19 Outfits From History That Movies And TV Shows Tried To Emulate

·20 min read

1.The skating costume Tonya Harding wears when she becomes the first woman to land a triple axel in a competition during my personal favorite movie, I, Tonya.

Tonya Harding wearing a skating outfit
ph: Frank Masi/© 30West / courtesy Everett Collection

And Tonya Harding wearing the skating costume in real life.

Tonya Harding wearing a skating outfit
Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images

This look is one of the only skating outfits in I, Tonya that costume designer Jennifer Johnson didn't try to replicate exactly, but all that actually means is Johnson added silver to the underside of Harding's skirt.

Tonya Harding wearing a skating outfit

In terms of the costume's material, Johnson said, "That was intentionally made with single stretch jumbo spandex which is really thick and kind of awkward. That would’ve been what she had access to in Portland at the time. The arms would be a little baggy, [they] wouldn’t stretch in the right places: we could’ve easily found a great stretch material now, but it just felt wrong."

When it comes to the giant amount of research Johnson did for the film, she said, "Skate competitions are often labelled incorrectly, especially on YouTube, plus skaters would often have a set of costumes that they’d wear for a year or two, so the costumes didn’t necessarily signify the event." Once Johnson was completely sure an outfit was worn at a competition that was going to be in the movie, the footage available would be "really bad, almost like old VHS quality, especially when [Harding] moved. She’d be flying through the air and we’d freeze frame it: the seamstresses and I became obsessed with getting it right."

© 30West /Courtesy Everett Collection

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Tonya Harding wearing a skating outfit in I, Tonya
© 30West /Courtesy Everett Collection, Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images

2.Elton John's dazzling Dodgers uniform in Rocketman.

Elton John performing while wearing a jeweled baseball outfit
ph: David Appleby / © Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

And Elton John's dazzling Dodgers uniform in real life.

Elton John performing while wearing a jeweled baseball outfit
Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images / Getty Images

Rocketman costume designer Julian Day decided to "amp it up" for the film.

Elton John performing while wearing a jeweled baseball outfit in the film

Day said, "As far as reproducing, it’s more fun designing it yourself. So I wanted to change it up a bit: I thought, how can I amp it up? I wanted to make a crystal suit, and so used 250K [Swarovski crystals]. It was really complicated putting it together, and we only completed it a day or two before shooting, with Taron [Egerton, playing Elton John] quite physical in those scenes. That was a bit nerve-racking on those days."

Paramount Pictures

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Elton John performing while wearing a jeweled baseball outfit
ph: David Appleby / © Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection, Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images / Getty Images

3.Queen Elizabeth's dress for her coronation on The Crown.

Queen Elizabeth in a gown
Left Bank Pictures / Netflix / Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

And Queen Elizabeth's dress for her coronation in real life.

Queen Elizabeth in a gown, a fur coat, and a crown
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Though the show's dress is, in fact, an exact replica of Queen Elizabeth's outfit from her coronation, it was not created by The Crown.

Queen Elizabeth in a gown on The Crown

Swarovski commissioned the new gown for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Michele Clapton, The Crown's costume designer, borrowed the dress for production.

Left Bank Pictures / Netflix

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Queen Elizabeth in a gown on The Crown
Left Bank Pictures / Netflix / Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo, Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

4.Cassius Clay's boxing outfit on February 25, 1964, in One Night in Miami...

Cassius Clay boxing

Clay is in the shorts with the red stripe.

Amazon Studios

And Cassius Clay's boxing outfit on February 25, 1964, in real life.

Cassius Clay boxing
Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images

The film's costume designer, Francine Jamison-Tanchuck, said, "I wanted to make sure that I was respectful to these gentlemen, through their costumes."

Cassius Clay having won the boxing match

In terms of researching for the film, Jamison-Tanchuck said, "Much of the research that we were finding was in black and white. But sometimes the journalists described certain colors, and even in black and white, you get a certain sense of the colors because of the textures. And the colors that were prominent in that era, you envision that and then put in your own creative license."

When it comes to the main outfit worn by Cassius Clay (later Muhammed Ali) in One Night in Miami..., Jamison-Tanchuck said, "He was pretty much dressy-casual. You see in footage how he seemed to gravitate toward polo shirts, and it was important for him to be comfortable while shadowboxing. So I thought the brown suit and green knit polo shirt fit well."

Amazon Studios

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Cassius Clay boxing in One Night in Miami
Amazon Studios, Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images

5.The pink outfit First Lady Jackie Kennedy wears on the day her husband is fatally shot in Jackie.

