind:

Black Swan:

Easy Rider:

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