Nowadays it’s a tossup as to whether Hollywood influences fashion or fashion influences Hollywood, but dating back to the silents, there’ve been several films that have inspired fashion crazes or “looks,” whether recycled or originated by costume designers. The following is a look at a chosen few.
American Gigolo (1980)
This movie did more to bolster Giorgio Armani’s name in this country than anything else. Richard Gere played a cold but stylish $1,000-a-night prostitute, whose appearance meant everything to him. Director Paul Schrader thought so much of the wardrobe that he included a whole scene devoted entirely to a closet full of shelves and shelves of Armani suits, shirts and pants.
Out of Africa (1986)
Banana Republic owes Italian costumer Milena Canonero a small fortune. Her Academy Award-winning designs for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford made khaki chic and spawned a far-ranging fashion trend. Newsweek dubbed it “the rugged romantic,” a look that utilized khaki, India cotton and linen in a blend of European high fashion and traditional safari wear.
Letty Lynton (1932)
Joan Crawford may have contributed more to the fashion of everyday women than any other star. And it all started with this film. MGM’s legendary designer Adrian created a white organdy dress with huge ruffled shoulders that became an instant hit — New York’s Macy’s sold a reported 50,000 copies of the dress. But the real achievement of Adrian’s creation was solving the problem of Crawford’s ample waist and wide hips. Adrian’s solution? He invented shoulder pads to make Crawford’s lower half appear smaller and created a fashion staple that fills jackets to this day.
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Prior to the release of “Gone With the Wind,” women spent the ’30s in long, slinky goddess dresses. But that all changed with costumer Walter Plunkett’s nipped waist, bouffant skirts and petticoats designed for Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara. Velvet, corsets, hats and scarves were suddenly in, and women watched the film over and over again to catch which of Leigh’s more than 40 costume changes they preferred. So influential was her wardrobe a law was passed to outlaw the look. With World War II, the L-85 Rule was created to put an end to the personal use of luxury fabrics, which were needed for the war effort. Like Scarlett O’Hara in times of war, if one needed a beautiful gown they’d have to make it from old green velvet curtains.
A fashion trend that caught everyone by surprise — high schoolers with an eye for name designer fashions. Alicia Silverstone as Cher, the ’90s answer to Jane Austen’s “Emma,” became an overnight sensation armed in brightly colored plaid minidresses and plaid minisuits with knee-highs and Mary Janes. With grunge and retro the youth’s fashion movements at the time of the film’s release, no one imagined that kids would be hitting up their parents to score the latest Anna Sui, Donna Karan or Dolce & Gabbana couture.
Pretty Woman (1990)
One of the oddest fashion trends was inspired by this megapopular Cinderella story of a prostitute who meets her prince, falls in love and becomes a lady. Though Marilyn Vance’s classic designs for Julia Roberts included a russet polka-dot dress and the now-familiar red Cerutti gown that had women swooning, it was Roberts’ “before” look, which appeared on the poster and videotape cover, that made more waves fashion-wise. Paris runways paraded scores of “Pretty Woman” hooker looks — spandex, hot pants and thigh-high go-go boots — which made the oldest profession the newest thing.
Wall Street (1987)
No look epitomized the Reagan years when big businessmen were Masters of the Universe better than Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko. Soon anyone who fancied himself a big-shot financier was slicking back his hair, sporting wide suspenders, woven-silk ties and inquiring about the cost of Douglas’ custom-tailored Alan Flusser suits. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick became the most wanted woman of the year as everyone from basketball coaches like Pat Riley to fight promoters to corporate rangers adopted the “Wall Street” look.
