Films often attain iconic status not only for their stories told, but for the beautiful way their stories are delivered through costume. I have compiled by no means an exhaustive list, but a handful of some of my favorite looks from very stylish movies that left an impression, and in their own way inspire on my own style choices.
This dress Sabrina wears to the ball held by her chauffeur father’s well-to-do employee family, for whose youngest son she is hopelessly and unrequitedly in love. She has just returned from cooking school in Paris (her father’s attempt at distracting her from her lovesickness) and dons this Hubert de Givenchy dress just for the occasion. Everyone notices.
This film has no shortage of sartorial eye candy, but the most striking of these looks to me is Frances Stevens’ over-the-top resort attire for the French Riveria. Designed by Edith Head, she wears a form-fitted, black, high-neck halter with black capris, over which she ties a white linen overlay skirt, white sinamay hat, and matching tote. By contrast, those around her in the hotel lobby sport more conservative twinsets and stuffy suits, so her dramatically chic look draws (to her delight) a lot of attention. She is the picture of elegance as she heads out to the beach.
Though she only has three scenes in the movie, Yvonne’s look when she’s sitting at the bar at Rick’s Café, is fabulous. Having just been rejected by the aforementioned Rick, she decides to get drunk and unruly at his establishment, but looks great doing it. She wears a white, sequined, fringy cropped jacket as a top, with typical 1940s-style structured shoulders and a dramatic neckline held together by a piece of jewelry. You really only see the top of her ensemble, but I believe it is paired with high waisted, stovepipe trousers. Such a strong, feminine look letting Rick know what he’s missing.
Set in the early 1960s, Frances, or “Baby” as she is not-so-subtly called by everyone, is vacationing in the Catskills with her family. She experiences an awakening to her own womanhood and learns to dance while falling for the resort dance teacher. In the final scene, she wears a blush pink, chiffon dress that seems to signal a farewell to her childhood and at the same time perfectly displays her new-found confidence and coming of age, as demonstrated by the most epic dance lift of all time.
Quite simply the most iconic bathing suit scene, Honey Rider, the first Bond girl, emerges from the sea from shell diving in an ivory cotton bikini complete with a belt for her knife. I love the simplicity and elegant cut that tastefully enhances her athletic build, yet beautifully showcases her certain femininity.
This film is visually dazzling, and this live-action version of a favorite fairy tale is a cut above the rest. Beauty’s costumes range from simple, austere countrygirl to absolute enchantress, dripping with saccharine fantasy. Her transformation, devised by the Beast to make her his queen, is spectacular. This particular gown Beauty wears as the Beast shows her his kingdom, is my favorite and in keeping with the grandeur of his world. It glistens on film with subtly metallic, ethereal sheen, and the scale of her sleeves and overall impact of this costume are that of which fairy tales are made.
Geneviève (one reason I’m partial to this movie) is a sales girl in an umbrella shop and in love with a mechanic, but their romance is interrupted when he is drafted into the Algerian war. Their tragic love story (and all of the dialogue) is told through song, vibrant 1960s color, and the most simply elegant costumes. The best for me is her understated trench coat, black pointy flats, and a black ribbon in her hair. Perfection.
The iconic sleuthing couple, Nick and Nora, have no shortage of rapid-fire witty banter in this film, the first in a series. Also in ample supply is Nora’s elegant and extravagant 1930s wardrobe (the outerwear!). Even lounging around their city apartment, she is chicly attired. My favorite of her ensembles is her Christmas party dress, a diagonally-striped and ruffled chiffon gown with fluttery movement as she gracefully floats about the apartment. Why shouldn’t one wear a gown for Christmas??