Costume Jewels

Shanghai Express

A couple weeks ago, I ran an article from the 1995 “style” issue in which Movieline compiled a list of women’s costumes as chosen by celebrities of the time.  Apparently, they liked the idea so much that they more-or-less repeated it the following year.  For the September 1996 issue of the magazine, Heidi Parker polled 30 fashion designers for their picks.  This time, there was no gender requirement, but a lot of the same costumes are included.

1. Badgley Mischka: “We love all the clothes Bette Davis wore in her movies so it’s hard to pick just one, but if we were pressed we’d select the silver lamé Orry-Kelly dress Davis wore in Now, Voyager.”

2. Tom Ford (Gucci): “I suppose I should say something chic like Audrey Hepburn’s black Hubert de Givenchy dress in the opening sequence of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but the movie dress that is most burned in my mind is the gaudy, tacky red sequinned dress Walter Plunkett designed for Scarlett O’Hara to wear when she goes to Ashley’s birthday party in Gone With the Wind. The shock and the gasps of the room when the door flings open and Scarlett is standing there are just too good, and it had an incredible impact on me.”

3. Dolce & Gabbana: “We both love the circle skirt suit on Anna Magnani in Open City. That suit exemplifies our ideal Italian woman. She’s sensual yet powerful.”

4. Oscar de la Renta: “My absolute favorite is the black Travis Banton dress Marlene Dietrich wore in Shanghai Express. I recall this one outfit because at the time the movie was made, dresses were made for the star and the scene. I found it such a paradox that Marlene’s character, a white prostitute in Shanghai, would be wearing a star’s dress–a glamorous, feather boa gown–on a train full of soldiers being shipped off to a civil war. You know how low a prostitute in that country at that time must have been, and here the character was clothed like a goddess because that’s what Hollywood did at the time. No matter what the character, a star had to look like a star.”

5. Valentino: “I can’t forget the long, white chiffon dress worn by Betty Hutton in the 1950 Fred Astaire film Let’s Dance. The way it fell was so feminine and sexy. In fact, it’s completely today.”

A Foreign Affair

6. Giorgio Armani: “Last year I worked on a project to restore a large part of Marlene Dietrich’s wardrobe, and then participated in a major exhibit on costume in Berlin, which included a section called Armani vis-à-vis Dietrich. So it’s only natural that I favor one of her costumes. The one that embodies for me Dietrich’s very modern, feminine elegance is [Edith Head’s] flesh-colored dress covered with metallic paislettes in A Foreign Affair. It’s so simple, but so sensual, and still today after almost 50 years conveys to me the essence of the magic of modernity.”

7. Todd Oldham: “Two outfits immediately come to mind. The first is the tank dress Jack Bear designed for Claudine Longet to wear in The Party. I loved it because of the low beaded neckline and the sleeves that rested far off her shoulders. The whole dress built up the party scene it was in. The other one I love is Travilla’s beaded paisley pantsuit which Susan Hayward wore in the wig-yanking, catfighting-in-the-ladies’ room scene in Valley of the Dolls. I’ll never forget it.”

8. Isaac Mizrahi: “Everyone always talks about what costume designer Jean Louis did for Rita Hayworth in Gilda, but one of his outfits for her in The Lady From Shanghai is a perfect example of modern glamour. The combination of Hayworth’s white-blonde hair with that dark peacoat and a captain’s hat represented a new brand of American sophistication that has affected us ever since.”

9. Rossella Jardini (Moschino): “The torn dress on Sophia Loren in Two Women, because it represents Italy and the typical Italian beauty. I also like it because the dress is torn in all the right places.”

Gone With the Wind

10. Manolo Blahnik: “It’s the green and gold dress that Scarlett O’Hara wore in Gone With the Wind. You’ll remember it because it’s the dress she made from the drapes and tassels left hanging at war-torn Tara. She needed to wear a dress that said she wasn’t financially ruined in order to meet Rhett Butler and ask him for money. It’s made by Walter Plunkett, and is my all-time favorite.”

11. Werner Baldessarini (Hugo Boss): “I like all the outfits Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, like her black sleeveless dress, but also her toga, made out of a sheet, at the cocktail party. She manages to look fresh and youthful while at the same time coming off as very feminine and elegant.”

12. Dana Buchman: “In 1942’s While Cargo there’s a tremendous buildup about Hedy Lamarr’s character. Everyone’s talking about her and what she’s like. Then in her first scene, she walks into a room wearing a sexy, wild, sultry animalistic sarong and she says, “I am Tondelayo!” I remember the dress and the scene so much because–wow!–there she finally is. And her Robert Kalloch dress was so bare and raw that it blows you away. It’s not like a dress, like the sarongs used in those old Tarzan movies. Instead, it’s more primitive and sexy… more real.”

13. Alberta Ferretti: “My favorite dress in the movies is the simple black Givenchy dress that Audrey Hepburn wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It had a rich silk fringe border, which is the only flamboyant detail–well, not counting the huge navy blue hat. This dress represents contemporary style, which is clean and very feminine. I love this because it does not disguise the personality of the wearer, but it accentuates her femininity.”

