When I was little, one of my biggest fashion influences was Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface. Those shiny slinky dresses, that long blonde bobbed hair, those huge coke-head sunglasses, that pet tiger...watching the movie as a young one, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up -- married to a drug lord and living in a house with a glass elevator.
But as I grew older, other influences emerged. I soon learned that living in an empty apartment wih a cat would be perfectly wonderful if I were as glamorous as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, a movie that always makes me feel better about myself when I can't find my shoes, my phone or my lit matches. And there's more...Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Rita Hayworth in Gilda (that black dress), Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven, Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Julie Christie in Petulia, Anita Pallenberg and Edie Sedgewick in anything, Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, all of the '60s French goddesses, Mick Jagger in Gimme Shelter, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Tuesday Weld, Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot....the list goes on. Movies, older movies, were always inspirations. I think I watched Cyd Charisse dance with Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain about eighty times partly for her black bob and that impossibly sexy flapper dress in vibrant, come hither green.
Film and fashion are so inexorably linked, one (even the movie obsessed ) almost don't notice their trendy sway. Working as big-screen invitations to don duds one may have feared or using fashion to signify a character's quirkiness, movies have contributed to major changes, trends and standards in hair, makeup and clothes.
So, to credit celluloid's style authority, I'm again looking at ten important fashion moments in film. Not the ten most fashionable stars, or my own personal favorites mind you, but ten outfits that became not only iconic, but in some cases, standards. To this, I tip my hat. And, program note -- check your local listings for the documentary Starz Inside: Fashion In Film, airing Sunday, Dec. 14 (on Starz), where I among many others, discuss cinematic fashion.
Diane Keaton -- Annie Hall (1977)
Lately, Diane Keaton has been lambasted for her fashion sense. Yet there was a time when she was celebrated for it. As Woody Allen's quirky, eponymous leading lady in the beloved Annie Hall, Keaton received kudos (and an Oscar) not only for her performance but also for her irreverent style. Costume designer Ruth Morley worked alongside Ralph Lauren to create Keaton's signature look of cheeky, chic menswear. Her hat, man's tie, shirt, waistcoat and wide-leg pants appeared simultaneously polished yet just thrown on. More importantly, the look perfectly symbolized Keaton's New York character -- not overtly feminine, a little daffy yet wholesome and always up for new experiences (like reading the National Review). The look became a '70s sensation as women opted for Lauren's masculine/feminine style, making menswear à la mode. As Annie would say, it was all very "la-di-da."
The Misters -- Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Really, I would credit Tsuai Hark, John Woo, Melville and Godard for the styles present in this picture, but the average movie-going audience saw it as the Dogs look. With his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong action cinema and French new wave cool, Quentin Tarantino exploded on the movie scene in the early '90s with his debut, Reservoir Dogs, becoming popular based on gabby dialogue and grisly violence ... but the fabulous black suits worn by the fast-talking, amoral gangsters became a cultural trademark, as well. The basic black, skinny tie with white shirt and sunglasses worn by all the Mr. Colors were so popular that suddenly suits were no longer stuffy symbols of '80s yuppie-dom, but the sign of major "cool." No matter that often the suit wearers were mistaken in their daddy-o-ness, but it was nice to see men put together clothes that didn't bag off their body. The only question for fans was which Mr. they got to be. I opt for Mr. Pink.
Madonna -- Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
Every woman had thought about it: Why can't I wear this bra in public? I wear a bikini to the beach. OK, well not every woman, but it was one Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone who made the thought a reality and much more mainstream than worried fathers would have liked. As the downtown urchin Susan in Susan Seidelman's modern screwball comedy, Desperately Seeking Susan, Madonna wore her clothes -- from black dresses paired with leggings to men's pants with exposed lacy bras to rolled-down, rhinestone boots to even men's boxers. And, of course, beads, crosses, bracelets and all that obvious bleached-out hair. Madonna was so ultra-sexy and daring, it's not even necessary to point out what a sensation she became, since an entire phrase was coined for her legions of imitators: "Madonna-wanna-be." Though Debbie Harry is my favorite rock bombshell and gets less credit for her daring, sexy style, Madonna did conquer.
John Travolta -- Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Disco was already in full swing (and hated by the "Disco Sucks" crowd) by the time Saturday Night Fever arrived, but the mega-hit propelled its style into the mainstream. John Travolta's blow-dried hair, tight, shiny polyester duds, platform shoes and that famous white suit created enough of a sensation to make even your grandma take disco lessons. And guys wanted to look like him. Even movie critics. So enamored was he of the film and its look, the late Gene Siskel at one time owned the original suit. Now there's an image.
Everyone -- Blow-Up (1966)
Though Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up concerns a photographer (David Hemmings, inspired by '60s photographer David Bailey) who sees a crime in a photograph and becomes obsessed, its gorgeous presentation of Swinging London was the perfect primer for fashion that would sweep the world. The mod, Mary Quant-looking duds favored by London's youth are donned by all characters, from the film's top model Veruschka to Vanessa Redgrave's distressed heroine to every "bird" in between. Mini skirts, go-go boots, A-line dresses, colorful or patterned tights and knitwear were all infused into the youth scene with "yeah baby!" zeal. The film and clothes are, as critic Andrew Sarris claimed, "a mod masterpiece."
