Famed costume designer Edith Head said, “A designer is only as good as the star who wears her clothes.” Whether that’s true or not, having your designs in a major movie certainly doesn’t hurt. And in some films, the “costumes” have played more than just a supporting role. In honor of this season’s design hopefuls on The Fashion Fund Season 2, we’re ranking the top films that prove fashion can turn a character into an icon.
7. Bonnie and Clyde
Theodora Van Runkle’s designs for 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde melded the historical fashions of the 1930s with the prevaling styles of the late 60’s. Van Runkle also wanted to ensure that Bonnie’s costumes were believable for the speedy lifestyle of someone on the lam. The effortlessly cool, almost tomboy-ish look of Faye Dunaway’s calf-length skirt, knit sweater, and beret became instant fashion trends that stuck around well beyond the closing credits.
6. American Gigolo
In the 1980 film American Gigolo, director Paul Schrader chose a then little-known Italian designer named Giorgio Armani to provide the sexy, slouchy suits and other looks for the main character, a high-end prostitute played by Richard Gere. Gere’s character was all style and no substance, but what a style! Armani’s rise to power in America followed soon after the film’s release.
5. The Devil Wears Prada
The 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada is the only title on this list that is actually, purposefully about fashion. As such it also boasts the most costume changes and to-die-for looks. Main characters played by Anne Hathaway (the ingenue) and Meryl Streep (the icy boss) get the bulk of the fabulous fashions, but other characters get their fair share as well. Chanel, Pucci, Gucci, and their friends parade across the screen in an endless parade of fashion fantasy.
4. Gone With The Wind
It doesn’t get more over-the-top than 1939’s sweeping epic, Gone With The Wind. More a reflection of the time it was made than the actual experience of the Civil War and its aftermath, the film is still bursting with iconic moments. And in every one, Scarlett is there with the absolute perfect outfit for the moment (hello green curtains dress!). Walter Plunkett’s designs for Vivien Leigh are not only beautiful, they are symbols of Scarlett’s journey.
While the characters in 1995’s Clueless live in a fantasy world, their fashion choices had real-world implications in the late 90’s. Had anyone worn plaid vests and over-the-knee stockings before? Well we all certainly tried after that. Perhaps more importantly, the film rejected grunge almost entirely and paved the way for the next phase of popular fashion. It also cemented the teenage fashionista as a new archetype of movies and television. For good or ill.
2. Annie Hall
Menswear for women may have had earlier icons (Katherine Hepburn or Marlene Dietrich, for example), but Diane Keaton brought it into the modern era with Annie Hall. Keaton’s fashions in the Woody Allen flick mostly consisted of items from her own wardrobe, infusing the style with believability and wearability. The iconic looks inspired swaths of women to style their looks with vests, blazers, etc. And really, women have never looked back.
1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Perhaps no star is a more beloved fashion icon than Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn worked with Hubert de Givenchy on multiple films, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s is their masterpiece. The long “little black dress” worn by Audrey’s character, Holly Golightly, in the film’s opening sequence has inspired legions of fashion followers to pick up and move to New York City. It is one of the most recognizable film fashions of all time, and in 2006, the satin dress fetched $923,187 at auction.