Jackie Kennedy in a suit
ph: Pablo Larrain/ TM & copyright © Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved. /Courtesy Everett Collection

And the pink outfit First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore on the day her husband was fatally shot in real life.

Jackie Kennedy in a suit
Historical / Contributor / Corbis Historical via Getty Images

Five versions of the outfit were made for Jackie.

Jackie Kennedy in a suit

Costume designer Madeline Fontaine said, “For the pink dress we made it as a copy of the one everybody knows. We had first to settle with Pablo [Larraín, the director] and Stéphane Fontaine, the [director of photography], on the right color according to the choices of the different cameras (for the shooting and the continuity of the footage). Then I made film tests of different colors to get the pink. And then made five of them … Impressive to see Natalie [Portman, playing Jacqueline Kennedy] in it for the first time on set. We had to be convinced!”

ph: Bruno Calvo. TM & copyright ©Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved / courtesy Everett Collection

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Jackie Kennedy in a suit in Jackie
ph: Pablo Larrain/ TM & copyright © Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved. /Courtesy Everett Collection, Historical / Contributor / Corbis Historical via Getty Images

6.The British World War I uniform worn by Lance Corporal William Schofield in 1917.

Lance Corporal William Schofield standing in a trench in his uniform with other uniformed soldiers around him

At vaious points in the film, Schofield is adorned with more weapons and accessories — accessories cannot be the correct phrase, but I do not know the correct phrase, so let's go with accessories.

ph: Francois Duhamel / © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

And a real-life British World War I uniform, in a picture most likely taken between 1915 and 1917.

Walter Tull wearing a World War I uniform

This man is Walter Tull, who is believed to be one of the first Black infantry officers to lead British troops in World War I. There were army regulations prohibiting anyone of "non-European descent" from undertaking officer training.

Finlayson Family Archive / Contributor / Getty Images

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran had merely 12 weeks to figure out 1917's costumes, which not only needed to be accurate World War I uniforms, but also had to work in a film that was meant to appear as one long take.

Lance Corporal William Schofield running

About the latter point, Durran said, "The main impact of that was [the necessity of keeping tabs on] miniscule [sic] details of continuity...and there was an impact on the number of duplicates that you need, because if you have to go back to the beginning of the take every time, you may need to change. It had a huge effect in the amount of work it was, because every day, you’d have everybody out. You’d have the whole run of the trench, the crowd and all those things." Amazingly, "We had breakdown people that were doing mud for the whole shoot. They’d come to set and redo the mud, and they’d be mud matching, knowing which take they were matching to. All of those things were critical, really."

In relation to the historical accuracy of the World War I uniforms, Durran said the following (a quote I have included in full because the final part is so interesting that, upon reading it, I said out loud, alone in a room, "Oh my god, that is so fascinating. Holy crap."):

"We had a whole wall in our office of pictures, archived photographs from books. We took stills from Peter Jackson’s documentary [They Shall Not Grow Old], and looked at them constantly, through the whole prep period.

We looked for details, and different ways in which people wore a uniform — how they customized it, what they wore with it. Different jobs in the trenches that meant that people wore different things, whether they were waders [boots] or spades, all these different things. There was actually an endless number of details evident in these photographs, so that was our object.

David Crossman, who co-designed it with me, knows so much about uniform, and about the detail and the history of it. Because he’d done the period before, he knew that people generally used World War II helmets for World War I, because there’s less World War I helmets around. He put an original World War I helmet onto a modern head, and worked out that the scale was wrong, because modern heads were bigger than World War I heads. So, we had a helmet which was 100% the size of an original World War I helmet. Then, we had 106, 108. We went to extreme detail to try and represent the scale that a period helmet would have on a modern head, really trying to make it as accurate as possible."

© Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Here are the fiction and nonfiction side by side.

Lance Corporal William Schofield standing in a trench in his uniform with other uniformed soldiers around him in 1917
ph: Francois Duhamel / © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection, Finlayson Family Archive / Contributor / Getty Images

7.Queen Victoria's wedding dress in The Young Victoria.

Queen Victoria wearing an elaborate dress
©Momentum Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

And an engraving of Queen Victoria's real-life wedding dress.

Queen Victoria and prince Albert returning from their marriage service
Rischgitz / Stringer / Getty Images

Queen Victoria's diaries were used for research on the film.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert getting married in the movie

Sandy Powell, the film's costume designer, said about Queen Victoria's diaries, "She was very specific about her clothing and would describe in great detail what she was wearing and what she did that day, so that was very useful."

