Watching a vintage film is often nothing more than an excuse to take a good look at the costumes. The wardrobes from vintage films can provide so much inspiration for our own outfits and of course, a hefty dose of nostalgia.
Whilst whatever the era, there are some beautiful pieces to pick out, we believe that we’ve sifted through the archives to find the ultimate collection of vintage film costumes. Some are incredibly grand, some very modest, and others have truly defined a generation. This is our guide to the very best vintage fashion in film, let us know if there are any that you think we’ve missed.
Elizabeth Taylor – Cleopatra
First on the list is perhaps the film with the greatest wardrobe of all time, Cleopatra. Elizabeth Taylor played the titular role in this film that has so influenced us that to this day there are new slot games with progressive jackpots that are based on it, countless books, remakes of the film, and more. In the 1963 film, the Egyptian Queen was adorned with no less than 65 different outfits, costing the wardrobe department millions. Not only was the wardrobe department expensive, but so too was Elizabeth Taylor’s fee, a million dollars. This made her the best-paid woman in the world at the time.
Whilst there are many outfits from this film that were truly legendary perhaps the most memorable was the 24-Karat gold outfit. She wore an incredible headdress with golden feathers, supposed to represent her coming back to life like a phoenix. The cape was truly spectacular with golden leather and golden beads carefully embroidered onto the back of the cape to create the image of a phoenix. It was a spectacular piece a and in 2012 was auctioned off for a price of almost $60,000.
Julia Roberts – Pretty Woman
Pretty Woman is an absolute classic and believe it or not, 1990 was 33 years ago, so it now officially counts as vintage! Julia Roberts stunned throughout this film as her character Vivian Ward, but the moment that truly too our breath away was seeing her transform when she put on the brown polka dot dress. She instantly became a picture of elegance, and although the message in the film was perhaps a little shallow, the way this metamorphosis was pulled off was masterful. She chose this outfit for a day at the races and she couldn’t have looked more glamorous. A huge straw hat and a statement belt completed the look, cinching in her impossibly tiny waist in the most glamorous way.
Marilyn Monroe – The Seven Year Itch
Whilst Elizabeth Taylor takes the crown for the most expensive film wardrobe at the time, Marilyn Monroe takes the title for the biggest auction price. William Travilla was the costume designer responsible for Marilyn’s dress in the classic 50s romcom The Seven Year Itch.
He put her in the iconic billowing white halterneck that remains one of the most instantly recognisable of Marilyn’s looks. He loved the look so much that he kept the dress in his private collection until he passed away in 1990. Following this, the dress was auctioned off and fetched a staggering $5.6 million.
James Dean – Rebel Without a Cause
It’s not only women that have worn truly iconic outfits on film. One of our favorite vintage male outfits is something that you still see all the time today, the simple white t-shirt and blue jeans. James Dean wore this look in Rebel Without a Cause and it was an instant hit.
Jim Stark (Dean’s Character) gave off simple, sexy vibes that had women of the time swooning and men of the time wishing that they could be him. Sure, it might not seem groundbreaking, but it genuinely did cause a revolution at the time.
Olivia Newton-John – Grease
Grease is a film that many of us remember fondly, the songs were super catchy, the cast was loveable, but the outfits were maybe the very best part. Olivia Newton-John played Sandy, a good girl who fell in love with a bad boy.
Throughout the film their clashing personas tried to meld together, but it wasn’t until the final scene that we saw what Sandy was truly capable of. Her biker-chick transformation was incredible. Permed blonde curls paired perfectly with a bardot neckline and high waisted trousers. These trousers were so tight that she had to actually be sewn into them. This combination sparked many copycat styles, most notably perhaps the disco pant that graced nightclubs everywhere in the 2010s.
Judy Garland – The Wizard of Oz
Finally, we couldn’t make it all the way to the end without Judy Garland getting a mention. Her performance in The Wizard of Oz as the protagonist Dorothy was truly iconic.
Her adorable gingham pinafore in forget-me-not blue and white was innocent, pure and so perfect, the bunches were cute too and the little white socks. However, the piece that Dorothy is the most famous for? Those sparkly red shoes that may be the single most iconic item of clothing in film history.