The tales from the film couture

From iconic Givenchy’s dresses for Audrey Hepburn and Armani’s suits for Richard Gere, to Gaultier’s bandage costume for Milla Jovovich, rich history of collaborations between fashion designers and film industry fundamentally changed the image of both films and fashion

Audrey Hepburn in "Givenchy" in the opening scene of "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Audrey Hepburn in “Givenchy” in the opening scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

They say that if it wasn’t for that day in 1953, when Hubert de Givenchy met his future muse Audrey Hepburn we might never experience and notice the beauty and the importance of a statement dress in motion pictures.

For as long as movies have been made, costumes have been an unavoidable element in creating and defining a certain film’s character. Yet, prior to the mentioned encounter, the costumes in the movies were not as memorable as after this encounter. There, in the mid 50s, a new movement was born – a trend that will not only live for the next few decades, but will be mandatory in the nowadays flow that goes between film and fashion industry.

Of course, Givenchy was not the first designer who created pieces especially for a movie. It started sometime in 1931, when, reportedly Samuel Goldwyn, an all-time famous American film producer, gave $1 million to Coco Chanel for designing the costumes for films produced by the MGM. Her first costume collaboration was that same year for the film Palmy Days, a musical comedy with Charlotte Greenwood. Eight years later Coco collaborated with Jean Renoir on “The Rules of the Game”, with Nora Gregor in the lead role.

By finding the common language, which gave them an additional profit, these two industries began their, to this date, endless journey. And here we present some of the most famous examples through the decades, when they successfully managed to refine the image of the perfect relationship film and fashion have.

50s 

Audrey Hepburn in "Givenchy" for "Sabrina"
Audrey Hepburn in “Givenchy” for “Sabrina”

Even though all started back in the 30s, the 50s were the decade where this relationship developed more firmly. And, as often happens, it started with a controversy – allegedly, Edith Head, the 1954 Sabrina’s official costume designer made an iconic black cocktail dress for Audrey Hepburn’s role for the film. However, French designer Hubert de Givenchy claimed that Head made the dress, but using his design. Later on, Head won an Oscar for her designs for the film.

Givenchy collaborated with his muse Audrey for her role in the 1957 musical Funny Face, which includes the iconic red gown.

After her success in the 30s, in 1958 Coco Chanel collaborated with the French genius Louis Malle for his ground-breaking classic Les Amants, in which Jeanne Moreau wore a series of stunning Chanel dresses.

Catherine Deneuve in "Belle de Jour"
Catherine Deneuve in “Belle de Jour”

60s

The 50s were successful, but not as much as the beginning of the 60s, thanks to 1961′s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for which Hubert de Givenchy dressed Audrey again i.e. Holly Golightly.  He was responsible for one of the most iconic pieces of fashion in the history of cinema – Hepburn’s little black dress worn in the film. Worn with a set of pearls, this dress remains one of the most notorious garments ever featured on the screen.

Six years after Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Yves Saint Laurent was responsible for another fashion hit – he dressed Catherine Deneuve’s character in Luis Bunuel’s 1967 Belle du Jour. Ironically, Deneuve’s clothes is rather unsexy and she’s playing a prostitute. Deneuve and Laurent collaborated also on La Chamade (1968) and Mississippi Mermaid (1969).

The Queen Elizabeth’s favourite fashion designer Hardy Amies designed the wardrobe for Cary Grant in 1960 The Grass Is Greener and some famous garments for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

Even Paco Rabanne tried the film industry. He designed the costumes for Barbarella, 1968 French-Italian sci-fi film, with Jane Fonda in the title role.

"The Great Gatsby" 1974
“The Great Gatsby” 1974

70s

American designer Ralph Lauren marked the 70s with two big hits – 1974 Jack Clayton’s romantic drama The Great Gatsby and iconic 1977 Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, with Diane Keaton. Lauren specially focused on her khaki pants, vests, and the tie worn thorought the film.

