Lights, camera, fashion. From cult indie flicks to cultural phenomena, the most stylish fashion movies of all time make for the ultimate movie marathons. Arguably more so than on the catwalk or the pages of glossy magazines, the silver screen is where fashion becomes truly immortalised.
Some ensembles are so seminal they defined an era, while others catapulted their wearer from starlet to sartorial icon. From the understated yet instantly recognisable appeal of Gwyneth Paltrow's Margot in The Royal Tenenbaums right through to the lavish displays of excess in Baz Luhrmann’s catalogue of work, stylish films can be just as rewarding for the sartorially conscious as for the cinephile.
If the shoe fits
While the Scarecrow hoped for a heart and the lion coveted courage, fashion-forward Wizard of Oz viewers set their sights on Dorothy’s inimitable ruby-red slippers. MGM's Chief Costume Designer Gilbert Adrian produced five versions of the infamous shoes for the 1939 film, each sewn with 2,300 sequins. The pair Judy Garland slipped on to perform her dance scenes are currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum, while another was auctioned at Christie's for $666,000 in 2000.
Seven year stitch
Costumier William Travilla may have referred to it as “that silly little dress”, but his pioneering design for Marilyn Monroe’s subway-grate scene in The Seven Year Itch captured the imagination of a generation, making it one of the most stylish films of all time. With its plunging neckline, '50s-housewife flared hem and virginal ivory colour, the silky style captured the paradoxical character of the woman who wore it: sexy yet playful, daring yet naive, vulnerable yet entirely in control.
Encapsulating contemporary athleisure chic before it became a trend, The Royal Tenenbaums' Margot – played by Gwyneth Paltrow – sports a custom-created striped Lacoste dress, Fendi mink coat and brown leather Birkin bag as her signature look. Along with a statement angular bob and kohl-rimmed eyes, Margot is bestowed with an intoxicating combination of aloofness and come-hither sensuality. To match the former child prodigy, her adopted brother and secret love Richie also opts for a retro sportswear style, as seen by Lacoste for men on the catwalk for SS16.
A flash of fashion
Flashdance, starring Jennifer Beals as the part-welder, part-dancer heroine, also championed athleisure. She represented the zenith of 1980s style in relaxed workout clothing, a trend experiencing a reboot with modern-day feminist Beyoncé releasing her sports-inspired Ivy Park collection earlier in 2016. The fleece jersey fabric worn by Beals’ character throughout one of the decade's true fashion films was partly inspired by New York designer Norma Kamali, who was the first to use the material on the catwalk in 1980.
All the world’s a catwalk
Black Swan gives the off-duty-dancer look a contemporary update, but the film's feathered tutus are the true showpieces. Designed by Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte, the costumes are dramatic, dark and slightly disturbing, embodying the brand’s tendency to draw inspiration from Japanese horrors. Balmain captured a hint of the same drama with exaggerated ruffles, intense inky tones and statuesque silhouettes with its SS16 womenswear collection.
Auteur Baz Luhrmann’s stylish movies are renowned for their dazzling sets and daring outfits. The director has collaborated with costume designer Catherine Martin on some of the most playfully stylish ensembles – including Leonardo DiCaprio’s palm-printed silk shirt and Claire Danes' otherworldly angel wings in Romeo + Juliet.
The film transformed Hawaiian shirts from the sole preserve of burnt dads on beaches into a wardrobe staple for discerning young men. SS16’s obsession with all things ‘90s has seen the item in different iterations on the catwalk for everyone from Our Legacy to Valentino.
Also embodying ‘90s style is cult classic Clueless. Mainlining high fashion to its audience though the sartorially enthusiastic Cher and best friend Dionne, the film’s costume designer worked with a minuscule budget, begging and borrowing pieces from designers. Alaïa was particularly generous in its donations, leading to the use of the French fashion house’s clothing in some of the film’s most memorable scenes. When Cher is mugged in The Valley she’s wearing the label’s red slip dress and burgundy coat, adorned with a feathered collar and sleeves.
Even Karl Lagerfeld himself couldn't resist referencing the formative flick, slotting Cher’s idea for a Chanel water bottle holder into his AW94 collection.
The devil's in the detail
No exploration of fashion's influence on the cinema would be complete without a nod to The Devil Wears Prada. Director David Frankel provided Sex and the City stylist Patricia Fields with one of the largest costume budgets in celluloid history for one of history's most renowned fashion movies. Although it is more than 10 years old, everything from fresh-faced assistant Andy's double-breasted Chanel jacket and thigh-high boots to intimidating magazine editor Miranda Priestly’s impressive arsenal of sharply tailored suits are just as covetable today. The clean lines and streamlined silhouettes of Prada are a clear influence in the film, inspiring professional working women to adopt a little devilish design into their wardrobes.
In no small part due to the most stylish films of all time, the intensely visual quality of cinema as an art form has forged an enduring relationship between movies and the world of fashion.