18 Movies With The Best Fashion Sense Of All Time

Sometimes, from the moment you see the first poster, you can tell a movie is going to make you want to revamp your closet. Some go so far as to inspire trends that outlast anyone's memory of the film's plot. Other onscreen fashion sneaks up on you, and you don't quite realize until halfway through a movie that the lead actress' coat is telling you as much about her emotional development as her words. Whether it's in your face — shopping-montage-style — or more subtle, good fashion in movies can be better than in any magazine. Where else can you see 20-foot-tall beautiful people model clothing?

From the simple sophistication of Breakfast at Tiffany's to the playful '80s nostalgia of The Royal Tenenbaums, great costume designs mark characters' unique traits even as they inspire generations of copycats. Movies explicitly about fashion have to live up to big expectations, while movies filled with action, drama, or the prince of Zamunda's search for a wife manage to give us memorable costume moments we never knew we needed. Here, we're celebrating films with wardrobes we'd love to raid, even if it's just for one Halloween night or our fantasy trip to a ball.
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Gone With the Wind (1939)
We're not condoning the way this movie romanticizes slavery or the Old South, of course. But we can acknowledge the impact of the breathtaking 5,500 wardrobe items, including 40 outfits for Scarlett O'Hara, which Walter Plunkett designed for the film. Each piece of O'Hara's — from her demure picnic dresses to the emerald green curtains repurposed into a defiant look of survival — serve to illustrate her character's mood and position in society. Nope, we're not longing for those corsets or the "Mammy" to cinch them for us; we just can't take our eyes off that burgundy gown on Vivien Leigh.

Watch Gone with the Wind on YouTube.
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Funny Face (1957)
Before there was The Devil Wears Prada, there was a nerdy bookstore clerk (Audrey Hepburn) accidentally discovered by a magazine editor (Kay Thompson) and a photographer (Fred Astaire), and whisked off to Paris, where she really just wants to meet a philosopher she idolizes. Costume legend Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy make a very good case for the artistic value of fashion, most memorably with Hepburn's combo of a hip black turtleneck, black pants, white socks, and loafers.

Watch Funny Face on Amazon.
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Breathless (1960)
Here's another American in Paris, this time played by Jean Seberg, whose chill expat look, complete with an enviably flattering pixie cut, has inspired generations of copycats. Director Jean-Luc Godard didn't hire a costume designer for the film — about a criminal (Jean-Paul Belmondo) on the run who shacks up with an American girl who sells newspapers for a living — and the presumption is that the actors supplied their own clothing. If that's true, let us please go back in time and raid Seberg's closet for those striped dresses, sailor shirts, and pleated skirts.

Watch Breathless on Hulu.
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Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
We're not just talking about the ankle-length LBD Givenchy specially designed for Audrey Hepburn for the film. Every scene features a Givenchy outfit we'd kill for — the shorter black dress paired with a wide-brimmed hat, that orange coat, the pink rhinestone party dress, and even her casual cowl-neck sweater paired with cigarette pants. Also, don't forget how Patricia Neal's outfits make you want to grow up and be a glamorous sugar mama.

Watch Breakfast at Tiffany's on Netflix.
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The Great Gatsby (1974 & 2013)
The roaring '20s are so idolized by fashion designers and amateurs alike, you know these two adaptations of Fitzgerald's classic faced a lot of pressure to get the costumes just right. The 1974 version saw Mia Farrow in gauzy, dreamlike gowns to match her noncommittal character, while Robert Redford and company impressed in their Ralph Lauren suits, earning costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge an Oscar despite the film's poor reception. In 2013, Baz Luhrmann enlisted his Oscar-winning wife Catherine Martin for costume duties, and she decided not to take the '20s setting too literally. With the help of Miuccia Prada, she added a bit more body-conscious sex appeal (okay, boobs) to the androgynous styles of the era, and took inspiration from vintage fashion sketches to alter Prada and Miu Miu designs. The results are swoon-worthy, and again nabbed the Oscar.

