When fashion in film and television really clicks, it fuels our fantasy lives. Forget the storylines; we just want to wear their great clothes. We want to be that character.
Fashion insider Steven “Cojo” Cojocaru, costume designer Christopher Lawrence and celebrity stylists Phillip Bloch, Robert Verdi and Cameron Silver (owner of L.A. vintage clothing store Decades) offer their thoughts on the language of great, iconic fashion from films over the years.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
The little black dress. The oversized sunglasses. The great upsweep. The ultralong cigarette holder. And Hubert de Givenchy. It all came out of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
“Every moment of Audrey Hepburn, especially in that black dress, is cemented in our popular culture,” Silver says. “You can still wear anything that she’s wearing in that film and look contemporary. There’s a timelessness to her style.”
A glamorous and carefree Holly Golightly gave us fantasy, both in her clothes and her carefree lifestyle. “At that time, women couldn’t be Holly Golightly,” Lawrence says. “That was the dream — to not worry about kids and family. To just have fun.”
Rear Window, 1954; Vertigo, 1958; The Birds, 1963; Marnie, 1964
Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren — all ice-cool, classic Hitchcock blondes. They played in plots of murder and mayhem with not a hair out of place and not a wrinkle in their dresses. Costume designers Edith Head and Rita Riggs clothed the helmer’s damsels in beautifully tailored tweed suits, white gloves, stunning gowns and perfect handbags.
“Grace Kelly was the iconic Hitchcock blonde who represented real American glamour,” Silver says. “She was probably the ultimate blonde because she’s the one that got away.”
“All these women were glamorous,” Cojocaru concurs. “They all wore perfect dresses and carried proper bags. The thing about true glamour is that it can survive anything — even wild pecking birds.”
Bonnie and Clyde, 1967
Costume designer Theadora Van Runkle gave us killer chic when she dressed Faye Dunaway in a beret, baggy pants and a tailored jacket. “It’s very American,” Cojocaru says. “It was the 1960s. We were celebrating clean, classic American style.”
Dunaway’s look was a precursor to Halston and what was about to happen in the 1970s with designers like Ralph Lauren and films like “Annie Hall.” “Here is a very glamorous criminal, a woman who can kick ass,” Cojocaru observes. “She is powerful and very feminine. An empowered woman is a huge theme in fashion. For men, there is nothing sexier than a strong woman with a cigar in her mouth and a gun in her hand.”
Annie Hall, 1977
Annie’s look merged feminine sexuality with everyday menswear. “It was the women’s lib era and an iconic moment in fashion as women began to merge their ability to be sexy while they borrowed the vest, the white shirt and the tie from men,” Verdi says. “They weren’t putting a suit on Diane Keaton and nipping it in at the waist. They left her as a tomboy. Her look was easy on the eyes, independent, free-spirited.”
Costume designer Ruth Morley’s “Annie Hall” created a new way for women to dress. “That pair of khakis on Diane Keaton was incredibly iconic,” Silver adds.
Saturday Night Fever, 1977
Those skin-tight flared trousers. That white suit. Those chains. That hairy chest. John Travolta and “Fever” spelled “sex” in a film that defined the discotheque culture of the 1970s and the sexual revolution.
“Men got to move in an in-your-face way,” Lawrence says. “It wasn’t a brooding Marlon Brando in a T-shirt. Travolta was a guy who strutted and danced. Guys wanted to wear that tight shirt so they could pick up girls. That wasn’t talked about before.”
Travolta continued to turn them on in “Grease” (1978). “He brought attention to men’s asses,” Bloch says. “We realized that men had butts and torsos. Travolta and Olivia Newton-John brought that bad-boy/bad-girl chic to the movies. Those tight pants, that rocker-chic look spoke to the rebel inside us all.”
It was the greedy, greedy ’80s. And Joan Collins ruled television in her diamonds, her shoulder pads and lots and lots of eyeliner.
“It was one of the most important shows for fashion ever,” Cojocaru says. “The visuals! You didn’t need to have sound! The gowns! The jewelry! The hair! The makeup budget! Joan Collins commanded that whole show with her fashion. She woke up in the morning wearing a tiara. It was the go-go ’80s, and ‘Dynasty’ took it to the extreme.”
It was a deliciously decadent time and we were dazzled by the show’s opulence. “More was more,” Lawrence notes. “We were in a depressed economic state, and we wanted to escape.”
Sex and the City, 1998-2004
Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik co-starred in this series about four friends looking for love in Manhattan. Sarah Jessica Parker was the unconventional beauty starring, and costume designer Patricia Field dressed her Carrie in thrift-store couture and $500 Madison Avenue heels that have since created the standard — mixing high-end pieces with low-end ones.
“Carrie was a quirky fashionista,” Cojocaru says. “It was about individual dressing. She created a sensation with every bag, shoe and necklace. Carrie would wear a jean jacket with a prom dress. She would wear high heels with old jeans. Now it’s a uniform. She made it cool to be an individual. That’s why she stood out.”
Valentino: The Last Emperor, 2009
Opulence and dramatic elegance. Valentino, the celebrated Italian courtier, is known for his meticulous detailing, intricate embroidery and body-conscious gowns. In 1968, Jackie Kennedy wore her Valentino when she wed shipping tycoon Ari Onassis on the island of Skorpios. And in 2001, Julia Roberts wore a vintage Valentino when she collected her Oscar for “Erin Brockovich.”
“‘The Last Emperor’ really opened people’s eyes to the artistry and the commerce behind fashion,” Silver says. “It’s a hallmark film on legitimizing the business of fashion. And it’s relevant to a businessman, to a fashionista, to a person who likes a love story. At the same time, you’ve got eye candy with all these beautiful gowns.”