Not About Writing

Top 10 Film Costumes

Recently, I posted some images of some costumes from Crimson Peak to Facebook. My followers seemed to like them and, well, I certainly liked them, and you know I’m always looking for an excuse to share costume porn here, so I decided to do my own Top 10 costumes from film.

Here are the rules:

  1. Only one costume per film allowed.
  2. I had to be able to find good quality images of the costume (which ruled out The Artist and Wings of the Dove).
  3. It had to be from a film I enjoyed and would recommend (which sadly ruled out Marie Antoinette, Batman Returns, and the Duchess. It nearly ruled out Titanic but I decided to be lenient).

Here we go then:

10. The Marquise de Merteuil’s Travelling dress, Dangerous Liaisons (1988), costume designer: James Acheson. Genres: Psychological drama; literary adaptation.

This gown has stuck with me over the years despite not actually being on screen that long. It’s a triumphant moment for Glenn Close’s Merteuil as her plans begin falling into place, a powerful gown for a character at the height of her own power.

Honestly, though, all the costumes in this film are amazing and gorgeous. All of them.

9. Claire Fraser’s wedding dress in Outlander (season 1), costume designer: Terry Dresbach. Genre: Time travel; romance; epic; literary adaptation.

Another 18th century style dress. Not only is the gown stunning (my god, the embroidery!) but it symbolizes so much to the characters; Jamie’s hopes for their marriage, the seriousness of Claire’s situation (Jamie’s all in, so it’s going to be hard to go through with deserting him), as well as fulfilling the wishes and dreams of everyone who read the book and had waited years to see this moment on screen. It’s a lot for a dress to measure up to, yet this one does.

8. Romeo and Juliet (1998), costume designer: Kym Barrett. Genres: Shakespeare adaptation.

Almost every teenage girl in the ’90s seemed to be obsessed with this film, myself included. I was already a literature geek, so of course I was going to love this. Even though I suspect this dress owes a lot to Claire Danes’s ethereal beauty, it has a magic that still works on me more than twenty years later. (20 years? Seriously? The ’90s was just the other day!)

7. Satine’s trapeze costume, Moulin Rouge, costume designer: Catherine Martin. Genres: Musical.

Another Baz Luhrman film. There are several gowns I could have chosen but it’s this one that sticks with me. This is the first glimpse we get of Nicole Kidman’s Satine and she manages to do Diamonds are a Girls’s Best Friend with enough style and attitude that I don’t immediately wish I were watching Marilyn Monroe instead (which is a huge achievement in and of itself). It’s just an amazing, versatile, fun and glitzy costume.

6. Rose’s boarding gown, Titanic, costume designer: Deborah Lynn Scott. Genres: Drama.

Say what you like about Titanic (this film is a guilty pleasure for me), the costumes were amazing. I almost chose the red dress she wears when she tries to throw herself overboard. I’ve got to be honest, my choice here is 75% about the hat. That being said, the boarding outfit, inspired largely by a contemporary source gown (see slideshow), is so crisp and smart. It’s an outfit for the woman Rose is trying so hard to become.

5. Edith’s black bow dress, Crimson Peak, costume designer: Kate Hawley. Genres: Gothic horror.

This is the gown that inspired this post. I fully intend to watch Crimson Peak again soon just for the costumes, which are all amazing. I love how everything Edith wears in New York, all beautiful, up to date (for the 1890s) gowns, contrasts with Jessica Chastain’s dresses which, while equally beautiful, all look 10-20 years behind the fashion. Edith dresses like a strong, confident New Woman, but the bow somehow renders her vulnerable. Like a hand might reach out from the dark, take hold of all that fabric, and never let go.

4. Sarah’s ballgown, Labyrinth. Costume designer: Ellis Flyte. Genres: Family film; Musical.

What is that dress made of? It has a definite cellophane-ish quality, yet I love it. Perhaps it’s because I saw this film when I was small. Perhaps it’s because I still love that song they dance to. Perhaps it’s the peak 80s-ness of it all. I don’t even know.

3. Danielle’s ballgown, Ever After, costume designer: Jenny Beavan. Genres: Fairy-tale retelling.

This was a perfect moment. So much so that I’m afraid to re-watch this film as a proper adult in case it doesn’t stand up. The dress, though, will always hold up.

2. Ellen Olenska’s red gown, The Age of Innocence. Costume designer: Gabriella Pescucci. Genres: Pychological drama; literary adaptation.

This is a case of the perfect dress for the scene. Madame Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) is different from every other character. As wonderful as she is, she doesn’t fit in, and this dress underscores that fact beautifully. Unbeknownst to her, she’s moving around in hostile territory where it might be smarter to pass unnoticed. Of course the fact that she floats around in her crimson gown completely oblivious to this hostility, is why we love her.

1.Anna’s ballgown, The King and I, costume designer: Irene Sharaff. Genres: Musical, literary adaptation.

This dress is largely responsible for beginning my Victorian obsession. It is directly responsible for little Julia insisting her first ever bridesmaid dress have a hoop skirt. It also led to compulsive use of the silver crayon when it was coloring-in time at my primary school. Despite the film’s problems, I still get chills when Anna dances with the king. I love the way the dress looks like liquid as she moves.

There you go; my top 10. I hope you’ll let me know your favorite costumes from film in the comments here, or on Facebook or Instagram.

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