I Watch a Lot of Films—These 40 On-Screen Outfits Are the Most Iconic

Hands up, who's lost count of the number of films they've watched over the past 10 months? I'd be lying if I said I could even attempt to work it out, such is the amount of time I've spent in front of the TV. While puzzles lose their novelty after a while and you can only bake so much sourdough before you realise you could open up your own branch of Greggs, films never stop being fun. But being a fashion journalist, I've also spent a long time making a mental note of the outfits that I love the most that have appeared on-screen. 

Fashion, or rather costume design, in film is vital to making a character stand out. Whether it's a barely-there green satin dress that's actually pivotal to a pair of lovers' story or a pair of Chanel boots demonstrating the protagonist's changing personality, clothes can make the character. Of course, it can be that the fashion we're watching on the big screen (or small screen right now) is just really great to look at, too. (Hello, Holly Golightly.) 

Over the past few months, I've watched old films as well as a load of new films and have decided that these are my favourite 40 outfits in movies. While some titles might surprise you (especially the newer ones), try to think of them as future classics. Keep scrolling for the best on-screen movie looks. You might even find some Netflix recommendations on the way.

CHER'S CHECKED SKIRT SUIT, CLUELESS
move outfits: cher's checked skirt in clueless

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Style Notes: Look, we probably don't need to tell you that Clueless has many great outfits. But this is still the winner. 

JINX'S ORANGE BIKINI, DIE ANOTHER DAY
move outfits: jinx's orange bikini in Bond

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Style Notes: An orange bikini has never looked so chic. It's now still our swimsuit colour of preference (when we can actually use it, mind you).

VIVIAN WARD'S POLKA-DOT DRESS, PRETTY WOMAN
move outfits: vivian's polka dot dress in pretty woman

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Style Notes: The ultimate outfit from Pretty Woman? This polka-dots dress in brown with white, of course. 

ELVIRA HANCOCK'S WHITE SKIRT SUIT, SCARFACE
move outfits: elvira hancock's white outfit in scarface

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Style Notes: If you ever want a template for how to look chic while on the arm of a gangster, then Elvira Hancock, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, is it. There are plenty of chic outfits to choose from, but this one, in my opinion, is one I'd want to re-create the most. 

CATHERINE TRAMELL'S WHITE OUTFIT, BASIC INSTINCT
move outfits: catherine tramell's white outfit in basic instinct

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Style Notes: Chic, terrifying, and seriously sassy—a lethal combo. 

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY'S ORANGE COAT, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
move outfits: holly golightly's orange coat in breakfast at tiffany's

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Style Notes: At this point when talking about fashion and films, I think Breakfast at Tiffany's needs no introduction. Of course, most will discuss at length the black gown created by Givenchy, but personally, I was always drawn to this more dressed-down look of a double-buttoned orange coat. The fluffy hat is so au courant, n'est pas?

ESTHER HOFFMAN'S BOHO OUTFIT, A STAR IS BORN
move outfits: esther hoffman's boho outfit in a star is born

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Style Notes: I love Barbra Streisand. I would happily watch any film she's in. Here in the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, we see her in this boho outfit, which is very spring/summer 2021 to be honest. 

KATE MCCALLISTER'S BROWN COAT, HOME ALONE
move outfits: kate mccallister's brown coat in home alone

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Style Notes: There's not a Who What Wear editor who doesn't reference this look every Christmas when Home Alone viewing becomes mandatory. The white open-collar jumper is one thing, but it's the Max Mara–style coat that we really love. 

JULIANNE POTTER'S OVERSIZE BLAZER, MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING
move outfits: julianne potter's oversized blazer in my best friend's wedding

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Style Notes: Look, Julia Roberts never looks bad in anything. That should be obvious by now. This oversize pinstripe jacket in My Best Friend's Wedding is so wonderfully '90s, but it would still look great today. 

DORALEE RHODES'S KNITTED DRESS, 9 to 5
move outfits: doralee rhode's knitted dress 9-5

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Style Notes: Pick any one of Dolly Parton's looks in 9 to 5, and you won't be disappointed. But the one that does it for me right now? This peach knitted dress. 

RACHEL FLAX'S MERMAID COSTUME, MERMAIDS
move outfits: rachel flax's mermaid costume, mermaids

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Style Notes: Cher in a movie is always going to promise great things when it comes to fashion, but does anything beat this great mermaid costume in Mermaids

ANDY SACHS'S CHANEL BOOTS, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
move outfits: andy sachs wearing the chanel boots in the Devil Wears Prada

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Style Notes: The Chanel boots? Yes, of course, that's the outfit we went for. What else? 

