14. Mystery Train (1989), USA/Japan
Three different scenarios, all situated in the same hotel in a deserted Mississippi. Three guys running from the troubles they started, a young Italian woman who’s somewhat naïve but immensely smart, and a young Japanese couple; one exuberant and infatuated with Elvis Presley, the other melancholic. As Elvis’ song “Blue Moon” plays on the radio, Jim Jarmusch takes you to an obscure hotel with different kinds of outsiders.
It’s definitely the young Japanese couple who catches your eye when it comes to fashion in the film, though Luisa, the young Italian woman, carries a certain foreign charm in her red dress. But it’s the young, different and fresh style of the couple that’s truly inspiring, from the guy’s platform shoes to the girl’s pink spacy lipstick. They set off each other quite well, and even though their personalities seem very different, their outfits make them seem like the coolest couple you’ll ever meet.
Seeing the film in 2016, the couple could have easily been taken directly from the runway of a fashion show today. Just the cover for the film, with the red lips and blue check pattern, exudes coolness, and the contrast of the abandoned city and Jarmusch’s stylish aesthetics is quite amusing.
Remarkable outfit: Jun’s extraordinary look with his lacquer creepers, the pastel green blazer, greasy Elvis hair, and a cigarette behind his ear.
15. Do the Right Thing (1989), USA
The film spans over one particularly hot day in a black and Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn. The audience follows Mookie, played by Spike Lee himself, on this day where he delivers pizza from Sal’s Pizzeria, always around when things are happening, whether it’s the tough boss, lady troubles, or racial issues and discussions.
Ruth E. Carter, the costume designer for the film, really hit the nail on the head with this one. It takes place in a multi-ethnic hip-hop milieu, and the style and aesthetic of the film is very clear in both the vibrant colors of the cinematography as well as the fashion. It’s a great example of street fashion from baggy jeans, flat tops, sneakers, neon crop tops, and oversized baseball jerseys, and it’s all a cultural triumph.
As everything unfolds in the course of just one day, there aren’t many changes in the clothes for each character, but there are still plenty of memorable outfits to take in for the audience. One great example would be Samuel L. Jackson’s character as the local DJ, who wears a black-based oversized shirt with a colorful print. It’s very cool and fresh, just as his narration.
But it’s especially seen in the minor characters of some of the young teenagers around the area, who all wear the least amount of clothes, but also the most colorful and refreshing, showing a new and crisp way of dressing for the future.
Remarkable outfit: Mookie’s first outfit with the Brooklyn Dodgers Jackie Robinson No. 42 jersey, red shorts and sneakers.
16. Clueless (1995), USA
Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and her friend Dionne are ever-fashionable and popular high school students in Beverly Hills. They love to play matchmakers and do so with newfound friend Tai, who just transferred to their school, and who in their view is quite “clueless”. However, slowly Cher discovers that she might be in need of a makeover as well, though a more spiritual one, and she starts trying to find more substance in her life, shying more and more away from parties, boys and superficial fun. One thing she doesn’t change, though, is her impeccable fashion sense.
With this flick, the audience is introduced to daring and colorful 90’s style with chokers, faux fur, knee-high socks and spaghetti straps, cleverly chosen by costume designer Mona May.
There isn’t an outfit that Cher and her friends wouldn’t be brave enough to try, and it makes for inspiring and fun characters who really knows how to mix and match items. What’s really impressive is how May used items that were very trendy with teenagers at the time, and put them together in such ways that it actually created new trends, ones that we even see to this day.
Worth noticing is also how Cher’s outfits reflect the place she’s at in her life. For example, take the memorable sheer white fringe shirt with a light blue baby sweater over it. It’s not only innovative, it’s also has a very “white and innocent schoolgirl” look to it, which fits perfectly with the fact that in this scene, Cher finally realizes how she’s been acting like a child all this time, not realizing that Josh is perfect for her. Even though the film is a chick flick and the plot does lack certain originality, the fashion is simply priceless.
Remarkable outfit: The ever-recognizable yellow plaid schoolgirl ensemble that Cher sports in the beginning of the film.
17. In the Mood for Love (2000), Hong Kong
The film is set in 1962 Hong Kong and Chow Mo-Wan, played by Tony Chiu Wai Leung, has just moved into an apartment with his wife, a woman who seems to always be away on business. Meanwhile, another young married couple moves in next door; Su Li-zhen, played by Maggie Cheung, and her absent husband. As both spouses are often away from home, Chow and Li-zhen start spending time together. As they see each other more and more often, they start finding comfort and company in one another.
This Kar-Wai Wong film is in every way possible thorough in its aesthetics; from the red color scheme, impeccable lighting and its costumes, the tone of the film is nothing but graceful. Especially the traditional Chinese dresses, cheongsams, fitted with small changes and worn by Maggie Cheung, always seem to fit like a glove in beautiful variations of fabrics like silk, and match perfectly with her hair worn up in a 1960’s hairstyle.
