14 Cult Films Where Costume Designers Created Priceless Masterpieces

How much can you tell about a character just based on their clothing? As it turns out, quite a lot.
Some costumes in Movies become famous purely for their gorgeousness. Some are memorable for different reasons. For example, a totally normal white halterneck became iconic in history when Marilyn stood over a subway vent, proving that it is truly the way you wear it that counts. Let's see Costume Designs in cult films which are famous.
A character's wardrobe choices could really tell you who they are without any a word of dialogue, an instantly recognizable outfit can make getting dressed up for Halloween easy, and film sometimes can not only reflect but also dictate fashion trends.
Typically, costume designers who work on film productions are tasked with a handful of challenging tasks, including creating spectacular and plausible looks, making the clothing beautiful and practical for pulling off tricky stunts, and staying within budget. These difficulties motivate real experts to produce priceless masterpieces at the top of their game. These hit movies where costume designers create amazingly are great to see.

#1 Spencer (2021)

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: CAP / SFS / Capital Pictures / East News, © Spencer / Shoebox Films, © Spencer / Shoebox Films

Kristen Stewart's character's outfits play the part of an allegory for her inner state. On the one hand, Lady Di is a member of the royal family and must follow the royal protocol; on the other hand, her marriage is falling apart, and the princess herself is in crisis.
The costume designer Jacqueline Durran meticulously studied archive photos of Diana taken between 1988 and 1992. Chanel, the cult fashion house, assisted in realizing the designer's ideas. The princess' outfit stands out against the royal family's ever-green-gray-brown backdrop. This artistic choice perfectly emphasizes Diana's displeasure with Buckingham Palace orders.

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © Spencer / Shoebox Films

#2 Tale of Tales (2015)

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © Il racconto dei racconti / Archimede

Massimo Parrini worked hard to design clothing for all of the characters, from peasants to monarchs. And the task was difficult - the designers had to create clothing that looked both historical and fantasy-like.
Salma Hayek's wardrobe deserves special mention. At first, she dresses up dark clothes that reflect her dark thoughts. But once she has the son she has always desired, she appears in a black and red gown. The idea is that the dress should reflect the queen's happiness. This dress was made with original 18th-century embroidery, lace, and buttons.

#3 The Tourist (2010)

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © The Tourist / GK Films

Colleen Atwood created a world of timeless chic by fusing vintage and modern fashion. As a result, there are no "loud" clothes in the movie, only neutral colors and elegant simplicity.
This is exactly what the protagonist wears. Her clothes, like her gloves and red lipstick, and the peach-colored ribbon around her waist, hint at the fact that she conceals many secrets. These small details reveal to viewers that Elise is a mysterious woman, not just a beautiful woman with exquisite taste.

#4 Coco Before Chanel (2009)

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © Coco avant Chanel / Haut et Court

Leterrier researched photo archives, visited museums, and went to flea markets for the necessary fabrics to recreate the legendary Coco's style. This is how viewers discovered the young Coco: talented, bright, pompous, and very poor.
Her clothes reflect her nonconformist personality. While the other characters appear feminine, Coco dresses in men's oversize clothing. Coco chooses dark colors when everyone else is wearing bright colors. The main character reaches the impossible — she dresses like a clown but looks absolutely stunning — thanks to the excellent costumes and great acting by Audrey Tatou.

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © Coco avant Chanel / Haut et Court

#5 Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © Moulin Rouge! / Twentieth Century Fox

80 costume designers were working on 300 outfits for the Moulin Rouge characters! Catherine Martin designed dozens of colorful, plausible, and purposefully theatrical outfits. Nicole Kidman's character costumes are inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich.
The intricate diamond ligature created by Australian jeweler Stefano Canturi for Satine deserves special attention. There were 1,308 gems in the piece. It is still regarded as one of the most expensive pieces of jewelry in Hollywood history.

#6 In the Mood for Love (2000)

Costume Designs in cult filmsSource: © Fa yeung nin wah / Block 2 Pictures

The director wanted to focus on the characters' emotions rather than how the world around them changes. As a result, the only change we see on the screen is in the clothing of the main characters, Su and Chow.
The characters' clothes ( designed by William Chang) show how they want to be perceived by others. Su's dresses gradually begin to communicate her mood, and Chow adapts to his love's style. Su and her attire have an attraction. The costumes of these characters inspired Roberto Cavalli and other well-known designers.

#7 The Matrix (1999)

Source: © The Matrix / Warner Bros.

