Fashion in Film: My 10 Favorite Costumes

10.  Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame” dress from Gilda

On a lot of other women, that gown would have been pretty unremarkable.  But Rita Hayworth had so much charisma in that movie and had such an incredible screen presence that she turned what could have been a forgettable gown into the most iconic costume of her career.

9.  Elizabeth Taylor’s white slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

This right here is proof that Elizabeth Taylor could take the simplest garment and turn it into a definitive screen costume.  Nobody worked a white slip better than Elizabeth Taylor.

8.  All of Norma Shearer’s gowns from Marie Antoinette

I’d be very hard pressed to pick just one favorite costume from Marie Antoinette.  Adrian put an enormous amount of time and effort into designing all those exquisite gowns, no detail was overlooked.  They are all works of art.

7.  Debbie Reynolds’ “Good Morning” dress from Singin’ in the Rain.

Plain and simply, she looks absolutely adorable in it.  She had a lot of wonderful costumes in Singin’ in the Rain, but whenever I think about her in that movie, this is the first costume that comes to mind.

6.  Myrna Loy’s striped party dress from The Thin Man

I just think this dress is pure Nora Charles.  It’s fun, but classy.  She looks like the life of the party.

5.  Grace Kelly’s black and white outfit from Rear Window

This just epitomizes Grace Kelly to me.  It is so clean and simple, it’s not bogged down with a lot of accessories or jewelry, but it’s one of the most elegant dresses I’ve ever seen.

4.  Jean Harlow’s party dress from Dinner at Eight


It’s slinky and ridiculously glamorous.  This is Jean Harlow at her finest.

3.  Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo from Morocco

In an era when women rarely wore pants, Marlene Dietrich went all out and donned a tuxedo.  Not shocking by today’s standards, but it’s no surprise that her tux caused a commotion when Morocco was released in 1930.

2.  Gloria Swanson’s outfit from her first scene in Sunset Boulevard

This outfit tells us right off everything that we need to know about Norma Desmond.  She looks rich, she looks like a movie star, and she’s definitely got some issues.

1.  Charlie Chaplin as The Little Tramp

As far as I’m concerned, this is the most iconic movie costume of all time.  It doesn’t just represent one movie, it represents Chaplin’s entire body of work and it’s a symbol for that whole era of film history.  When you see that hat, the cane, those shoes, that mustache, there’s no mistaking him for anybody else.  Even when people who don’t know silent films try to describe silent films, odds are they’re going to describe Charlie Chaplin and what he wore.

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14 comments

  1. A very clever post! I adore each of your costume choices from such iconic films. Swanson as Desmond is my favorite though for so many reasons with Dietrich’s tux as a close second.
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  2. Love it! You have a few of mine in there (Kelly & Harlow). So clever to include, Chaplin, too! I also love Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina party dress and suit, Grace Kelly’s blue gown from To Catch a Thief and Scarlett’s “dove” dress from GWTW (only seen briefly. I have a partial photo of it, but I would love to see a full length version). Oh, and anything worn by Crawford and designed by Adrian. can’t wait for the blogathon!

    1. Thanks! It was definitely a challenge to narrow it down to ten for the sake of this post. it was hard to leave off any of Scarlett’s GWTW gowns or any of the things Adrian designed for Joan Crawford. Or so many of Audrey Hepburn’s and Marilyn Monroe’s outfits.

  3. Great selection of costumes – Shearer’s MARIE ANTOINETTE gown takes my breath away; what a shame the film was not in color! I think Rita’s little black dress from GILDA is pretty sensational all its own, but you’re right, Rita fills it out in a way that no one else could. And didn’t Harlow have to be sewn into her DINNER AT 8 dress because it was so slinky? I seem to remember reading that Harlow literally could not sit down when she had it on!

    1. One of the most interesting things about the big Debbie Reynolds auction a few months back was that it finally gave us a chance to see a couple of those amazing Marie Antoinette gowns in color. I’d really love to be able to get an up-close look at one of them in person someday because I’m sure they’re full of little details that don’t even show up in pictures or in the movie.

      And you’re exactly right about Harlow’s Dinner at Eight gown. She couldn’t sit down in it so they had this contraption on set for her that she could use to lean on between takes. When I was looking for a picture to use in this post, I found a lot of behind-the-scenes pictures of Harlow leaning on it, looking over her script.

    1. I had no idea that dress had its own Wikipedia page! That is awesome. You know something is a truly iconic movie costume when it has its own page on Wikipedia.

  4. A great list. I agree with most of your choices. I can’t wait till tomorrow. :)

    I did a list as well – great minds think alike. Butt mine’s a little different so I think I’ll go ahead and post it anyway.

  5. Love Nora Charles’s striped dress! Every time I watch The Thin Man, I wish I had my very own version of it. That and I totally want my husband and I to grow up to be Nick and Nora Charles. Maybe just for a day or two?

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