With the awards season quickly descending upon us, we take a look at some top recommended biographical films loosely based on the lives of some of the most famous fashion designers, models, and personalities in the industry.
These fashion biopics might not be known for their accuracy, but for everything they are missing in that department, they make up for in high doses of drama, romance, and glamorous lifestyles that all too often descend into turmoil. But tragedy and inaccuracies aside, costumes are a huge focus of these movies and series, and thankfully those live up to the hype.
If you are feeling inspired to sew after watching a few of the films below, make sure to order your custom labels so that they are ready for when inspiration strikes.
For anyone interested in the rise of the supermodel, Gia is a must-watch. This visually pleasing biographical drama is based on the life of the Italian-American model Gia Marie Carangi (played by Angelina Jolie), believed to be one of the first supermodels. Soon after her rise to stardom, Gia has a tragic downward spiral, making this movie very harrowing to watch. While watching, you can’t help but fall for Jolie’s version of Gia, who, behind her fearless facade, is in a very vulnerable situation. As far as I can tell, it isn't fully accurate to Gia Carangi's life, but still, the movie does a great job at highlighting the dark side of modeling and the fashion industry, especially during the 1980s.
Factory Girl (2006)
Like Gia, Factory Girl is another film based around the rise and fall of an American model, only this time based on the life of model/actress/it-girl Edie Sedgewick (played by Sienna Miller). This biopic has less of a focus on the fashion industry, but the 1960s outfits are reason enough to enjoy it. Edie was a close friend and muse of artist Andy Warhol and appeared in many of his films and artworks, though their relationship deteriorates, leaving Edie to become an outcast in her own social circle. This movie, and her life, highlight the sad trajectory of many young women who were lauded within the fashion and art scene one minute, then abandoned without any support the next.
Coco Before Chanel (2009)
This historical drama is set during the early life of the French fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. It follows her rise from a small girl abandoned at an early age to the independent, modern, and elegant woman synonymous with her later designs. Though the focus is before she becomes a fashion designer, clothing plays a hugely important role in the movie. Even from a young age, she had her own sense of style, totally unique from those around her, as well as a talent for designing and sewing.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009)
It is the second biopic on this list that focuses on the life of Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer, only this time, based on the romantic novel about a rumored affair between the designer and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Again this film isn't about her career as a fashion designer, but rather about her personal life. Still, it is beautiful to watch with really great clothes from that era.
Saint Laurent (2014)
Saint Laurent is the unofficial biopic of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and likely easily confused with the more official biopic released the same year – similarly named Yves Saint Laurent (discussed below). Saint Laurent is the much juicier biographical drama covering the story of Yves life, which was an interesting one to say the least. Like other highly talented creatives, he juggled two separate lives. In his daily life, Yves was a relentless perfectionist when it came to his work, and at the same time, indulged in a world of hedonistic pleasures and partying in the Parisian nightlife scene. This film shows Yves's power he held over people, using this to deflect from any criticism toward himself and his lifestyle.
Yves Saint Laurent (2014)
This one is the Yves Saint Laurent biopic which received the tick of approval from Yves's camp, namely his partner Pierre Berge. It is the more tame option when picking a YSL biopic, showing Yves in a much more sympathetic light than they did in Saint Laurent. But where this version shines is with the costumes. The production team was given access to the YSL archives, using originals in many scenes. Even through a screen, the original garments make such an obvious difference compared with the costumes used in Saint Laurent. So if you are in it for the fashion, this one is the way to go.
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018)
If you are looking for an extremely binge-able series, this 2018 installment of the show American Crime Story focuses on the murder of Gianni Versace. Versace was an Italian luxury fashion designer, killed on the steps of his mansion in Miami Beach, Florida. It is a dark, dramatic adaptation of his life, where he surrounded himself in a food-served-on-silver-trays-by-the-pool level of opulence and luxury. Much of the story is focused on the murderer, Andrew Cunanan, but glimpses into the world of luxury fashion (including Donatella Versace who is played by Penelope Cruz) and the extravagances that come with that lifestyle.
Delve into the world of Spanish LGBTQ icon Cristina Ortiz, known on stage as La Veneno. La Veneno rose to fame as a beloved transgender personality and performer, but behind the scenes battled with marginalization for much of her life. Her costumes and stage performances make this biopic perfect for anyone interested in costume and fashion. Another great thing about this miniseries is that they chose transgender actresses for the roles of Christina, giving a platform for those that still struggle with the same marginalization she faced. Note: this is in Spanish with English subtitles.
Dubbed “an inaccurate and fictionalized account” according to the family of American fashion designer Halston, but in all honesty, what really is a biopic if not filled with re-imagination of events that may or may not have even happened? And that aside, I found this series to be highly informative about a designer I admittedly knew little of. Halston (played by Ewan McGregor) came into fame as the designer of Jackie O’s famous pillbox hat, and after, successfully rebranded himself as a leader in American fashion. As with many of these stories, they don’t always end happily, but for anyone interested in the fashion side of it, this series focuses a fair amount of attention on his work and the brand he built up.
House Of Gucci (2021)
A biopic you will find in this year's awards nominations, House Of Gucci has been on the fashion calendar since the announcement Lady Gaga would be playing Patrizia Reggiani (Maurizio Gucci's "wronged" wife). Since its release, it has sparked a lot of discussion from high profile people within the orbit of the Gucci brand, namely Tom Ford, who set the tone of his review with "I recently survived a screening of the two-hour-and-37-minute film that is House of Gucci." The movie is filled with everything you would expect – family drama, sprawling Italian scenery, murder, and of course, all the Gucci you can imagine. It takes a perfectly over-the-top approach to the fashion biopic genre, and although it is a polarizing movie for many, still a fun watch.
If you are looking for other fashion inspired films to watch, make sure to check out our collection of 15 Must-Watch Fashion Documentaries.