Clothes maketh the movie: 10 of the best films for fashion lovers

From 'Marie Antoinette' to 'Crazy Rich Asians', excellent costume design makes these movies a visual feast for fashionistas

12 April 2020 - 00:00 By Thango Ntwasa
Lace, feathers, bows, fans - the costumes in the movie 'Marie Antoinette' are deliciously OTT.
Lace, feathers, bows, fans - the costumes in the movie 'Marie Antoinette' are deliciously OTT.
Image: IMbd

1. MARIE ANTOINETTE

Historians discuss her "Let them eat cake" quote and the extent of her political power play, but director Sofia Coppola takes a new direction with a glimpse into the rock-star adolescence of the young French queen. Starring Kirsten Dunst, the flick features costumes by Milena Canonero (A Clockwork Orange, Miami Vice) that were inspired by different pastry treats, of which there are plenty in the multiple confectionery and fashion montages in the film.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Marie Antoinette'

2. CRAZY RICH ASIANS

This fun-filled romcom that follows two lovers from different worlds is anything but predictable when it comes to its fashion. Whether it's a look at the gauche excesses of new-money tycoons or the effortless sophistication that comes with generational wealth, by the time you finish the movie you will know what it takes to be on the cover of American or Japanese Vogue. Keep a couple of tissues near for the magical wedding scene.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Crazy Rich Asians'

3. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

A classic for the ages and a rare case of a film that is better than the book. Starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, the movie follows Andy (Hathaway) as an aspiring journalist who scores a difficult job with the editor of the biggest fashion publication in the world, Miranda Priestly (Streep). With a sleek makeover montage in the tone of Madonna's '90s hit Vogue, and that unforgettable cerulean sweater monologue, the film is littered with all the Chanel, Dior and Prada you could dream of.

WATCH | The trailer for 'The Devil Wears Prada'

4. THE WOMEN

In what would perhaps be regarded a feminist move today, The Women is a 1939 movie for women, by women and starring screen sirens Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. The elaborate costumes by Adrian Adolph Greenburg are a stellar embodiment of the different personalities of each female star in this ritzy comedic drama. To top it all off, a Technicolor fashion show dazzles the otherwise black-and-white screen midway through the film.

WATCH | The trailer for 'The Women'

5. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

An epic that won a number of Oscars, including the award for best costume design, Memoirs of a Geisha tells the thrilling tale of a young woman navigating an ancient tradition and war. The skilful art behind the makeup, choreography and clothing to become a geisha is beautifully explored in this romantic affair, all while paying homage to its eventual hybridisation after World War 2.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Memoirs of a Geisha'

6. THE FAVOURITE

When it comes to period pieces, not many costume designers can hold a candle to Sandy Powell. She brought her genius with colour to bear on The Other Boleyn Girl, Edward II and Caravaggio, but took a moody and often monochromatic turn in a trip to 17th-century England in The Favourite. The movie details the power play of two women in Queen Anne's life as portrayed by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

WATCH | The trailer for 'The Favourite'

7. FUNNY FACE

It's no fashion secret that Audrey Hepburn was a muse to Hubert de Givenchy, so when the character she plays in Funny Face — the nerdy bookshop-owning Jo — is turned into a fashion model, you can expect nothing less than scenic romps around Paris in just about Givenchy. With the movie set in the late '50s, there are also a couple of nods to the trends of the time, including her now iconic all-black beatnik ensemble.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Funny Face'

8. SEX AND THE CITY

Costumer designer Patricia Field was at the helm as this iconic series made the leap to the big screen. From lead character Carrie Bradshaw's bridal gown (that bird included) to that blue Manolo Blahnik shoe proposal, or the mock fashion spread in Vogue with that Dior dress and gloves to boot, the fashion in the first Sex and the City movie is sure to make you gag in shock or gawk in appreciation.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Sex and the City'

9. HEATHERS

fashion fans might think Clueless is the quintessential go-to flick for lovers of preppy fashion, but it is the Winona Driver-led Heathers that set the bar for girls with a killer sense of style, whether they are attending funerals or playing croquet. The movie deals with a murderous trail of teenage angst among power-dressing frenemies. It has inspired a bevy of animations and series, including the characters from Disney's Recess as well as characters in Gossip Girl and Scream Queens.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Heathers'

10. ORLANDO

A bizarre movie perfectly set off by its appreciation of glamour. Tilda Swinton stars as a young nobleman whose simple life as an aristocrat takes an unexpected turn when he transforms into a woman. In costumes from 1600 to the early 1900s, Swinton becomes the canvas for the journey that men's and women's fashion has taken.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Orlando'


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