Annie Hall (1977)
When costumer Ruth Morley created Diane Keaton’s adorable wardrobe of layers of frumpy, Ralph Lauren-designed men’s clothes, she defined an era. Unlike Dietrich’s unapproachable, gender-bending high style, Keaton’s Annie Hall was more of the eclectic, thrift-store variety. The look of suit vests, men’s shoes, baggy pleated pants, knotted ties and floppy hats was more clever and cute than cold and striking, and was a fashionably acceptable way for women to experiment in androgyny.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
As Bonnie Parker, the 1930s bank-robbing fashion plate, Faye Dunaway became a major star. And so did her clothes. Designed by Theodora Van Runkle, the “gun-moll” look brought ’30s fashions back. Women everywhere went braless in cable-knit sweaters, donned berets and long pleated skirts, which became a winning look in a rebellious time.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
The white polyester suit with open-collared shirt and gold neck chains is still popular today, but only to get laughs. John Travolta’s Tony Manero was an attempt to capture the look of New York’s “bridge-and-tunnel” nightclubbers, folks who commuted from Brooklyn, New Jersey and such to trip the light fantastic in Manhattan. But “Saturday Night Fever” did more than that — it defined the whole disco era. For more on the polyester disco look, see “Boogie Nights.”
The Wild One (1951)
What Marlon Brando did for the T-shirt in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” he did double for the leather jacket in this, the original biker movie. As a motorcycling rebel, Brando pre-dated what would become the ’50s greaser look and helped define leather as a fashion statement. Soon every grease monkey, juvenile delinquent and rock ‘n’ roller needed his black leather to be cool. From the style of the Beatles in Liverpool to early Elvis to “Happy Days’ ” Fonzie to Johnny Depp, it all started here with Brando.
The Great Gatsby (1974)
Designer Theoni V. Aldredge’s meticulous approach to capturing the look of high society in the 1920s caused a flapper fashion trend and won her an Oscar. Dapper ’20s-style dress was suddenly in. Tweeds, designed by Ralph Lauren for Robert Redford, as well as argyle socks and bracers filled stores everywhere as the Roaring ’20s came in vogue in the mid-’70s.
Jennifer Beals + a pair of scissors + aerobics = fashion trend. Dance-related clothes like leotards, leg warmers, headbands and dance slippers were all the rage in booming fitness clubs around the country. Torn jeans paired with cut-up, off-the-shoulder men’s sweatshirts was a sexy look that everyone could copy on no budget, and they did. But it was Beals’ combo look of footless tights and an oversized shirt that made a permanent, lasting impression in fashion.
How’d they keep that dress up? Renowned designer Jean Louis constructed Rita Hayworth’s stunning strapless “Put the Blame on Mame” dress to stay in place while the buxom beauty danced with arms raised. The black satin number was an instant hit and copied all over the world. Dresses that highlight bare shoulders in a stylish, beautiful fabric have inspired designers and women ever since.
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
This late-silent film established Greta Garbo as a fashion icon. Bundled up in a sleek Mata Hari trenchcoat and soft velvet Eugenie hat, Garbo made the look popular long before Ingrid Bergman adopted it for “Casablanca.” Styled by Adrian, Garbo popularized many fashion ideas including turtlenecks, draped cowl-necks, stand-away collars, shallow V-necks and hats worn on a steep angle. No one before or since filled a hat like Garbo.
Edith Head copped the Oscar for costume design for this update of the Cinderella story starring Audrey Hepburn, but it was designer Hubert de Givenchy who deserved the credit for Audrey’s infamous little black dress. The cocktail number with the boat-neck cut is undoubtedly the most influential dress for style, and this film established Hepburn’s popular gamine look. “Sabrina” marked the first of a lifelong collaboration between Givenchy and Hepburn, a coupling that later worked magic in “Funny Face,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Two for the Road,” among others.
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
Susan Seidelman’s hip New York comedy was not so much a fashion trendsetter in itself as a stage for Madonna’s much-copied trash chic style. Madonna had every teen girl in the country wearing brassieres, bustiers and rosaries as outerwear. The pop star has since changed her appearance and hairstyles yearly, but none had the impact of that first look of the God-fearing sex kitten with claws.