Watch the 1974 Great Gatsby on Netflix, and the 2013 version on Amazon.
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Mahogany (1975)
The giant ostrich feathers, the rainbow colors, the bright-orange, Asian-inspired dress, all those sashes — every extravagant fashion that makes you think "Diana Ross" is contained in this movie about an aspiring fashion designer torn between her love life in Chicago and her dream career in Rome. Ross herself is credited as the designer of these over-the-top creations, which have since been seen on drag queens and divas the world over.

Watch Mahogany on YouTube.
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Annie Hall (1977)
Diane Keaton herself was responsible for the trendsetting menswear style everyone now calls "the Annie Hall look." When she showed up for a scene dressed in those khakis, a button-up shirt, tie, and vest — an ensemble Keaton liked to sport offscreen — the movie's stylist Ruth Morley said it looked too crazy. Woody Allen insisted she go with it, though.

Watch Annie Hall on YouTube.
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Pretty in Pink (1986)
Let's put this out there: Even Molly Ringwald hated Andie's awkwardly sewn homemade prom dress, costume designer Marilyn Vance told Dazed and Confused. We're including this movie for everything else she, Duckie (Jon Cryer), Blane (Andrew McCarthy), Steff (James Spader), and Iona (Annie Potts) wear. Duckie and Iona taught us all how to do vintage-as-punk, while Andie's ultra-femme floral and lace ensembles introduced many to the appeal of grandma chic. Blane and Steff, meanwhile, make their oversized blazers look completely appropriate for high school boys.

Watch Pretty in Pink on Amazon.
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Coming to America (1988)
Though Zamunda, the country ruled by King Joffer (James Earl Jones), father to Crown Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), is completely fictional, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis did her homework, combining aristocratic looks from Gambia, Senegal, and Kenya. The bright African prints were soon mainstays of street fashion (though how much of this is actually due to the movie's influence is difficult to tease out). Lisa's cotton-candy pink wedding dress was another perfect dramatic moment in the comedy. And while we hope no one goes around wearing the king's lion-head shawl or the prince's ocelot one, we do love that Beyoncé channeled Akeem's betrothed (Vanessa Bell) at the Met Gala this year.

Watch Coming to America on Netflix.
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Clueless (1995)
According to costume designer Mona May, the background set of this movie was purposely gray and muted so that everything Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne (Stacey Dash) wore onscreen would pop. And oh, do they ever, particularly Cher's bright-yellow plaid skirt and blazer, and Dionne's crazy hats. Designer Azzedine Alaia generously lent some pieces to the tightly budgeted film, which is why, we assume, he gets a special nod as Cher's being mugged on the street. Now, when can we get our own closet computer?

Watch Clueless on Netflix.
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The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Wes Anderson asked costume designer Karen Patch to make all the outfits for this movie, Patch told Elle. She did so with a little help from Fendi, which custom-made the fur coat for Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), plus a little one for her younger self, and Lacoste, which made the country-club-ready dress. All of the Tenenbaum children look like their fashion sense was arrested along with their emotional development in the early '80s, and this is no small part of the movie's charm.

Watch The Royal Tenenbaums on Amazon.
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The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Costume designer Patricia Field's budget for the movie was reportedly a mere $100,000, so she called in a lot of favors to dress editrix Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) and her underlings. Streep is, naturally, in the titular brand a lot. But Field told the New York Post that she made sure to dress the character in timeless classics, not trendy pieces. Once Andy (Anne Hathaway) gets her makeover, she's in Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, and Chanel. It's Emily Blunt's character, Emily, who gets to go edgy in Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens. Bring on the montages!

Watch The Devil Wears Prada on HBO.
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Sex and the City (2008)
Patricia Field returned to the franchise that made her a household name, but her mission for the movie was not to set off trends, like she did with the show. Instead, as she told the Daily Mail, she used vintage looks to dress the four women in ways that indicated how they'd matured. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is in Dynasty-inspired Gucci and Armani suits; Charlotte (Kristin Davis) channels Jackie Kennedy; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) gets to be more fashionable than her younger self; and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is more sophisticated than her tutu-wearing TV incarnation, culminating in that breathtaking Vivienne Westwood wedding gown.