©Momentum Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

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Queen Victoria wearing an elaborate dress in The Young Victoria
©Momentum Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection, Rischgitz / Stringer / Getty Images

8.Selena Quintanilla's purple jumpsuit in Selena.

Selena performing in a jumpsuit
Getty Images / Handout / Warner Bros.

And Selena Quintanilla's purple jumpsuit in real life.

Selena performing in a jumpsuit
Arlene Richie / Contributor / Getty Images

The textile store that had the materials for Selena's real-life look still had the materials for the film to utilize.

Selena performing in a jumpsuit in the film

The movie's costume designer, Elisabetta Beraldo, said, "Because we worked with Selena’s own people, we really saw the actual patterns she used, which was great, but sometimes the material didn’t work on film. For example for the infamous purple jumper, we added a lot of pink Swarovski crystals to get a more brilliant pop of color." In addition, Beraldo said, "The seamstress and I spent a lot of sleepless nights getting [Selena’s] outfit together. The material kept losing its shape and coming loose so we were nervous about it holding up."

On a macro note about the film's costuming, Beraldo said, "Because [Selena Quintanilla's] death was so recent, I was able to find the same materials she used and to work with the same team. The tricky thing was that everybody remembered exactly who she was as a fashion icon and a singer. The famous concert at the Texas Astrodome was recent: People felt like they had just seen her light up the stage there, and they remembered what exactly her styles were supposed to look like. I felt so lucky because when I went to the textile store and asked if they still had the materials, they actually did. With the help of the family, I hired the same seamstress who created Selena’s original looks."

(c)Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

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Selena performing in a jumpsuit in Selena
Getty Images / Handout / Warner Bros., Arlene Richie / Contributor / Getty Images

9.The uniforms worn by the "liquidators," or "bio-robots," in Chernobyl. ("Liquidators" and "bio-robots" are what the people who cleared the nuclear power station's roof of graphite were actually called.)

Chernobyl liquidators on the roof
Home Box Office (HBO)

And the uniforms worn by the "liquidators" or "bio-robots" in Chernobyl in real life.

Chernobyl liquidators on the roof
SERGEI SUPINSKY / Staff / AFP via Getty Images

For the liquidators/bio-robots, Chernobyl's costume designer, Odile Dicks-Mireaux, and her team made all the "lead" out of aluminum.

A Chernobyl liquidator on the roof on the show

When filming, Dicks-Mireaux said they dressed the actors quickly. "We made it kind of chaotic, we didn’t think too much about it on the day, because we were trying to re-create the atmosphere they were in — they were just wrapping people up and then sending them off.”

Home Box Office (HBO)

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Chernobyl liquidators on the roof in Chernobyl
Home Box Office (HBO), SERGEI SUPINSKY / Staff / AFP via Getty Images

10.This costume Billie Holiday wears while on trial in The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

Billie Holiday wearing a skirt suit during trial
ph: Takashi Seida / © Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

And Billie Holiday at the US Commissioners Office, on the day she is read the charge for heroin possession.

Billie Holiday wearing a skirt suit near a court room
Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

Lee Daniels, director of The United States vs. Billie Holiday, wanted a high-fashion, runway talent involved in the film's costume design.

Billie Holiday wearing a skirt suit during trial in the film

Daniels said, “There were a couple of designers I was circling, but then Anna [Wintour] referred me to Miuccia [Prada]. She knew I couldn’t go wrong with Prada. I was going to throw myself at Miuccia’s feet as she’s a genius, but I didn’t have to. She admired my work, and I am such a fan of hers, so we were excited.” Prada ended up creating nine looks for the movie.

Paolo Nieddu, the film's costume designer, did not want to rest on iconic elements of Holiday's style too much. For example, in terms of the white gardenias Holiday began wearing in her hair, Nieddu said, "We used the flower a couple of times but not every time." Creating an eclectic contrast, particularly with the nine Prada looks, Nieddu used a vintage charm bracelet found in Montreal and vintage cat-eye sunglasses. He said, "With all the glamour, the film has the magic of an Old Hollywood picture. I would love to see a new generation fall in love with Billie and discover her music, to see her differently than just as an image of a woman with a gardenia."

ph: Takashi Seida / © Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

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Billie Holiday wearing a skirt suit during trial in The United States vs. Billie Holiday
ph: Takashi Seida / © Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection, Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

11.Mister Rogers's classic ensemble in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers dressed in sneakers, pants, a shirt and tie, and a sweater
ph: Lacey Terrell / © TriStar Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

And Mister Rogers's classic ensemble in real life.

