Iconic designer film dresses have genuine staying power. Some have continued to influence off-screen fashions ever since their first appearance.
Let’s look at some of the most notable designer film dresses in cinema history, typically made by costume designers, but not exclusively.
Holly Golightly’s Givenchy Little Black Dress in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” has recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. The dress created for Holly Golightly by Givenchy is widely viewed as the reason why a little black dress is a wardrobe essential for so many. Not the first LBD – credit for that goes to Coco Chanel but Givenchy popularised the style. The original Holly Golightly dress was auctioned 2006, selling for a staggering $900,000.
Vivian’s Red Gown in “Pretty Woman”
Played impeccably in the 1990 rom-com “Pretty Woman” by award-winning actress Julia Roberts, we all remember watching Vivian step out in a jaw-dropping red gown, complete with elegant sweetheart neckline and white gloves, engendering an audible gasp. It was the perfect dress for the incredible necklace Edward, played by Richard Gere, presented her with to wear for the evening. So iconic is this dress it even has its own Wikipedia page! Credit for the design goes to costume designer Marilyn Vance.
The Girl’s White Halter Dress in “The Seven Year Itch”
Designer film dresses don’t come more immediately recognisable than this. “The Seven Year Itch” was released in 1954 and stars Marilyn Monroe as The Girl. The image of Marilyn wearing a beautiful halter neck white dress with pleated skirt, standing over a subway vent and striking a playful pose has got to be one of the most iconic moments in cinema history. Credit for the design goes to William Travilla, a contract designer with Twentieth Century Fox. He worked on numerous films with Marilyn Monroe.
Elle Woods’ Pink Dress in “Legally Blonde”
The moment when Elle Woods struts into the courtroom wearing a sparkly pink dress holding her matching pink handbag containing Bruiser, her loyal Chihuahua, is easily one of the best moments in contemporary cinema. Wearing her own version of a power suit, Woods has the confidence to elicit a confession from an antagonistic young witness and exonerate her client in a way that left us all jumping for joy. This dress was designed by Sophie de Rakoff.
Rose’s Coat Dress in “Titanic”
When we first meet Rose DeWitt Bukater, who will become the Rose Dawson Calvert we know and love, she is wearing a superbly tailored monochromatic coat dress, perfectly representing how trapped and unfulfilled she feels in her current life. Luckily for her, it won’t be long before Jack shows her just how joyful and beautiful life can be. Something she carries with her in her heart for a lifetime. Who hasn’t cried at the end of Titanic? Costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott won an Oscar for Costume Design for her work on the film.
Scarlett O’Hara’s Green Velvet Dress in “Gone with the Wind”
There is a humorous element to the immediately recognisable green velvet dress worn by Vivien Leigh playing Scarlett O’Hara in iconic historical drama “Gone with the Wind”. O’Hara was keen to avoid having to tell Rhett Butler, played impeccably by Clark Gable, her finances are dwindling. So, she takes to constructing this elaborate dress from a pair of curtains. Luckily her mother must have had some excellent dress patterns on hand because Butler claims that O’Hara looks good enough to eat. The dress was designed by Walter Plunkett.
Andie Walsh’s Polka Dot Prom Dress in “Pretty in Pink”
Another spectacular dress created by the character is Andie Walsh’s prom dress in iconic teen flick “Pretty in Pink.” Molly Ringwald whips up this memorable creation from two dresses already in her closet. She ends up looking like a million dollars in a soft pink number that had teens around the world swooning over it. The prink prom dress is another Marilyn Vance creation.
So, there you have it. A purely subjective selection of iconic designer film dresses.