The 4 Most Iconic Fashion Looks in Cinema History

When the news reached us that the BBC had tapped the talents of vintage purveyor extraordinaire William Banks-Blaney for an entire programme dedicated to the most iconic film costumes of all time, our ears pricked up.

We love fashion-heavy films. We appreciate a vintage shopping trip now and then. We definitely enjoy diving headfirst into nostalgia (and have been extolling the particular virtues of a 1990s movie you may have forgotten). So for all of these elements to come together under the guidance of the London-based expert who decks out the rich and famous in fabulous vintage attire… Well, suffice to say we're not so unhappy about the bad weather after all. 

Often name-checked as the King of Vintage, Banks-Blaney is a go-to in the world of exclusive vintage designs and could get his mitts on just about anything. So who would he whittle down the many cinematic showstoppers to? "Flashdance and the rise of sportswear came very close, as did the Eyes of Laura Mars and the high-luxe of '70s fashion from Halston and Gucci," he tells me.

Be sure to get Lights, Camera, Fashion! on BBC iPlayer, and keep reading to see the four best film costumes of all time and discover how they've influenced our wardrobes ever since…

Clueless, 1995

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Getty Images

"The entire film was a visual feast, with hugely entertaining central characters who were unashamed about being wanton shoppers. Silverstone's famous Gaultier suit was the touch paper for an entire way of dressing and came at the heart of the grunge movement so its polarity was incredible," explains William, charting Clueless as a great example of a film that catches fire on the general style psyche immediately: "Clueless had an immediate impact upon fashion… I loved the background to Clueless with [film director] Amy Heckerling; the iconic look was one created for the film because it did not really exist in the real world until that film and so it really changed fashion." 

Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961

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Why this look? William explains the reasons behind choosing it: "The film and the black dress have been discussed so often it is almost a cliché, so I wanted to look at the reasons behind that. It may be a stunning dress, but it's quite a simple, plain LBD. I wanted to look at what propelled that dress to become quite so iconic—Audrey's look in Breakfast at Tiffany's is perhaps the most referenced look of all time."

Annie Hall, 1977

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"I loved looking at Annie Hall again and realising that everything about the character was really Keaton herself, including the name… her birth name being Diane Hall," reveals William. "Keaton's clothing throughout the film was something never really seen before; real, idiosyncratic dressing which mixed vintage with modern and menswear with womenswear. That idea of a real wardrobe and a real woman throwing on clothes was a first in film production and still is unusual—the only other real example of the approach being Carrie in the original Sex in the City series. It brought a new intelligence to design and to layering and wearing clothes."

The concept influenced upper echelons of fashion too: "It was a relatively low-budget movie with a discreet wardrobe built and built because its approach shifted the minds of a huge number of designers rather than shoppers."

Belle de Jour, 1967

Photo:

Rex

"The 'schoolgirl' dress and its austerity and modernity has been referenced constantly for the last 50 years," says William of Catherine Deneuve's iconic look. "In creating a simple, chic dress that had a whole other meaning within the context of the film, Yves Saint Laurent created most women's dream go-to dress."

So now you know! Check out the lazy girl's guide to buying vintage if you're feeling inspired.