VANNAH JACKSON'S SLIP DRESS, WAITING TO EXHALE
move outfits: vannah jackson's slip dress in waiting to exhale

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Style Notes: Classic and elegant, Whitney Houston's Vannah never gets it wrong with her wardrobe. 

ALABAMA WHITMAN'S COW SKIRT, TRUE ROMANCE
move outfits: alabama whiteman's cow skirt true romance

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Style Notes: It's not the outfit I'll choose to meet friends for brunch in (once the pandemic is over, of course), but it's definitely a fancy-dress costume I'll be considering. 

ROCHELLE ZIMMERMAN'S CROPPED CARDI, THE CRAFT
move outfits: rochelle zimmerman's cropped cardi the craft

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Style Notes: You might have had eyes for Nancy's grunge get-up, but I was all about Rochelle's petit cardi with rolled-up shirt sleeves. 

SANDY OLSSON'S LEATHER TROUSERS, GREASE
move outfits: sandy's skin-tight leather trousers in grease

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Style Notes: Legend has it that Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into these ludicrously tight trousers. 

MIRANDA PRIESTLY'S DRESS, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
move outfits: miranda priestley's dress in the devil wears prada

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Style Notes: Unsurprisingly, in a film about fashion, it's hard to pick just one look. But perhaps it's this simple, expensive-looking (and probably actually expensive) outfit that wins it. The matching maroon heels offset by the emerald ring makes it appear super rich. 

TESS MCGILL'S POWER SUIT, WORKING GIRL
move outfits: tess mcgill's power suit working girl

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Style Notes: Just finished Industry and want to see how people dressed for work in the '80s? It's all about those big shoulders and big collars. 

LULA PACE FORTUNE'S BODYSUIT, WILD AT HEART
move outfits: lula pace fortune's bodysuit in wild at heart

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Style Notes: It's hard to pick, but this pink bodysuit just cinches it. 

FOXY BROWN'S LEATHER JACKET, FOXY BROWN
move outfits: foxy brown's leather jacket in foxy brown

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Style Notes: No, there is no one cooler than Pam Grier as Foxy Brown. This leather jacket with the wide collar is such a great '70s look. 

MRS. ROBINSON'S COAT, THE GRADUATE
move outfits: mrs robinson's coat the graduate

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Style Notes: Mrs. Robinson is just so chic. From the fluffy coats to the leopard-print jackets, there's no end to her great looks. 

ANDIE ANDERSON'S YELLOW DRESS, HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS
move outfits: andie anderson's yellow dress in how to lose a guy in 10 days

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Style Notes: This yellow dress from 2003 (yes, the film is that old), is an outfit I still think about and is one I'd like to actually wear. 

MIA WALLACE'S WHITE SHIRT, PULP FICTION
move outfits: mia wallace's white shirt in pulp fiction

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Style Notes: A white shirt and a pair of black trousers surely can't look that good. Uma Thurman begs to differ. 

MARISA VENTURA'S WHITE COAT, MAID IN MANHATTAN
move outfits: marisa ventura's white coat maid in manhattan

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Style Notes: If I was being pedantic, I'd say that this Dolce & Gabbana outfit doesn't actually belong to Marisa (played by Jennifer Lopez) in Maid in Manhattan. She actually borrows it from a guest at the hotel where she works. However, it helps her nab the guy.

MAGGIE POLLITT'S SLIP, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
move outfits: maggie pollitt's slip in cat on a hot tin roof

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Style Notes: Liz Taylor in any film and in any outfit is always a knockout. This slip dress from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is quite something, however. 

MARGOT TENENBAUM'S COAT, THE ROYAL TENEBAUMS
move outfits: margot tenenbaum's coat, the royal tenenbaums

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Style Notes: Is it the hair clip, the coat, or the Hermès bag that really makes this whole look? Whatever it is, Gwyneth Paltrow playing this role is still one that fashion editors continue to reference and love. 

TRACY CHAMBERS'S ORANGE GOWN, MAHOGANY
move outfits: diana ross as tracey chambers in mahogany wearing an orange dress

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Style Notes: In one of the ultimate films for fashion lovers, Diana Ross, playing a model and fashion designer, showcases some incredible outfits. This orange dress is the moment she walks the runway in one of her own creations. 