80s

Although the film was officially costumed by Bernadene C. Mann, Giorgio Armani was the one who designed the suits for Richard Gere in American Gigolo (1980). Armani also designed the wardrobe for the Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables, (1987). He also designed specific pieces for the stars’ wardrobes, e.g. for Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours (1982).

Richard Gere in "Armani" for "American Gigolo"
Richard Gere in “Armani” for “American Gigolo”

The 80s brought another fashion genius and eccentric to the movie screen, Jean Paul Gaultier. His first film collaboration was on the wardrobe for 1989 The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, directed by CBE Peter Greenaway. However, eight years later, Gaultier will make his most famous piece.

90s

In 1997 he created a total of 954 costumes for Luc Besson’s futuristic sci-fi film The Fifth Element. However, the most illustrious piece among those was the white bandage dress worn by Milla Jovovich. He also created the neon orange tank top worn by Bruce Willis.

Gaultier's designs for "The Fifth Element"
Gaultier’s designs for “The Fifth Element”

Gaultier focused on the film industry almost entire decade, collaborating with Pedro Almodovar on several movies. He shocked the audience with a dress with exploding blood-splattered plastic breasts worn by Victoria Abril in 1993 Kika.

While Gianni Versace made costumes for Judge Dredd (1995), Nino Cerruti created the entire wardrobe for Pretty Woman (1990). In 1998 Donna Karan helped Alfonso Cuaron capture the magic of the famous Dicken’s story in Great Expectations.

Sisters Rodarte for "Black Swan"
Sisters Rodarte for “Black Swan”

00s and the upcoming film couture

After Kika, Gaultier and Almodovar worked together again on 2004 Bad Education, on Gael Garcia Bernal’s ball gown, and upcoming The Skin I Live In. For this purpose, he used a version of his all over flesh-coloured bodysuit that he showcased back in 1991 Paris Winter show.

For her 2006 film Marie Antoinette Sofia Coppola asked the Spanish shoe master, Manolo Blahnik to design shoes fit for the Queen of France. The collaboration ended with fabulous frilly, candy-coloured shoes worn by Kirsten Dunst.

Design sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte designed some of the most memorable ballet costumes for the 2010 film Black Swan and the leading role, the Oscar winner Natalie Portman. Mulleavy sisters also made some practise tutus and a white feather cape, which unfortunately never made it to the film.

Manolo Blahnik for "Marie Antoinette"
Manolo Blahnik for “Marie Antoinette”

While Giorgio Armani designed the suits for Jodie Foster’s character in 2013 Elysium, Raf Simons for Jil Sander designed Tilda Swinton’s wardrobe for the film I am love. However, this decade is marked by 40 stunning pieces created by Miuccia Prada for the last years Baz Luhramn’s The Great Gatsby. The looks were inspired by some examples from the Miu Miu and Prada archive.

As far as the upcoming collaborations, Raf Simons comes back in the film industry. On behalf of the Christian Dior house, he will costume Luca Guadigno’s film Body Art, starring Isabelle Huppert and Sigourney Weaver.

Undoubtedly, the impact of the connection of fashion and film goes far. Depending on the nature of a character, the result of deciding and reasoning of the outfit for every role in a film can be crucial. By picking a specific designer, film directors take into consideration several elements, and emotions are surely one of the most important ones. They need to know how to transfer the character’s feelings onto the garment. Because, in the end, the designer’s dress highlights Audrey Hepburn’s hopelessness or Catherine Deneuve’s impurity.

Fashion is an essential tool in the craft of conveying a meaning through film. We can even say that films provide a dictionary and an archive for fashionable quotations, whether verbal or visual. What’s said and seen on the film may be followed in the same way people follow trends from the catwalks. And people would want to dig and find out who made it.

Is it true when they say that a film offers fashion to the masses, thus being an avenue to its democratisation? Possible. But what is definite is that, when working together, they work in both fashion and film’s favour.

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