Fred Rogers wearing a red sweater on his show
Family Communications

Fred Rogers's widow invited members of the movie's costume department to her home.

Fred Rogers dressed in sneakers, pants, a shirt and tie, and holding a sweater in the film

In addition to tapes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, tapes of appearances Rogers made on talk shows, and artifacts at the Heinz Museum in Pittsburgh, costume designer Arjun Bhasin utilized a museum in Rogers's home town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where Rogers's cardigans are kept. Bhasin said, "We got to put on gloves and touch and measure things and see it with our own eyes."

That was not all, however. Bhasin spoke of Rogers's widow, the now-late Joanne Rogers, and said, "She invited us to her home and kept saying, ‘I don’t know what to do with all this stuff. We borrowed some of his ties from her, which Tom [Hanks, playing Fred Rogers] was thrilled to wear, and we were thrilled to be able to honor. They were not fancy, as he was pretty modest. It was special, as the ties have been in the minds of his fans."

When it comes to the eight to ten sweaters made for production, Bhasin found a hand-knitter who worked in New York City theater. Also, she said, "I tried to find the exact shades of dyed wool. I felt very much like we had to honor his legacy and be true to the show as much as possible."

ph: Lacey Terrell / © TriStar Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

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Fred Rogers dressed in sneakers, pants, a shirt and tie, and a sweater in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
ph: Lacey Terrell / © TriStar Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection, Family Communications

12.Billie Jean King's outfit for an interview in Battle of the Sexes...

Billie Jean King posing with her tennis racket in the air
ph: Melinda Sue Gordon. TM & copyright ©Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved / courtesy Everett Collection

13.Plus Bobby Riggs's outfit for an interview in Battle of the Sexes.

Bobby Riggs posing with his tennis racket in the air
ph: Melinda Sue Gordon. TM & copyright ©Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved / courtesy Everett Collection

And Billie Jean King's and Bobby Riggs's outfits for an interview in real life.

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at a press conference
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

At least part of both outfits were fully made for the film.

Billie Jean king and Bobby Riggs posing with their tennis rackets touching

Costume designer Mary Zophres said, "For Billie Jean, we made all of her tennis dresses," and, "We made all of Bobby’s cotton polos, just because a contemporary one just doesn’t work."

ph: Melinda Sue Gordon. TM & copyright ©Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved / courtesy Everett Collection

Here are the fiction and nonfiction side by side.

Billie Jean king and Bobby Riggs posing with their tennis rackets touching in Battle of the Sexes
ph: Melinda Sue Gordon. TM & copyright ©Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved / courtesy Everett Collection, Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

14.The NASA uniforms worn by the astronauts in Apollo 13.

Fred Haise, Jack Swigert, and Jim Lovell wearing their NASA uniforms in the space shuttle
(c) Universal / courtesy Everett Collection

The NASA uniforms worn by the astronauts of the real-life Apollo 13.

Fred Haise, Jack Swigert, and Jim Lovell wearing NASA uniforms in real life

Obviously these ones are blue and not the white outfits worn by the Apollo 13 astronauts in real life, but, you get the gist.

Space Frontiers / Stringer / Getty Images

Though, naturally, the movie's NASA astronaut uniforms needed to be accurate, some alterations were made for the reproductions.

Fred Haise, Jack Swigert, and Jim Lovell wearing their NASA uniforms in the space shuttle in the film

Costume designer Rita Ryack said, "We don’t want to see anything in this kind of movie look excessively unflattering. What is utilitarian in real life has to have pleasing proportions if you’re making a movie." Interestingly as well, due to the importance of the collars, because, as Ryack put it, "So much of the filming is from the neck up," she changed the collars subtly for each actor to fit their unique faces and physiques.

© Universal Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

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Fred Haise, Jack Swigert, and Jim Lovell wearing their NASA uniforms in the space shuttle in Apollo 13
(c) Universal / courtesy Everett Collection, Space Frontiers / Stringer / Getty Images

15.Stephen Hawking's wedding attire in The Theory of Everything...

  ph: Liam Daniel/©Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection
ph: Liam Daniel/©Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection

16.Plus Jane Hawking's wedding attire in The Theory of Everything.

Jane Hawking wearing a wedding dress
ph: Liam Daniel/©Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection

And Stephen Hawking and Jane Hawking's wedding attire in real life.

Though Jane Hawking offered the film her real wedding dress, it was not used.

