14 Cult Movies With Costume Designers Who Brilliantly Created Priceless Masterpieces

Making a movie is a long process and involves many aspects that come together. Besides the script, the movie's visual effects have a big impact on how realistic and entertaining it feels to spectators. And one of the most important aspects of this is costume design.
After all, clothes may also convey a story. Viewers may learn a lot about a character's personality, ideas, and even sentiments by looking at what they are wearing. Moreover, the costumes enhance the movie-watching experience by letting the viewer know the historical period in which the story takes place. Not to mention, a movie's costume design can give it a unique vibe that sets it apart from other works in the same genre.
Whether it's an arthouse film or an action movie, there's no denying that costume design is an important part. Nonetheless, some films have costume designs that are so mesmerizing and stunning that viewers are left with a watch they are certain to never forget thanks to talented costume designers. Here is a list of 14 outstanding costume designers for the Movies.

#1 Costume designer: Marilyn Vance - "Pretty Woman" (1990)

Source: © Pretty Woman / Touchstone Pictures

These 4 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 show the evolution of Vivian's personality. She applies the principle “Less is more” to her choice of attire. Vance took inspiration for the initial design from a swimsuit with a metal ring that was popular in the ’70s. Julia Roberts' physique appeared more gorgeous while wearing this dress.

#2 Costume designer: William Travilla - "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953)

Source: © Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation

In the film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," the dashing dresses of Marilyn Monroe's character were designed by William Travilla. The collection consisted of a tight coral dress embellished with glitter, a gold pleated lamé outfit with a deep V neckline, and a long red sparkly polka dot dress with flounces. sparkly hoop is sewn to the sleeve.

Source: © Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation

However, the pink dress—made of rare peau d’ange satin—is the most iconic. To highlight Marilyn's sexuality, the designer had to create a dress that was not-too-revealing. William adhered the satin to the billiard table upholstery's green felt so that the garment would maintain its form. On the back, black silk adhered. The design itself had a stiff cardboard frame appearance. The dress's back was embellished with an asymmetrical bow and filled with horsehair and stuffed with ostrich feathers and horsehair for volume.

#3 Costume designer: Ruth Myers - "The Addams Family" (1991)

Source: © The Addams Family / Orion Pictures

Because Ruth thought the Addams family should appear aristocratic, the mother changed her clothes three times a day. In the morning, she wore a straightforward dress, during the day. And by the end of the day, she chose the most extravagant one she had. She was wearing lace and black jewelry as it became dark. The most remarkable costume was a hooded cloak inspired by Edwardian attire. Ruth also desired that Morticia move in a supernatural manner. She lengthened this character's figure by using corsets.

#4 Costume designer: Kym Barrett - "The Matrix" (1999)

Source: © The Matrix / Warner Bros.

The directors insisted that Trinity should have an oil-slick-like appearance. She defies gravity, makes an unexpected appearance, and then vanishes quickly. Kym Barrett came up with a brilliant answer— PVC clothes that looked perfect and were pretty cheap. Although the clothing is close-fitting, it is not exposing. They emphasize Trinity's significant role since, unlike other movie girlfriends, she is a combatant on a crucial mission.

#5 Costume designer: Walter Plunkett - "Gone With the Wind" (1939)

Source: © Gone with the Wind / MGM

Since the events in the film take place over fifteen years, the costumes require a lot of work. Plunkett researched historical sources, and aged textiles, and even went on a thorn-gathering expedition. In the time of Scarlett O’Hara, thorns were used in place of needles. The fabled curtain garment required the purchase of two different varieties of green velvet. To make the fabric deteriorate, they were both exposed to the sun for an extended period. Plunkett had to work hard on the cut and lower his sewing skills to make the audience believe that the outfit could be made in one evening.

#6 Costume designer: Colleen Atwood - "The Tourist" (2010)

Source: © The Tourist / GK Films

Colleen Atwood combined vintage and modern fashion, creating a world of timeless chic. The outfit and accessories like gloves, red lipstick, and peach ribbon around her waist let viewers know that Elise is more than simply a beauty with impeccable taste.

#7 Costume designer: Hilary Rosenfeld - "Dirty Dancing" (1987)

Source: © Dirty Dancing / Lionsgate

"Dirty Dancing" is about Baby's transformation from a shy girl to a confident teenager as shown through her choreography and costumes. And creating costumes from the rebellious 1960s fashion required a lot of skill from the costume designer. In the legendary scene of Johnny and Baby's final dance, her tender pink clothing became iconic.

