Since we have just passed the craziness of the Oscars and I am currently taking a Film class, I thought that it would be fun to talk about costumes, and some of my favourite movies for costumes.
This is nowhere near close to a complete list of fantastic costume designers, since there are so many that I missed or did not include either because they didn't fit properly into a category or because they have had so much coverage already.
So lets talk movies!
10) Musicals - Monte Carlo
My first category is musicals. I have never been a huge fan of musicals, but some of them have pretty incredible costumes. West Side Story has some of the prettiest 1950's prom style dresses, My Fair Lady has the iconic black and white dress with the massive white hat (this is one of my favourite musicals, and the first one that I saw), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has that fabulous, strapless pink gown for Marilyn Monroe, and the matching sparkly red dresses for Marilyn and Jane Russell. Grease is pretty hard to forget, although I never fully agreed with Sandy completely changing her style to be with Danny (whats wrong with a cute pink cardigan and an A-line skirt?). And I could never forget The Sound of Music's curtain play outfits or Liesl's pink dancing dress. Colleen Atwood designed some fabulous costumes for Sweeney Todd, all done in a very specific colour scheme.
Despite all of these amazing films, I chose Monte Carlo by Ernst Lubitsch for my favourite costumes in a Musical. The film, which was made in 1930, stars Jeanette MacDonald and Jack Buchanan. It's a fun little story about a bankrupt Countess who is looking for a rich husband, but falls in love with her hairdresser. Little does she know that her hairdresser is actually a Count. The costumes were all designed by Travis Banton, and they show the best of Hollywood fashion in the 1930s. Jeanette McDonald's costumes are fun and feminine, with layers of tulle and fur and every other luxurious trimming that could be used in the era. She also wears some lovely negligees and even a pair of lounge pants. In addition, this film is not very well known, which is why I chose it for this category.
9) Contemporary Films - Crazy Rich Asians
This category is less about actually designing the clothes and more about choosing them, but that doesn't make it any less important. I considered the cute, vintage styled outfits in The F Word (also known as What If), or To All the Boys I've Loved Before. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has the stunning yellow evening dress that she wore near the end, and Cameron Diaz has some pretty fantastic outfits in The Holiday. We don't take Rom Coms very seriously, but they put as much effort into choosing the wardrobe as any other movie.
I had almost no choice but to say that Crazy Rich Asians has the best current wardrobe in a Rom Com. Mary E. Vogt did an incredible job finding gowns that walk the fine line between gorgeous and ridiculous, exactly as I imagined them to be in the book. Obviously Constance Wu's Marchesa dress that she wore to the wedding was incredible, but I especially loved Gemma Chan's elegant wardrobe throughout the film.
8) Classics - The Big Sleep
The obvious choice for best costumes in a Classic would be pretty much anything that Audrey Hepburn has starred in or something that has Edith Head as the costume designer. Audrey Hepburn was costumed almost entirely by Givenchy, and Edith Head was responsible for some of the most iconic looks in Old Hollywood, such as the gowns in White Christmas and Vertigo. Most of Marilyn Monroe's costumes are also unforgettable, and have left a lasting impression on fashion such as the white dress in Some Like it Hot.
To be honest, I am in love with nearly every costume in every Classic Hollywood film. The men's suits are always impeccable, the women's day outfits are elegant and strong, and their evening attire is always jaw-dropping.
The Big Sleep might be a bit of an unusual choice for this category, but it is not as well known as the other films that I've mentioned, and it has left just as lasting an impact. Released in 1946 with costumes designed by Leah Rhodes, this movie introduced the genre of film noir. Lauren Bacall is mysterious and cool throughout the movie in perfect suits and slinky evening dresses. The version of 1940's fashion that we see in our heads was practically invented by Leah Rhodes in this movie, and you can see how it has inspired thousands of high fashion collections ever since.
7) Sci Fi and Dystopian - Blade Runner
It was a bit difficult to find options for this because tons of dystopian movie costumes aren't supposed to be beautiful. The Hunger Games costumes were well thought out with 1930's, Great Depression era styled costumes for those living in the districts and couture, ridiculously over the top dresses for those living in the Capital. Divergent separates each Faction with clothing, and Ex Machina focuses on how important clothes are to Ava. Mortal Engines has a great steampunk look with a few references to The Matrix with leather jackets and thin sunglasses.
Blade Runner was an easy choice for this, with the 1940's film noir look. I like the costumes best in the 1982 Blade Runner, done by Charles Knode (the strong shoulders, dark eyes and lips, and hair styles are iconic), but the costumes worn by Ana de Armas in Blade Runner 2049 are fantastic as well.