Watch Sex and the City on YouTube.
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A Single Man (2009)
In his directorial debut, it's no surprise that designer Tom Ford gave special attention to every visual aspect of the movie, and it shows. But he did delegate costume designing duties to Arianne Phillips, who told the Los Angeles Times that her boss' big advantage was having his own factory in Italy available to make Colin Firth's 1960s suits. The classy black-and-white dress Julianne Moore wears was actually a vintage piece Phillips found at a costume house.

Watch A Single Man on Netflix.
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The Hunger Games (2012)
Sure, there's the overarching story of an oppressive dictatorship crushing the masses and entertaining its bloodthirsty elite by watching children kill each other. But a huge theme in Suzanne Collins' books and the movies is how people (and governments) can manipulate appearances (particularly through fashion) to gain power. Even in poverty-stricken District 12, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) shows how impervious she is to the powers that be in rugged hunting gear and a knit scarf that we covet. In the hands of her pyrotechnic-savvy stylist, she transforms herself into the Girl Who Was on Fire, a heroine of the people. Then there are the frivolous (but kind of mean-spirited) fashion victims of the Capitol: "I just thought it would be funny if these people, who have such a vicious streak in them, are sort of covered in flowers and ruffles," costume designer Judianna Makovsky told Vogue, citing Elsa Schiaparelli as her main influence. The result has us cowering in awe.

Watch The Hunger Games on Amazon.
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The Bling Ring (2013)
We've all wanted to pilfer the wardrobe riches of a Hollywood starlet now and again. What does it look like when a bunch of teenagers actually do? And what does it look like through the lens of Sofia Coppola? Costume designer Stacey Battat told Teen Vogue that though it is based on true events, they didn't set the movie in a particular year in terms of fashion. So there's a mix of early 2000s Juicy with more contemporary and vintage looks, taking a lot of inspiration from back issues of Us Weekly. "[W]e wanted things you would recognize. We wanted a real Balenciaga bag, an actual Louis Vuitton trunk — these characters wanted the Versace dress because it was the Versace dress." Pay special attention to the fashion evolution of ringleader Nicki (Emma Watson).

Watch The Bling Ring on Amazon.
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Blue Jasmine (2013)
With a low budget and little time, Woody Allen's costume designer Suzy Benzinger thought she'd need a miracle to dress Cate Blanchett as the New York society wife who's left with nothing but her fancy wardrobe after her husband's Ponzi scheme is discovered. That miracle came in the form of Blanchett herself, as the designer told Entertainment Weekly. Chanel, Fendi, Hermes, and others were all eager to lend their works to be seen on the actress. To dress Jasmine's flighty sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), Benzinger hit up Century21. Finally, a wardrobe we might be able to attain ourselves!

Watch Blue Jasmine on Amazon.
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The Theory of Everything (2014)
Perhaps it seems odd that a movie about physicist Stephen Hawking features fashion worth noting — chalk it up to our endless fascination with the early '60s, and the fact that stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones can really wear clothes. Costume designer Steven Noble told the Los Angeles Times that Redmayne's blue velvet blazer, very similar to one actually worn by Hawking, was the "jumping-off" point for everything else. Jones is perfection in a dreamy blue ball gown adapted from a '50s design, and even in the duds she wears while caring for her ailing genius husband. It's also fascinating to see how they created the illusion of Hawking's deterioration from ALS by putting Redmayne in bigger and bigger clothing.

Watch The Theory of Everything on HBO.
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Now that we’ve gotten appropriately swoony over the best-of-the-best on-screen fashion, we’re ready to see what the sartorial future holds. Check out Aaron Rose’s GUESS short-film series, Identity, for some serious leading-lady looks.

Sponsored by GUESS.
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