#8 Costume designer: Jacqueline Durran - "Spencer" (2021)

Source: © Spencer / Shoebox Films

In "Spencer", Kristen Stewart’s character outfits serve as a kind of allegory of her feeling. On the one hand, Lady Di is a member of the royal family and is required to follow royal tradition, on the other hand, her marriage is in serious trouble, and the princess herself is experiencing a serious crisis.

Source: © Spencer / Shoebox Films

The costume designer Jacqueline Durran scrutinized Diana's photographs from 1988 to 1992. She wanted to emulate Lady Spencer's style instead of just copying it. The cult fashion house Chanel helped realize the designer's idea. The princess's outfit stood out against the royal family's continuous green-gray-brown background like a bright flash. This creative choice effectively highlights how alien the orders of Buckingham Palace are to Diana.

#9 Costume designer: Ellen Mirojnick, Nino Cerruti - "Basic Instinct" (1992)

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

Catherine Tramell is a true femme fatale. However, instead of being a vampire, she resembles a classic blonde Hitchcock. Her costumes were designed to be neutral in color, and she didn't wear any revealing dresses. At the beginning of the movie, she wears a cute beige cardigan. Later on, we see the iconic dress from the interrogation scene. Although the light color doesn’t make it too revealing, viewers are already aware that Catherine Tramell is not so straightforward. She is a cunning manipulator who understands how to take advantage of clothes.

#10 Costume designer: William Chang - "In the Mood for Love" (2000)

Source: © Fa yeung nin wah / Block 2 Pictures

Because the filmmaker wanted to emphasize the character's emotions, Su and Chow's clothes are the only things that changed on screen. The clothes of the characters show how they want to look in other people’s eyes. But over time, Su's attire begins to reflect her mood, and Chow adapts to the style of his love.

#11 Costume designer: Lindy Hemming - "The World Is Not Enough" (1999)

Source: © The World Is Not Enough / MGM

In "The World Is Not Enough", Elektra King’s iconic red dress represents her rage and the silk robe represents her high social status. The red color gives the illusion that she is just a beautiful woman and not a dangerous enemy. This intricately embroidered and pre-sewn corset dress was completely handmade. Even the outfit is displayed in the exhibition “Designing 007, 50 years of Bond” style exhibition.

#12 Costume designer: Massimo Parrini - "Tale of Tales" (2015)

Source: © Il racconto dei racconti / Archimede

In "Tale of Tales", Massimo Parrini designed the clothes for every character from peasants to monarchs. He had to do a lot of work to create clothing that simultaneously had a historical and fantastical appearance. Take Salma Hayek's clothes for example. In the beginning, she wears dark clothes that reflect her first dismal ideas. But when she finally got the son she always wanted, she wore a black and red outfit, showing the happiness inside of her. By the way, original 18th-century embroidery, lace, and buttons were used to make this dress.

#13 Costume designer: Catherine Leterrier - "Coco Before Chanel" (2009)

Source: © Coco avant Chanel / Haut et Court

To recreate the style of the legendary Coco, Leterrier visited museums, photo archives, and flea markets in search of the right fabric. As a result, viewers see young Coco as: talented, bright, pompous, and very poor. She would construct gowns out of everything she could get her hands on and change old men's clothing.

Source: © Coco avant Chanel / Haut et Court

Her non-conformist nature is also shown through her clothes. While the other characters look feminine, Coco wears oversized men's clothing. She selects muted hues when everyone else is donning vibrant attire. Thanks to Audrey Tatou's impeccable costumes and superb acting, the main character achieves the impossible — she dresses like a clown but looks gorgeous.

#14 Costume designer: Catherine Martin - "Moulin Rouge!" (2001)

Source: © Moulin Rouge! / Twentieth Century Fox

80 costume designers are working to create 300 costumes for the characters of Moulin Rouge! Catherine Martin has designed many stage suits that are eye-catching, and believable. The costume of the character played by Nicole Kidman was inspired by images of Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich. Especially, Satine's exquisite diamond lanyard is crafted by Australian jeweler Stefano Canturi with 1,308 gems. It is still regarded as one of the most costly pieces of jewelry in movie history.
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