words Al Woods
Not many creative mediums fit together as well as fashion and film. Over the years, filmmakers have captured the beauty of this industry onscreen through runway-ready costume pieces or biographies depicting some of the biggest names in the fashion world.
So whether you want to expand your knowledge of an industry so often shrouded in mystery or spend a couple of hours drooling over wardrobe pieces like full coverage bras, ballgowns and runway-ready haute couture, there are must-see fashion movies out there for you.
Funny Face (1957)
If you are looking for a joyous movie about haute couture, look no further than Funny Face. It stars the ever glamorous Audrey Hepburn, who portrays a New York City bookshop assistant with dreams of moving to Paris to study Philosophy.
Her dreams become a reality when she becomes the muse of a celebrated fashion photographer, portrayed by Fred Astaire. The movie is filled with beautiful Parisian backdrops, a catchy soundtrack and jaw-dropping dresses made by the famous costumier Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy.
If you are looking for an indulgent movie regarding the portrayal of fashion designers, Mahogany will be an excellent choice. It follows the life of American design student Tracy Chambers, portrayed by Diana Ross, whose clothes unexpectedly find immense popularity in the high society of Rome during the 1970s.
The film celebrates fashion in all its flamboyance and extravagance but also touches on African American citizens’ political struggles at the time. It specifically shows the difficulty Chambers faces picking between supporting black activists in her home town fighting gentrification and her aspiring albeit unfulfilling career as a model overseas.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
For many critics, this is considered the top fashion movie out there—Staring Merryl Streep in her oscar-nominated performance of Miranda Priestly, a thinly-veiled exaggeration of Anna Wintour. The movie follows a young college graduate (played by Anne Hathaway) who dreams of writing for The New Yorker. But instead, she lands herself an assistant job at a fashion magazine, working for the boss from hell, Miranda.
The movie perfectly combines the glitz and glamour of photoshoots and media, Haute couture and Paris Fashion Week with the incredibly toxic and demanding world that lies behind this smokescreen, teaching important lessons about self-worth and respect.
Coco Before Chanel (2009)
For a lesson in fashion history, look no further than Audrey Tautou’s extraordinary performance in Coco before Chanel. It depicts the life of Coco Chanel as a young seamstress in the years before she started her fashion house that would later go on to redefine the women’s wardrobe forever.
It combines beautiful cinematography, art direction and many memorable style moments thanks to French costume designer Catherine Leterrier, who has won a César Award for her work. Not only does it satisfy your fashion craving, but it offers a rare insight into the life of this historic designer.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Described as ‘brilliantly eerie’, Phantom Thread has captured the obsessive nature of couture fashion, something not many other films have achieved. It follows the relationship between a high society designer ( loosely based on Charles James) and a woman he meets at a seaside cafe who later becomes his muse.
It offers an incredible insight into post-war fashion through this beautifully interwoven fairytale. But be careful because this fairytale will ultimately start to feel more like a nightmare of obsession by the end of the film.
Not many people will turn to the world of Disney for fashion inspiration as it has historically always portrayed it in a somewhat far-fetched nature. However, following the life of the infamous Disney villain Cruella DeVil, this remake shows her as a young, renegade fashion designer.
She gains notoriety for rejecting the frills and florals of London Fashion at the time and, instead, introduces something far more dark and dangerous, with many parallels to real-life examples like Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano.
It might be difficult to tell, but Clueless is based on the Jane Austen novel, Emma. And despite there being nearly 200 years between these two pieces, the similarities remain the same, specifically the importance of fashion and appearance.
Released at a time when grunge fashion was all the rage, Alicia Silverstone’s portrayal of Cher Horowitz has not only given us decades of iconic fashion moments (who can forget the yellow plaid two-piece we all wish we had in our closets) but also reminds the audience the importance of remaining authentic to oneself, even if it goes entirely against the grain.
The September Issue (2009)
The September Issue is a rather unique movie for a few reasons. It was the first time the general public was offered such a detailed inside look at the goings-on of the real-life fashion magazine, Vogue. It is no secret that the fashion world is not as glamorous as it looks, but this film revealed the very cutthroat nature of this industry.
It follows the creation of the American September Issue, famously known as the most important issue of the calendar year for publication. The tumultuous relationship between editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and former creative director Grace Coddington is noted as one of the film’s highlights.