Want to further your fashion knowledge? Our list of 15 films all use clothing to tell a story in one way or another. Some are literally about clothing and fashion; others use clothing as a symbolic way to push the story's narrative. But whatever way clothes are used, they remain center stage in every one of these films. So grab your popcorn and get ready for a night in.
What could be more high fashion than the pursuit of the perfect material for your dream coat…This Cruella origin story might be a hard one to allow – no one really wants to feel sympathetic for someone trying to kill puppies – but it does give us some unexpectedly good fashion content. Cruella, formally known as Estella and played by Emma Stone, is a budding fashion designer in London during the 1970s. With most of the movie set around her internship at a couture house with a mean Baroness at its helm, it is a bit Devil Wears Prada, in the best way possible.
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan
Last Night In Soho (2021)
Perhaps not your typical fashion film, but Last Night In Soho is a psychological drama based around a young woman who attends fashion school in London. Our main character is transported at night between the current day and the 1960s, an era she feels connected to and takes inspiration from in her designs. The costumes really help set apart the two eras and set the mood as her state of mind shifts. They also happen to be perfect 60s outfits, with patterned shift dresses, voluminous tent dresses, and belted trench coats.
Costume Designer: Odile Dicks-Mireaux
Phantom Thread (2017)
An extremely captivating film in which a temperamental dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis), is drawn to a waitress who becomes his newest muse and lover. The costumes in this film tell a story, with him dressing her in elegant, haute couture gowns where she first feels uncomfortable but quickly begins to embody her new position. Colors play a big part in this movie, and as his mood sours, you can see it in his fabric choices, which become darker and moodier. This gives a great visual aspect to a film that centers around his role as a designer and couturier.
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
This neo-noir thriller is the second film directed by fashion designer and director Tom Ford. The overall visuals of this film are what you can expect for someone who has spent the majority of his career as a very successful fashion designer. Everything from the set design to the costumes is sleek and considered. Ford uses his intimate knowledge of clothing to work with the costume designer to tell the story, which is done subtly and without becoming a Tom Ford (the designer version) advertisement. The end result is super stylish and sexy even though the story is very harrowing (but good!).
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Personal Shopper (2016)
Personal Shopper may not fit perfectly into the fashion film genre, but hey, I'm going to add it anyway. It is a psychological drama about a young woman called Maureen (aka Kristen Stewart). She works as a personal shopper for a supermodel, buying designer outfits and running errands for her while struggling with the loss of her twin brother. The contrast in clothing Maureen chooses for her model employer and what she wears day-to-day illustrates the differences in the lives they lead, showing the imbalance within the fashion industry, which runs off assistants and low-paid workers, despite its glamorous appearance.
Costume Designer: Jurgen Doering
The Dressmaker (2015)
In The Dressmaker, Kate Winslet plays a successful seamstress who returns to her small, dusty hometown in rural Australia. Her arrival causes a stir amongst those who knew her before she left, and drama ensues. While there she uses her skills as a dressmaker to get revenge on a few of the town's inhabitants who had wronged her in the past. This film is entertaining and silly, and the ultra-chic 1950s outfits Tilly (Kate Winslet) wears contrasting with the locals make it well worth the watch.
Costume Designers: Margot Wilson & Marion Boyce
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
An obligatory Devil Wears Prada mention as this wouldn't be much of a list of fashion films without it. But really, there is not much to say about it that hasn't been said already. So if you have not seen it, obviously go watch it. Otherwise, carry on reading…
Costume Designer: Patricia Field
Marie Antoinette (2006)
While this could technically be in our list of 10 Fashion Biopic Films To Watch, it felt more fitting here. This retelling of Marie Antoinette is all about the costumes. Ruffles, bows, feathers, and jewels embellish everything in this movie. Marie Antoinette (played by Kirsten Dunst) was known for frivolity, excess, and big poofy hairstyles, and the visuals of this movie take it to another level. Though this is a highly stylized version of events, the costumes follow the same cut and style that was popular during her reign but with color and fabric choices updated to give a modern take.
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero
According to the costume designer of this movie David C. Robinson "Zoolander is to fashion as the world of spying and espionage is to Austin Powers", and that reads very true. It dives headfirst into every fashion troupe that exists, with airhead male models, mean designers, and outrageous clothing, and that is what we love it for. While our main character Derek Zoolander may not be known for his particularly chic outfits (read, he has terrible taste), Mugatu, Zoolander's nemesis, has some great ones. Along with Zoolander, it's easy to find yourself hypnotized by his outfits, including, of course, the fuzzy mohair sweater.
Costume Designer: David C. Robinson
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Fifth Element is a cult classic that is said to have revolutionized the sci-fi genre, and a lot of this is down to the visuals of the film. The costumes on this were so different from other popular sci-fi movies at the time, and we can thank the designer Jean Paul Gaultier for that. He took his role as head of costume very seriously, creating over a thousand original outfits for even the most fleeting parts of the movie (McDonald's anyone?), and it paid off in so many iconic ways.
Costume designer: Jean Paul Gaultier
There is no movie more overtly 90s than Clueless. It gave us the perfect stage for 90s teen fashion, with the main character a spoilt-but-loveable queen bee of her high school (played by Alicia Silverstone). With so many quotable moments and fashion looks, it is no surprise that it is still referenced so heavily in pop culture today. One particular scene that needs an honorable mention in this situation is when she uses her closet computer to choose an outfit. So good!
Costume Designer: Mona May
Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall is not a film about a fashion designer, model, or even anyone in the industry, yet it has played such a pivotal role in the sartorial choices of women since. The outfits worn by Annie (played by Diane Keaton) incorporate many elements of clothing typically reserved for men, such as tweed jackets, pleated wool trousers, neckties, and vests. This was a reflection of Diane's personal style and was anything but mainstream at the time. She took this look and created an aspirational persona around it that has since appealed to so many. The Annie Hall look pops up every few years on runways and is a film that is a constant source of inspiration for many designers even today.
Costume Designer: Ruth Morely (although Diane Keaton is the one to credit for Annie's outfits)
This camp classic is the ideal film to watch to understand what was expected of the 2019 Met Gala attendees. The plot follows a rags-to-riches story of a struggling fashion student (played by Diana Ross) who has big dreams. If you find this storyline outdated and a bit cliched, fear not because this is not why it's popular. Everything that makes this movie so special can be found in the ridiculously fun, over-the-top looks worn by Diana. So much satin, sequins, and bedazzles make up the outfits in this movie you won't know where to look.
Costume Designer: Diana Ross
Blow Up (1966)
This iconic 1960s counterculture classic takes a look at what it means to make art. It follows our fashion photographer protagonist who witnesses what he thinks is a murder, however as the movie goes on, more questions open up around the scene he just photographed. Set in London, every scene in this film captures so well what this era was like behind the closed doors of swinging London, making it perfect for those interested in 60s art and fashion.
Costume designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Funny Face (1957)
This classic fashion film is one you may have missed, but it is definitely worth the watch, if not just to see a movie from the 1950s. Audrey Hepburn stars as an unassuming book shop clerk (they are forgiven for such a cliche storyline as it was probably fresh at the time!), who's spotted by a photographer and reluctantly agrees to model for him, becoming a star overnight. Most of the film is set in Paris (what could be more fashionable than that) and Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe almost entirely consists of beautiful custom Givenchy dresses, making it so sleek and very fashion.
Costume Designer: Edith Head & Hubert De Givenchy
For even more to watch, make sure to check out our list of 15 Fashion Documentaries. Get ready to be inspired!