By Leeann Duggan
There’s nothing wrong with Audrey Hepburn noshing in front of Tiffany’s in Givenchy couture. And yes, the Jill Sobule-soundtracked makeover scene in Clueless will forever echo in our minds when we’re, say, cutting our own crop top or dyeing our hair in the sink. But, any fashion girl worth her salt likely knows these films front-to-back by 10th grade. In which case, you’re ready for your post-Golightly graduate studies: the 11 next-level fashion films ahead.
Related: John Galliano Talks About His Special Relationship With China
They aren’t all set in the fashion world — but they do feature costumes that deserve iconic status as much as Annie Hall’s Buster Keaton waistcoat or Dionne and Cher’s matching skirt suits. Click ahead for our favorite cinematic skater girls, horror heroines, scrappy fashion-designer wannabes, and one immaculately dressed trophy wife.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MGM.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Yes, this is the Bond movie everyone hates because it stars the drippiest 007 ever — a male model named George Lazenby who had the misfortune of being neither a real actor, nor Sean Connery. But, as an artifact of midcentury cheese, this film cannot be beat.
Bond’s paramour is played by The Avengers star Diana Rigg, the official queen of the jumpsuit. And, the Bond villian, played by Telly Savalas, attempts a world takeover by brainwashing 12 beautiful women at a Swiss allergy clinic (no really) into “angels of death.” Have I mentioned that these women are played by a Pre-Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley and an assortment of Playboy bunnies?
One hundred percent worth it for the groovy late-‘60s fashion (Rib-knit jumpsuits! Cheetah pants!), and the laughably anti-climactic chase scene on skis.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
Forty years ago,
Lucille Two Liza Minnelli was a bona fide sex symbol, playing Sally Bowles, an American libertine in Weimar Germany. Be inspired to live your life in glittery robes, bowler hats, and visible lingerie, and — maybe best of all — Sally’s sequin faux beauty mark.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF LIONS GATE / TRIMARK.
The gritty film about a group of East Village skater kids put Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson on the map. On rewatching, this film is a nasty little morality play about the perils of sex and drug use that’s as conservative as any slasher film. But, the naturalistic performances hold up, as do the characters’ ‘70s-inflected wardrobe of shrunken ringer tees and old-school sneaks.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF LIONS GATE.
Like Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot was a capable and nuanced actress all too often slotted into the role of blonde bubblehead. In this Jean-Luc Godard film (also known as Contempt), she found a role worthy of her chops as a woman who loses respect for her novelist husband when he accepts an assignment to punch up a hacky screenplay. Watch it for Bardot’s resplendent, pouty disdain, and her wardrobe of pared-down basics that define French chic.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
The white dress on the subway grate from The Seven Year Itch gets more ink — as does the iconic pink dress from this film’s closing musical number “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” But, for me, Marilyn’s most stunning fashion moment is her purple sweater (with daring V-shaped cutout), her matching purple wiggle skirt that could only have been sewn on, and her shiny, gold cuffs. This look only gets more impressive when Marilyn’s character, Lorelei, accessorizes it with (spoiler alert!) a stolen diamond tiara.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT.
It was impressive enough when Diana Ross’ Tracy Chambers worked her way up from the projects in Chicago to head buyer at a fancy department store — but she didn’t stop there. Oh no. Chambers wants to be a fashion designer, and she won’t let anyone stop her. Not her hating-ass department store supervisor. Not the buyers who think her designs work better in Paris than Chi-town (as if!). And, certainly not the rabble-rousing community organizer played by Billy Dee Williams, who hollers at Ms. Chambers through a megaphone.
Mahogany is a movie about following your fashion dreams, people — especially if those dreams involve excellent hat collections and orange, satin kimonos.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS.
Who needs Grease when you have Cry Baby, John Waters’ demented ode to teenage toughs and the squares they occasionally love? In it, Traci Lords plays the gum-snapping delinquent of every rockabilly dude’s dream — so what if she has bougie parents? The flicked eyeliner, leather jacket, chiffon neckerchief, and ever-present sneer is a look worth copying forever.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF NBC UNIVERSAL.
You simply have not seen froideur until you have seen Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira Hancock, Tony Montana’s gak-snorting trophy wife, who swans around in a succession of immaculate outfits the color of her favorite drug. These are clothes for a woman who keeps her pet tiger on a leash.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF LIONS GATE.
Horror movies never make the list of films with inspirational fashion, and this here horror nerd thinks that’s a crying (screaming, bloody) shame. Who doesn’t love Laurie Strode’s super-high-waisted jeans from Halloween? Or Carrie’s way with a statement prom look?
For modern-day horror, you can’t beat Cécile de France as Marie, the protagonist in Alexandre Aja’s 2004 film High Tension. Her chic, simple, men’s separates and gamine haircut are very Jean Seberg-with-a-buzzsaw. Too bad all the Tide pens in the world couldn’t save this outfit.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
In the classic 1976 satire, Faye Dunaway plays Diana Christensen, a hard-ass network programming executive who cares only about ratings, dammit — well, that and putting together immaculately coordinated earth-toned business-babe outfits.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF CRITERION COLLECTION.
The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant
Fact: Any person who tells you they “like” this movie is lying (or a painfully pretentious art student). The 1972 film by German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a long, slow dive into the crumbling psyche of its titular character. Von Kant is a successful fashion designer who spends most of the film drinking heavily, lolling about on her bedroom floor telling tragic tales of old loves, trying on a series of wigs, and spitting orders at everyone in her milieu, from her poor, put-upon assistant to her fashion colleagues. This film has no doubt inspired hundreds of drag performances, and possibly Anna Wintour.