Maybe not the most popular, but certainly the most unexpectedly perfect costumes from some of the past decade of cinema. I will freely admit that I don’t care for elaborate period costumes. They get all the glory because of the flash factor when modern costumes don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for quietly bringing to life the most awesome characters we’ve ever known.
Pretty much the most majestic movie costumes ever. Jerusha Hess takes the awkward Midwestern teen to new heights of cringe-worthiness. The movie is set in modern day with the costumes being vaguely reminiscent of the 80s in a way that suggests a small town so far out of the loop that they’re a good 10-20 years behind the rest of the us. Polyester suits and moon boots. Face it, this movie was a fashion event.
9. Helen in Troy
The men are breathtaking and the women are gorgeous. The white and blue color scheme of the royal family was flawless, echoing the color palette of the Greek islands. Brad Pitt was at his physical peak and that leather armor proved it. I have never seen Diane Kruger look better in her life; befitting of the most legendarily beautiful woman in history. The entire mise en scene is gorgeous! Bob Ringwood, designer, deserved every bit of his 2005 Oscar nod.
In a movie that spans a good 10 to 15 year time frame, Sharon Davis hits the nail on the head, historically. You’ve also got the extreme ends of the socio-economic scale, elaborate show costumes, not so elaborate show costumes, and African American Motown fashion at its finest. Seminal costume moment: Deena in pant suit, ruffled shirt and fedora channeling Diana Ross.
7. Xerxes in 300
Rodrigo Santoro was transformed into the King of Persia. On paper, a costume made of chains, collars and a shitload of jewelry gives one pause. On film it was magical. And he’s terrifying – a 9’ tall man wearing nothing but jewelry is terrifying! His transformation was nothing short of fantastic. Costume design by Michael Wilkinson.
6. Ron Burgundy in Anchorman
Here’s another movie that deserves mention purely for its visual historic progression. As satirical as this movie is, the costumes couldn’t be better. The suits are perfect, the hair pieces are even better and I defy you to keep a straight face when Ron steps out at the pool party in his burgundy Speedo, chest hair and painfully short orange robe.
5. Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Take a pinstripe suit, exaggerate the stripes, exaggerate the peaks of the lapels and make it from a material resembling Gore-Tex. Then exaggerate the nose, the wispy gray sideburns, the eyebrows and the chin and you’ve got a costume as craggy and menacing as the Victorian house he lives in. Legendary designer Colleen Atwood was nominated for an Oscar for her work in 2004.
4. The Joker in The Dark Knight
I know. It’s gotten to be such a pervasive image at this point that it’s hardly unexpected, but do you remember when you first got a glimpse of Heath Ledger’s terrifying cracked out Joker? There was a collective shiver that went up around the country. The purple and green are cartoon-like in their boldness and simplicity, harking back to Batman’s comic book roots, but the makeup. Oh the makeup. It was as if a clown turned mental patient had been left out in the rain and melted like a chalk drawing.
3. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
I ask you, how did pirates even dress before Captain Jack? It’s a costume so iconic and perfect you can’t really imagine it being anything else. The beads, the dreads, the eyeliner! Costume designer Penny Rose combined the perfect amount of layering and weathering to give this character a look firmly rooted in the early 1700s with hints of exotic Caribbean culture mixed throughout. It is no doubt an image that will define “pirate” for years to come.
2. Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic
This movie is costuming brilliance from top to bottom. And I’m giving it the number 2 spot as kind of a lifetime achievement award for filmmaker Wes Anderson, who also made The Royal Tennenbaums (Gwyneth Paltrow’s look is perfection). There’s Angelica Houston with her blue streaked hair, Jeff Goldblum in his haughty scarves…and then there’s Team Zissou. Red knit caps (each one personalized for the character), a retro aqua theme carried through the scuba gear, track suits, the Speedos, the pajamas and, of course those spectacular Zissou Adidas shoes create a timeless aquatic Italian feel. Inspired. Costume design by Milena Canonero .
1. Satine in Moulin Rouge
The sheer range of costumes is phenomenal, let alone the complexity of each. Inspired by period clothing and then bedazzled within an inch of their lives, each costume perfectly underlines the star power of the Moulin Rouge’s headlining prostitute turned musical theatre star. Homages to several iconic costumes from film history were incorporated by designer Catherine Martin, making Satine’s wardrobe a sort of post modern mélange of leading lady greatness. What?! Redheads don’t wear red.
Honorable mention goes to Allie in The Notebook, Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Barbara Novak in Down With Love. Which costumes did I miss? What are your faves?