14. Cynthia Rowley: “There’s an outfit that Catherine Deneuve wears in a 1964 French film called The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It’s a Matisse-like hyper-color gingham dress that lightens up the scene it’s in. I love it because of the brightness and the color related to the environment around her.”

Breakfast at Tiffanys

15. Richard Tyler: “There are so many movie dresses, but I think a theatrical one would be the answer, so I pick Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Specifically, the Givenchy evening gown she wore in the opening scene when she got out of the car and went up to the window at Tiffany’s. It was so modem and her style was great–the jewelry, the sunglasses, the pearls. That movie was my favorite as a kid and it had such an impact on my life.”

16. Vera Wang: “There’s a Rene Hubert dress that Jean Simmons wears in the 1954 film Desiree that’s just beautiful. It’s an orange silk peignoir that’s stunning, I also love all of the Theodora Van Runkle clothing Faye Dunaway wears in Bonnie and Clyde, and I admire the elegance of the Givenchy clothes in the original Sabrina and in Funny Face.”

17. Carolina Herrera: “I love that feathery Bernard Newman dress Ginger Rogers wore in Top Hat with Fred Astaire. I remember it because it was absolutely beautiful and it moved so well with her body. When she danced, it danced too.”

18. Emanuel Ungaro: “I love the silk Edith Head dress Bette Davis wore in All About Eve during the party at her house. By itself it projected not only the character of Margo Channing with all of her strength, glamour, talent, confusion and fragility, but also was a promotion of the charged atmosphere that invaded the party. No other dress could have been more perfect for a line such as, ‘Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”‘

19. Jane Booke: “I love all of James Acheson’s costumes from Restoration, especially the party dresses the king’s mistress wore. They were so over the top. I’m into that period and think I was born at the wrong time. I love to escape from reality through clothing.”

20. Betsey Johnson: ‘The movie is Buttterfield 8, the girl is Elizabeth Taylor and the dress is the silky slip in the opening sequence. It’s my favorite costume in a movie because it’s sexy, simple and forever.”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

21. Bijan: “There are three women of the cinema [whose clothes] I believe have an undeniable influence on fashion. One is Audrey Hepburn’s timeless personal style, which truly enhanced her screen persona in a movie like Sabrina, where she was costumed by Givenchy. Most everything she wore was uncomplicated. Marilyn Monroe also knew how to make the best of her qualities, and in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she had many wonderful Travilla dresses, especially the pink one. And great period style in Theoni V. Aldredge’s diaphanous dresses for The Great Gatsby made Mia Farrow so magnificently feminine.”

22. Bill Blass: “I was tremendously impressed by the Cecil Beaton dress Audrey Hepburn wore to the Ascot races in My Fair Lady. Why? Well, it’s absolutely beautiful, completely elegant and relatively simple. And best of all is the hat, which is a perfect complement to the dress.”

23. Sonia Rykiel: “I can’t pick one dress in particular from All About Eve, because I love all of the Edith Head dresses Bette Davis wore in that movie. Actually, everything in that film–the character, the tone, the lighting, the accessories–everything was admirable, not just the clothes. I’ve always loved Bette Davis in that role. Her character and her dresses are in a class by themselves.”

24. Kenneth Cole: “I would have to say my favorite is the blue-and-white gingham dress Adrian designed for Judy Garland to wear in The Wizard of Oz, because it was the perfect accessory to her wonderful ruby slippers. Although as she journeys down the Yellow Brick Road, I wonder how many would have truly wanted to be in her shoes?”

25. Patrick Cox: “The dress that most stands out in my mind is the beige evening number Faye Dunaway wore in Bonnie and Clyde. Why? Because of its design, which was done by Theodora Van Runkle, and its gorgeous chiffon fabric. It was a perfect combination of cut and cloth.”

26. Pamela Dennis: “I love the white Helen Rose dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The way that dress caressed her shoulders was magnificent. Between her dress, her eyes and Paul Newman’s eyes, I was mesmerized.”

basinger - cool world

27. David Yurman: “I love the white dress with the sheer, plunging neckline that Kim Basinger wore during the piano scene in Cool World, because it played perfectly on the purity of light and it emphasized the athletic passion of Kim.”

28. Norma Kamali: “There’s not one particular dress from a movie that I absolutely love, but Carole Lombard dressed fabulously on and off the screen. From No Man of Her Own to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lombard always looked great.”

29. Kate Spade: “There are two different styles that I can’t decide between. One is the glamorous look of Grace Kelly’s white flowing dress from To Catch a Thief, which is the most beautiful outfit I can think of, and the other is the kilt and dark tights ensemble Ali MacGraw wore in Love Story. I loved Ali’s look from this film because it was casual but classic. So I’m torn between the beauty of elegance and the beauty of casual ness.”

30. Nicole Miller: “I’m thinking of the outfits women wear in those Matt Helm movies, the James Bond spoofs starring Dean Martin [The Silencers, Murderers’ Row, The Ambushers and The Wrecking Crew]. All the clothes are very mod, very ’60s, which I love. All the clothes in the Matt Helm movies are inspirational–I just rented a bunch of them to check the outfits out. Maybe that work is so interesting to me because I went to high school in the ’60s–I don’t know.”


Heidi Parker is the senior editor of Seventeen magazine.


Posted on September 15, 2016, in Movieline Articles, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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