The outfits in this movie not only improve its appearance but also conveyed a message. Consider the characters' real-world attire: they wear shabby outfits, whereas, in the Matrix, they could wear any trendy clothing they preferred.
The directors demanded that Trinity looks like an oil slick. She defies gravity, appears out of nowhere, and vanishes quickly. Kym Barrett came up with a brilliant solution: PVC clothes that looked great and were reasonably priced.
The clothes are close-fitting but not revealing. They emphasize Trinity's important role — she's not your typical movie girlfriend; she's a fighter on a mission.

#8 The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Source: © The World Is Not Enough / MGM

Lindy Hemming first read the script, then researched fashion trends and discussed the outfits with the director. As a result, the clothes not only looked fashionable but also helped to convey the personalities of the characters.
Elektra King's iconic red dress represents her rage, and her silk cape demonstrates her high social status. The red color gives the impression that she is only a beautiful woman and not a dangerous foe.
This dress, which has a sewn-in corset and sophisticated embroidery, was made entirely by hand. The outfit was even featured in the "Designing 007, 50 Years of Bond" fashion exhibition.

#9 Basic Instinct (1992)

Source: TriStar / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, © Basic Instinct / Canal+

Catherine Tramell, played by Sharon Stone, is a true femme fatale. However, she resembles a classic Hitchcock blond rather than a vampy woman. The costume designers wanted her clothes to be neutral in color and avoided giving her revealing dresses. She's wearing a cute beige cardigan at the start of the film.
Later, we see the iconic dress from the interrogation scene. The light color doesn't make it too revealing, but viewers already know Catherine Tramell isn't that simple. She's a manipulator who knows how to use clothing to her benefit.

#10 The Addams Family (1991)

Source: © The Addams Family / Orion Pictures

Ruth wanted the Addams family should have an aristocratic appearance. So the family's mother changed her clothes three times a day: in the morning, she wore a simple dress, during the day, something more exotic, and at the end of the day, the most extravagant one she had. She wore lace and black jewels in the evening. The most impressive outfit was an Edwardian-style coat with a hood.
Ruth also wanted Morticia to move like an otherworldly being. She used corsets to help lengthen this character's body.

#11 Pretty Woman (1990)

Source: © Pretty Woman / Touchstone Pictures

To get a better understanding of the character, look at four of her outfits: a bodycon, a midriff-baring dress with knee-high boots, a black cocktail dress, a polka-dot dress, and an elegant white outfit. They portray the development of a personality as she realizes that "less is more" is a principle she should follow when it comes to clothing.
Vance was inspired to create the first look by a swimsuit with a metal ring that was very popular in the 1970s. Julia Roberts' body looked better in this outfit. Marilyn discovered the knee-high boots in a London boutique, and the designer herself wore the famous beret.

#12 Dirty Dancing (1987)

Source: © Dirty Dancing / Lionsgate

The main plot of the film is Baby's development. The character's transformation from a shy girl to a confident lady is illustrated through dance and clothing. The latter become more open, but not overly so. The costume designer had to do an excellent job of creating rebellious '60s fashion.
Johnny is very important in the girl's life. The characters are clearly visible in the legendary scene of their final dance. Johnny is dressed in a leather jacket and a black shirt, giving off a bad-boy vibe. And Baby is dressed in a delicate pink gown that many girls desired after seeing this film.

#13 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Source: © Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation, East News, © Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation

William Travilla designed a huge collection of fabulous dresses for the character of Marilyn Monroe. The collection includes a tight coral dress embellished with glittery beads, a gold pleated lamé outfit with a deep V-neckline, and a floor-length red shimmery dress with glittery bracelets sewn to the sleeves.
Still, the pink gown made of rare peau d'ange satin is revered. The designer was tasked with creating a not-too-revealing gown that would highlight Marilyn's sensuality.

Source: Mary Evans / AF Archive / East News

#14 Gone With the Wind (1939)

Source: © Gone with the Wind / MGM

Plunkett was researching historical materials, aging fabrics, and even going on thorn-gathering expeditions. In the time of Scarlett O'Hara, thorns were used instead of needles.
For the legendary curtain dress, two types of green velvet had to be purchased. Both were exposed to the sun for an extended period for the material to fade. Plunkett had to work very hard on the cut and minimize his sewing skills to convince the audience that the outfit could be completed in one evening.
By the way, Scarlett's dress was made from curtains, which is historically accurate. It was nearly impossible to buy fabric, so women had to find other ways to update their wardrobes.
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