Uma Thurman -- Pulp Fiction (1994)
When style is so wonderfully simple, you often forget how key it was. Case in point: Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Though a drug-abusing, ex-B actress, Thurman's Mia was all hip simplicity. Her black pants, crisp white shirt and blunt, banged black hair (a china doll wig--something I'm quite sick of) became de rigueur from 1994 onwards. You can still open up a fashion mag and find a spread on the "crisp white shirt" or walk into any wig store to purchase that exact hair. While working with costumer Betsy Heinmann, the 6-foot-tall actress couldn't find a pair of close-fitting black pants long enough. So Heinmann just cut off another two inches, creating those slightly flared pedal pushers that looked so good when Uma twisted with John Travolta. The impeccable touch? Wearing a black bra underneath that lily-white shirt -- so much cooler than "a royale with cheese."
Brigitte Bardot -- ...And God Created Woman (1957)
French sex kitten Brigitte Bardot was such a style innovator we almost take her contribution to women's fashion for granted (two of her most famous imitators are supermodel Claudia Schiffer and bombshell Pamela Anderson). In Roger Vadim's ...And God Created Woman, the nubile nymphet sported long, unkempt hair during an era of the perfected coif and a girdle-free, tight skirt for her bongo-induced gyrations, making many a man's (and woman's) mouth drop. Who is this woman? And, more importantly, how can I look like her? And where do I get that bikini? Though many believe it was Annette Funicello who caused the demand for two-piece swimwear, it was actually BB. Swimwear manufacturers began to market bikinis for the sun-loving American woman due to the film's popularity. Pretty amazing to think about since just six years earlier, they were banned from the Miss World contest. We can all say merci to BB for that.
Marlon Brando -- The Wild One (1954)
Though a trite statement of rebellion today, the motorcycle jacket was once synonymous with major danger. 1954's The Wild One, in which a soulful, gorgeous Marlon Brando invades a small town with his biker gang (called, yep, "Black Rebels Motorcycle Club"), was so worrisome that the British board of censors banned the film for 14 years. But Brando's iconic look of cuffed jeans, leather cap and that tuff black motorcycle jacket still created a look that says "cool" to civilians even while protecting bikers from road rash. Generations later everyone from The Ramones to Madonna to your own dad has favored the leather jacket, turning it into a staple of rock and roll style (or often an example of trying too hard). Though I always loved Lee Marvin's look in this picture, Brando is inarguably stunning. "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" "Whaddya got?" -- preferably in premium cowhide leather?
Katharine Hepburn -- Bringing Up Baby (1938) and Woman of the Year (1942)
When it comes to Katharine Hepburn's style, it's almost hard to pinpoint a specific movie -- she was so defiantly individual. So revolutionary was Kate that as the story goes, when RKO heads forced her to wear a skirt, she strolled around the studio lot in her underwear until they returned her beloved slacks ("Stockings are the invention of the devil," Hepburn once stated). As the dizzy, madcap rich girl ensnaring Cary Grant in the classic screwball Bringing Up Baby, Kate almost sneaks her pants into the film via a nifty pantsuit while discussing her new leopard. It was perhaps "safer" for her to flaunt more feminine togs in this manner but the image is one indelibly linked to the screen legend and an early look at her then scandalous affinity for menswear as seen on full display in Woman of the Year. As Calvin Klein said of Kate in 1986, she "prompted generations of fashion designers to capture her vitality and spirit." And I can't give her anything but love, baby.
Audrey Hepburn -- Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
I know, I know...soooo obvious. But if there could be a patron saint of fashion, the ultimate gamine Audrey Hepburn would fit the bill, especially in the much-loved Breakfast at Tiffany's. Her gift to womankind? The simple black dress -- short or long -- that looks perfect at either the cocktail party or just hanging outside Tiffany's with pastry and coffee in hand (as Audrey does so elegantly in the film). Collaborating with famed costumer Edith Head (who could have her own film and fashion list) was Hepburn's style sovereign, Hubert de Givenchy, the couturier who costumed almost all of Hepburn's films. Breakfast at Tiffany's is special partially because her character -- the flighty, socializing, "real phony" Holly Golightly -- was the ultimate elegant waif. Those stunning dresses paired with big dark glasses, pearls (not diamonds; Golightly states that wearing them before you're 40 is "tacky") and gloves seemed effortlessly put together, chiefly because Holly could throw them on in a jiffy. More than any other film icon -- including the impossibly cool Grace Kelly or the va-va-voom Marilyn Monroe -- Audrey and her Tiffany's look still continually inspire women. And as much as many film fans loathe the use of Audrey in The Gap's latest line of skinny black pants (which she also wears in Tiffany's) you have to understand that Audrey is simply timeless. Fashion designer Mary Quant said it all when she bluntly titled Audrey "the most stylish woman who ever lived."
Here's more (among many others) fab fashion moments in film:
Steve McQueen -- The Great Escape
Jennifer Beals -- Flashdance
John Travolta -- Urban Cowboy
Brad Pitt -- Fight Club
Everyone -- Last Year at Marienbad
Faye Dunaway -- Bonnie and Clyde
Alicia Silverstone -- Clueless
Richard Gere -- American Gigolo
Jean Seberg -- Breathless
Richard Roundtree -- Shaft
Catherine Deneuve -- Belle de Jour
Also...please check out my picture page Pretty Poison: Letters from L.A.