The best costumes in film of all time part one

There are hundreds of iconic and much-loved costumes in film, whether it’s from a period-drama, a Hollywood classic, a musical or a modern-day favourite – there are so many it’s difficult to narrow them down to just a few … so here’s On Screen Fashion’s part one of the best costumes in film of all time.

One: The Seven Year Itch

I don’t think there’s anybody in the entire world that isn’t familiar with this costume … probably the most iconic costume in the film industry. The beautiful blonde bombshell herself Marilyn Monroe is in an ivory cocktail dress and in this particular scene, standing above a subway in New York which is also classed as one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. The style of this dress was popular in the 1950s and 1960s with the design being very revealing due to the halter neck, plunging neckline and pleated skirt which meant the legs, arms, shoulders and back were bare. The dress was designed by costume designer William Travilla and last year sold for $5.6 million at auction.

Two: Moulin Rouge

Nicole Kidman starring as Satine in romantic jukebox-musical Moulin Rouge wears this stunning costume while working her job as a cabaret actress/dancer at a night club. The silver rhinestone covered bodice has a black rhinestone covered bow tie  with silver star detail on her hips, fringe detail also on her hips and fringe detail dipped at the back. The top hat is made from black beaver-skin (dislike!) with black braid around the brim alongside silver diamantes. Costume designer Catherine Martin wanted the clothing to communicate the feeling of the late 19th century/early 20th century while also interpreting the looks for a modern audience. All of the dancers costumes are very different due to inspiration being taken from buckets upon buckets of research from divas of the ’40s and ’50s.

Three. Atonement

Keira Knightley’s green dress has actually been described as the best film costume of all time in a poll conducted by Sky Movies and In Style magazine. Although I disagree with this title, it is undoubtedly a beautiful costume and one of the best costumes of all time. The dress was hand-made by costume designer Jacqueline Durran and the emerald-green colour was specifically chosen to represent temptation and to coincide with this novel extract it is adapted from – “As she pulled it on she approved of the firm caress of the bias cut through the silk of her petticoat, and she felt sleekly impregnable, slippery and secure; it was a mermaid who rose to meet her in her own full-length mirror.” Director Joe Wright worked alongside Jacqueline to make sure that the dress was true to the book and this dress was produced which is made from green silk and flows as she walks as if she were underwater. There are actually three different dresses in the film, all of the same cut and design yet the shades of green are altered slightly to reflect Cecelia’s (Keira Knightly) emotion which meant over 100 yards of white silk was dyed in order to create the desired effects.

Four: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

If a costume could incorporate simplicity, chic and elegance into one it would be this one worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1960’s romantic comedy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s made the LBD or little black dress a fashion staple in every women’s wardrobe and all these years on, this dress alongside her glamorous accessories is very much an iconic costume in film history. The slim, basic black dress was designed by French aristocrat Hubert de Givenchy, or more commonly known as Givenchy which has become a timeless piece. The sleeveless satin sheath evening gown is floor length with a fitted bodice embellishment at the back with a distinctive cut-out and the skirt slightly gathered. The dress is very classic and the finest example of British glamour – it isn’t too revealing due to the length of the dress and the elbow-length black gloves yet with the shoulders on show it showcases definitive femininity.

Five: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

There is a clear transformation from the first Elizabeth film which is shown in the way that Cate Blanchett is draped in very different costumes. It’s 27 years later, around 1585 and she’s become a powerful, confident monarch who has very obviously had a journey in the way that she presents herself. Not focusing on historical history, the director Shekhar Kapur wanted the colours to be very different from the first Elizabeth film – he wanted them much lighter and feminine, highlighting the emotional journey with Elizabeth wearing blue, the colour of yearning yet not traditionally associated with England. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne got her inspiration from both research of the Elizabethan period and modern fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood. The extraordinary scale of the skirt is deliberate, it’s to distinguish the space around her – you are not to be physically close to the queen therefore the skirt of the dress was much a much harder corset shape during public occasions.