COCO CHANEL'S CHANEL OUTFIT, COCO BEFORE CHANEL
move outfits: coco chanel wearing chanel in coco before chanel

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Style Notes: Nothing says Coco Chanel more than a tweed suit, pearls, and two-tone shoes. 

EMILY LEWIN'S LOU REED T-SHIRT, ADVENTURELAND
move outfits: emily lewin's lou reed t-shirt adventureland

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Style Notes: Ever just wanted to see someone who dressed like you on-screen? Kristen Stewart in Adventureland is that for me. Lou Reed T-shirts for the win. 

DEENA JONES'S HEADSCARF, DREAMGIRLS
move outfits: deena jone's headscarf dreamgirls

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Style Notes: Dreamgirls, featuring Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé, was a big hit back in 2006, and while the sparkly onstage costumes were fun, a favourite look comes when Beyoncé rejects her manager/husband's demands and sings "Listen." The headscarf and the halterneck are perfection. 

LORELEI LEE'S PINK DRESS, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES
move outfits: lorelei lee's pink dress in gentlemen prefer blondes

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Style Notes: The pink gloves with a strapless pink gown, topped off with lashings of diamonds? Only Marilyn Monroe could pull this off. 

MARIA RAINER'S FLORAL DRESS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC
move outfits: maria's pretty floral dress in the sound of music

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Style Notes: I could have chosen the gorgeous high-neck, long-sleeve satin wedding gown, as seen on Maria when she marries the Captain, but I've gone for this Laura Ashley-esque frock, which I'd actually wear today. 

ROSE DEWITT BUKATER'S WHITE AND PURPLE OUTFIT, TITANIC
move outfits: rose's white and purple suit in titanic

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Style Notes: This isn't a look I'll be jumping to re-create, but I do love how much the purple jumps out from the screen. From the hat to the lapels as well as the tie, the belt, and the umbrella, Rose's whole look makes you realise that she's someone important. 

CARRIE BRADSHAW'S BLACK STUDDED BELT, SEX AND THE CITY
move outfits: carrie bradshaw's black studded belt with green dress in SATC

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Style Notes: Most might immediately think about Carrie's Vivienne Westwood wedding dress, but I also think about this look in the first Sex and the City movie. It's the clashing green shades and clashing prints that do it for me, but the added touch of Carrie? It's the studded black belt contrasted against the florals that is the final flourish.

CECILIA TALLIS'S GREEN DRESS, ATONEMENT
move outfits: the green dress as seen on keira knightley in atonement

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Style Notes: This is the sort of dress that you don't forget in a hurry. Despite the fact that it's over 10 years old, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who created this for Keira Knightley to wear in Atonement, revealed that it's surprised her that people still talk about it

MIA DOLAN'S YELLOW DRESS, LA LA LAND
move outfits: emma stone wears a yellow dress in la la land

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Style Notes: The dress that had so many people wanting to wear yellow.

RACHEL CHU'S BLUE DRESS, CRAZY RICH ASIANS
move outfits: rachel chu's blue dress from crazy rich asians

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Style Notes: The reason why I especially love this dress is that it reminds me of Cinderella. In Crazy Rich Asians, Constance Wu's character, Rachel, wears this Marchesa frock to the wedding of Nick's friend Colin, and it's easily one of the most romantic moments in the film. 

ALLY MAINE'S KNOTTED TEE, A STAR IS BORN
move outfits: ally main's knotted tee in a star is born

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Style Notes: The knotted tee, the chain belt, the skin-tight trousers, and even the shag-cut hair are very cliché rock 'n' roll, but it all totally works. If you haven't watched this version of A Star Is Born yet, I urge you to do so immediately. 

LARA JEAN COVEY'S PETER-PAN COLLAR, TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE
move outfits: lara jean covey's peter pan collars in to all the boys I loved before

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Style Notes: One of the newer entries but still important I think. Lara Jean Covey's fun take on fashion is how I wish I'd dressed when I was a teenager.

JO MARCH'S RED TIE, LITTLE WOMEN
move outfits: jo march's red tie in little women

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Style Notes: There's something wonderfully scruffy about Jo March's look here. The open waistcoat open with the ruffled blazer and the slightly skewed red tie all make the outfit signify her rebellious nature. 

Next up, The biggest spring/summer 2021 fashion trends to know. 

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