Steve Hawking and Jane Hawking wearing a suit and a wedding dress, respectively, on their wedding

Costume designer Steven Noble said, "Jane’s piece was beautiful, but again, it was so iconic of the time, and with the color too bright, too white, the color would have had to be knocked back slightly, and to over-dye her original personal wedding dress from the ‘60s would be slightly sacrilegious."

Another interesting tidbit is how Stephen Hawking's worsening ALS over the course of The Theory of Everything affected costuming: "We just kept making his clothes bigger and bigger and his collars larger so he would have the appearance of actually shrinking."

ph: Liam Daniel/©Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection

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Steve Hawking and Jane Hawking wearing a suit and a wedding dress, respectively, on their wedding in The Theory of Everything
ph: Liam Daniel/©Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection, @TheScientist_SH

17.Jackie Robinson's legendary Dodgers baseball uniform in 42.

Jackie Robinson wearing his Dodgers uniform
Ph: D. Stevens/©Warner Bros. Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

And Jackie Robinson's legendary Dodgers baseball uniform in real life.

Jackie Robinson wearing his Dodgers uniform
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Like every baseball uniform in 42, Robinson's famous attire was made by Seattle company Ebbets Field Flannels, whose retail office, according to Google Maps, is only a half-mile walk from T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field).

Jackie Robinson wearing his Dodgers uniform in the film

Ebbets Field Flannels made about 200 uniforms for the film. President Jerry Cohen said, "For a customer, they get a jersey or a hat, and they want it pristine and it’s new. But the costume designer [Caroline Harris], she wanted to rough them up. It was interesting working with her because she had very specific ideas about close-ups and details. I mean, we did one jacket for her where she was talking very specifically about the pocket trim. Nobody in a million years is going to notice this but she had looked at her pictures and done her homework. She said, 'Make sure that this pocket trim is exactly the same as it is in this picture.' You know, that’s what we do."

©Warner Bros. Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

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Jackie Robinson wearing his Dodgers uniform in 42
Ph: D. Stevens/©Warner Bros. Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection, Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

18.Judy Garland's floral stage dress in Judy.

Judy Garland in a long sleeve dress
© Roadside Attractions / courtesy Everett Collection

And Judy Garland performing in a very similar dress (that, come on, the dress in Judy is absolutely based on) in real life.

Judy Garland in a long sleeve dress
Hulton Deutsch / Contributor / Corbis Historical / Getty Images

For Judy's stage outfits, costume designer Jany Temime said, "Rupert [Goold, the director] wanted things that you could see from the last row."

Judy Garland in a long sleeve dress on the film's poster

Temime also said, "I always used the costumes in a sort of opposition. When [Judy Garland] feels very bad, she’s wearing something very hot and very colorful, and when she feels good, she wears something quite normal. Like when she talks to the kids and all that, it’s a lot softer and more natural. It’s not theatrical. But when she’s with her husband, Mickey, I wanted her to be a typical example of the older woman who is marrying a younger guy, trying desperately to look younger, and almost ridiculous. I actually saw a picture of Judy Garland in that period, when she was with Mickey, and thought, 'What are you wearing?' But I think it was because she was trying to look young, to be hip. Because he was always telling her, 'You have to be hip.'"

© Roadside Attractions / courtesy Everett Collection

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Judy Garland in a long sleeve dress in Judy
© Roadside Attractions / courtesy Everett Collection, Hulton Deutsch / Contributor / Corbis Historical / Getty Images

19.Finally, Princess Diana's wedding dress on The Crown.

Princess Diana's wedding dress on The Crown
Des Willie / ©Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

And Princess Diana's wedding dress in real life.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles at Saint Paul's Cathedral
Fox Photos / Stringer / Getty Images

When Emma Corrin (playing Princess Diana on The Crown), walked out in the dress, everyone went silent.

Princess Diana walking away in her wedding dress on The Crown

Benjamin Caron, who directed the episode of The Crown where Diana wears the famous gown, said, "We had about an hour left to shoot a very simple scene and that was Diana standing in the wedding dress and then walking away from the camera. The crew were all really busy setting up and there was a ripple that you could feel coming from the corridor that then very quickly came into the room as Emma walked in the wedding dress. It was like a chill going through the room and everyone just went silent. I guess that image itself is so powerful that to see it just gave everyone pause. It was probably the only time I’ve experienced something like that, and very unlikely I’ll experience it again."

Left Bank Pictures / Netflix

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Princess Diana's wedding dress on The Crown
Des Willie / ©Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection, Fox Photos / Stringer / Getty Images