To be continued …

The Artist; colour was important for the BAFTA winning black and white film.

The film industry has been going crazy over the new black and white near-silent film The Artist  – so crazy for it that it’s been winning pretty much everything this year. Whether you sat down and watched the Golden Globes and the BAFTA’s this year or caught some of the highlights, you are sure to have seen the charming Jean Dujardin explain how his agent rejected him in the past for having too much of an ‘expressive face’ or the life-saving Jack Russell Terrier, Uggie jumping around on stage.

Here’s a quick run through of how well loved this film is – six nominations for the Golden Globes (the most of any 2011 film) and won three; Best Motion Picture in Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score and Best Actor  in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Dujardin. It was also nominated for twelves BAFTAS (again the most of any film from 2011) and won seven – the most wins of the night including Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Dujardin (I bet his agent is kicking himself.) With the OSCARS fast approaching (27th February) the film is set to be winning even more awards as it is nominated for ten including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor for Dujardin (again) and Best Supporting Actress for his co-star  Bérénice Bejo. Not bad, not bad at all. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do right away.

Oh no. Now I’ve gotten carried away and forgot to mention the most important part, well, in terms of this blog post … Mark Bridges (Boogie Nights, The Fighter), the costume designer of The Artist walked away with the BAFTA for Best Costume Design just over a week ago and very deservingly so.

Those of you who follow me on the On Screen Fashion Twitter  page or my personal Twitter page or even those of you who know me personally will have heard me say this – “What a face!” – Dujardin really does have the best face, so very like-able.

Ok, I’m losing track again.

Based in the late 1920s and early 1930s, The Artist is based in old-school Hollywood where silent films are going out of fashion and the birth of the talkies is apparent. Maybe surprising to some but a lot of the costumes in the film are bold, bright colours with a lot of detail to liven up the scene and brighten up the characters. As said by Bridges himself – “Things that you wouldn’t notice in color suddenly showed up when it became black and white,” he said. “A simple beaded flapper dress suddenly became maternity wear.”

While admiring the costumes throughout the film, e.g. the coral, 1920s silk dress we see Peppy Miller wearing with the royal blue tie and ivory cloche hat, I couldn’t help but find it hard to imagine these costumes ever worn in the ‘real world’ – they are just too charming and Hollywood-film-like… if that makes sense. In the film the dress is shown as a medium-grey tone but has a wonderful contrast due to the tie and collar – without this contrast the dress would have looked very dull and shown Miller very differently emotionally, as well as physically.

Dujardin portrays George Valentin – the silent film expert who has to deal with the heartache of his career potentially being over due to the talkies replacing silent film. Bridges used many images of John Gilbert – a silent film actor of the same period for inspiration for Valentin’s costume – the pair are almost identical and even both rock moustaches. We see two very different sides of Valentin in the film, costume-wise, to highlight the changes that are happening in his life. The upbeat, happy Valentin wears a dapper black suit, white shirt, white bow-tie combo whereas the depressed Valentin is shown (after just sold his expensive suit to make money) – staring hastily at his reflection in the shop window wearing a grubby grey suit and a messy, unbuttoned shirt underneath.

With just eight weeks to gather all of the costumes, and after a lot of silent film watching, Bridges found it difficult to find clothing in a wearable state – being 80-years-old and all. Some of the dresses worn in the film were real dresses from the 1920s but many had to be remade in silk because of many of the wearable dresses being cotton which wasn’t the look he was attempting. Being based in Los Angeles amongst excellent costume rental shops, tailors, dressmakers and shoemakers, I’m  sure it would have made the fast-moving experience a little easier, and anyway – everybody can do with a little pressure in their working-lives right?

When I didn’t think that everything in this film could be any more charming (his face, the dog, her face, the dancing…), I go and read that Bérénice Bejo is going to start wearing her costumes on the red carpet. How lovely is that?

Good luck to The Artist and all of the awards it is nominated for at the OSCARS (especially for Best Costume Design).

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