6) Fantasy - The Fall
Fantasy is such a fun genre for costume design because absolutely everything can be used. No fabric is too crazy, no country or era of inspiration is too unrealistic, no headpiece is too big. Lord of the Rings is one of the best known fantasy films, and it obviously has some lovely pieces. However, some of my favourites are Mirror Mirror with it's bright colours and huge gowns, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (not loved by all, but I will always remember the brilliant red dress in the first film and the military inspired pant outfit in the second), and the steampunk designs of Hugo. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a fun, fabulous spin on the 1920's, and Big Fish gives a dreamlike quality to the film with the circus inspired looks.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you will probably know that The Fall, directed by Tarsem Singh, is one of my all time favourite movies. Every single thing about this movie is stunning and thought provoking. It helps that the costumes were designed by the amazing, wonderful, distinctive Eiko Ishioka. Her colour choices are bold and bright in this movie, which fits in perfectly with the locations. She is known for her sculptural designs, and we get a good helping of those throughout the film with her delicate hats and head pieces. If you are ever in the mood for a beautiful, wistful, bittersweet film, this is the one for you.
5) Foreign Films - In the Mood for Love
Some of the best costumes come from foreign films. I will never forget the time that I first saw Amelie with her iconic hair and retro dresses, or Hero with it's monochromatic look. The Curse of the Golden Flower is one of the best examples of historical Chinese dress, and Belle de Jour has stunning 1960's fashion. Breathless gives us the most iconic of French fashion, and it did not have a costume designer - the outfits worn by Jean Seberg were all her own clothes that she brought for filming. Generation War (Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter) has some gorgeous 1940's fashion worn by Katharina Schüttler.
Once again, if you have read by blog for a length of time, you will have heard about In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-wai. So far I have made two dresses inspired by the ones that Maggie Cheung wears in the film, and I have brought the movie up on other occasions just to gush about how stunning it is. I'm even writing an essay about it for my film class. William Chang designed the cheongsam's that Maggie Cheung wears, all of them in stunning fabrics that both blend in and stand out in every scene. The saturated colours that she wears are right at home in the world that she lives in, probably because William Chang was also in charge of the set design.
4) Films set in the 20th Century - An Education
Anything set in the 20th century is right up my alley, and gives me most of the inspiration for the dresses that I make. It is impossible to forget the Green Dress from Atonement (designed by Jacqueline Durran, who also designed the dresses in Little Women, Anna Karenina, 2005 Pride and Prejudice, and Beauty and the Beast), or any of the quirky looks from Wes Anderson's movies. Some of my personal favourites are Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (the best of 1930's fashion), The Bookshop, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Great Gatsby.
Designers taking on 20th century can have a ton of fun because so much changed so quickly. Every 10 years there were new, majorly different trends that had popped up, and the later you get in the century the more options people had for style.
Women had much more freedom when it came to style in the 1960's, and one of my favourite examples of the era is An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig and costumes designed by Odile Dicks-Mireaux. The movie starts with innocent, schoolgirl fashion with plated plaid skirts and sweater sets, then moves on to expensive, high end fashion from the 1960's. Both Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan's costumes are to die for, with outfits that are a mix of elegant and extravagant.
3) Period Films - Bright Star
As can be expected, I absolutely love period films. I grew up on Jane Austen, and good period dramas are what have been getting me through midterms. This is no small genre- there are so many costume designers that specialize in period dramas. The Duchess and A Royal Affair are both excellent examples of 18th century fashion, and Marie Antoinette has a fun view of the same era. Gone with the Wind is still a popular period drama, and the curtain costume has been remade time and time again. Tulip Fever is a beautiful look at a unique era- the 1600's, which isn't shown nearly often enough. I also enjoyed the costumes in the newest version of Little Women, which ended up winning the Oscar for costume design this year!
My absolute favourite example of historical costumes is from Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion and costume design by Janet Patterson. The early 1800's are often stylized because it is an unusual look for the modern eye. I think that Janet Patterson took the most interesting, most unique and bizarre styles of the era and made them gorgeous even to the modern eye. Abbie Cornish got the best looks with her huge bonnets, pelisses (the long coat like she is wearing in the top photo) and spencers (a short jacket), and interesting evening gowns. It also helps that the character Abbie Cornish plays sews her own gowns.
2) Period a Bit to the Left - Anna Karenina
I didn't want to count these movies under Period Films because although they are all set in a historical era, the costume designers didn't intend for the costumes to be accurate to the time. A fantastic example of this is Moulin Rouge, with the 1800's/1900's flavoured ensembles with a twist. I also love Crimson Peak, with the natural form era gowns with morbid little details. The Sherlock Holmes movies by Guy Ritchie are a steampunk version of the bustle era.
My absolute favourite movie like this is Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright and costumes by Jacqueline Durran. Durran flawlessly mixed 1850's fashion with 1950's couture. I love the styles of both of these era's, and the end result is a theatrical, almost magical look. These costumes also work perfectly with how choreographed the movie is.
1) Films About Design - Phantom Thread
I couldn't help but include this as one last category. Films that focus on fashion or designers always have some of the best costumes in them, and I love seeing the things that I do on a daily basis up on the big screen. Some of the best movies about fashion are Coco Before Chanel, Oceans 8 (I loved the Zac Posen gown that Rihanna's character wore to the Met Gala), and The Devil Wears Prada.
My favourite movie that I have ever seen about a designer just has to be Phantom Thread, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and costumes by Mark Bridges. Not only does this movie do a great job at showing what designing, pattern drafting, and sewing actually looks like, it also has some pretty fabulous 1950's gowns.
What would you chose for each category? Do you have any recommendations?