There’s something very seductive about the way Li-zhen carries herself in her dresses, but it never seems to cross the barrier from romantic to bluntly sexy. It’s constantly tasty and poised whenever she walks down a narrow alley in Hong Kong to get her noodles, always looking graceful and stylish, even though it is just noodles she’s getting.
Remarkable outfit: The beautiful off-white cheongsam with daffodils that Li-zhen wore late in the film.
18. Devdas (2002), India
Devdas Mukherji (Shah Rukh Khan) has had a quite wealthy upbringing, and though he sometimes takes it for granted, he has a good heart. His father sees him as a slacker, though, and Devdas gets sent abroad for several years so that he can learn how to behave. However, as Devdas returns back home, he’s still the same.
He’s even still in love with his childhood friend, Parvati (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), and they have decided to marry. But things don’t work out that easy, as Devdas’ family prevents the marriage from taking place, because Parvati comes from a lower caste family. After that, Devdas’ life spirals out of control, and even though he falls in love with another woman, Chandramukhi, it’s the alcohol that becomes his vice.
You could, of course, have a list consisting just of Bollywood films and their gorgeous colorful garments, but the reason this 3-hour film set in the early 1900s is especially remarkable is the clever way of combining traditional materials such as Indian hues, Banaras sarees, brocades and silk, with modern colors, makeup and jewelry.
Other than that, it’s also impressive how every character’s arc has been taken so heavily into account when choosing their outfits, whether it’s how Devdas goes from being a rich suave boy coming from abroad to becoming a melancholic drunk, or whether it’s Parvati in the first part of the film wearing simple cotton sarees and still looking stunning.
Neeta Lulla is the costume designer behind the many Indo-western types of attire shown throughout the film, and with the intense research on the fashion at the time and the many handmade details, there’s not one outfit that doesn’t amaze.
Remarkable outfit: Chandramukhi’s marvelous green and gold attire as she does a Kathak performance.
19. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), USA
The fantastic Mr. Fox is fantastic at stealing things. Whether it’s hens, turkeys or cider, he’s got it. Though Mr. Fox has put the raids aside to instead focus on being a father, there are just these three horrible and nasty farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, that he has to get a go at, and so he does.
Of course, it all spirals out of control, and midnight adventures with your friends suddenly don’t seem that good an idea when you have a family at home waiting for you to take some responsibility, and three farmers who will do their utmost to catch you.
This is one of the more unusual entries on this list, but nonetheless a very relevant one. Wes Anderson is, of course, known for his very recognizable and original style, and as the costumes of his characters never seem to have anything random about them, there’s also something especially fashionable about the George Clooney-voiced fox and his friends.
It’s not just that it’s miniature and cute with striped pajamas, swimming trunks, tennis socks and neckties, it’s also the way that everything is so well put together from the color schemes of yellow and orange to a textured beige cardigan.
Although Mr. Fox himself is definitely one to study, the other characters are in no way trivial. Take, for example, one of the antagonists of the story, Bunce, who sports a fairly amusing taste in fashion with a bright yellow necktie, a patchwork sixpence and a gingham button-up, or the ever so stylish rat with dark fitted jeans and a French sailor-style jumper.
Remarkable outfit: Mr. Fox’s classic and much worn double-breasted velvet suit jacket in orange, with a sunshine-yellow shirt underneath.
20. A Single Man (2009), USA
It’s 1962 and George Falconer, played by Colin Firth, is a professor of literature whose world is shattered as his boyfriend of many years, Jim, is killed in a car accident. As Jim’s family doesn’t even want George at the funeral, everything seems to be lost, and George decides that he doesn’t want to live any longer, and therefore plans to take his own life.
But before George takes action to end his seemingly meaningless life, a young student of his suddenly shows great affection and interest in him, and slowly enters his life. However, as George seems to have found happiness yet again, nature intervenes.
Esteemed fashion designer Tom Ford directed this film, so of course it had to be absolutely thorough in its style and costumes. And so it is. And for once, for a film highlighting fashion, it’s not just the women’s fashion that seems to be elegant and innovative, but also the men’s.
Ford keeps a certain daring sense when playing with the 1960’s men’s wear, while still keeping it very classy, from a classic dark grey suit on Firth, to retro style knit polo in warm brown tones, and then to an off-white slash-neck mohair jumper matched with white jeans on Nicholas Hoult: it’s got it all.
One particularly nice scene is the dance between Firth and Julianne Moore. In a room with a curvy nude-pink sofa and a golden-detailed dresser, the two of them dance. Moore swings her hips in a memorable black and white dress and large yellow earrings and Firth follows in a buttoned-down white oxford shirt. It’s very 1960’s, and it’s all very great. In the best way possible, it’s a very subdued scene and thus typical of the whole film as such, the costumes are no exception.
Remarkable outfit: George’s classic heavy-framed specs, neat tailoring, and an ever so tasteful white shirt with a black tie.
Author Bio: Dicte Houmøller is a Danish film enthusiast who likes to think of herself as a future screenwriter. For now she tries to cruise around on her skateboard and look cool, while coming up with great scenes for her next script.