Costume designers have the challenging job of enticing, enchanting, and setting the stage for the films they work for. While all of these hard working people should be applauded, every so often there’s a costume that captures the public eye like no other. In many films, dresses are at the centre of iconic scenes or characters. These are the ten iconic dresses from movies that caught our attention and didn’t let go.
Glinda the Good Witch’s Dress: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Created by renowned costume designer Adrian, Glinda’s dress was not originally created for the character. The costume was first seen in the 1936 film, San Francisco, although slightly different than the version seen in The Wizard of Oz. With the addition of sleeves, more glitter, and the magic of technicolour film, this dress became the iconic of film costume history it is today. It’s grand, sparkly, and the ultimate fairy tale gown. In a film full of iconic costumes, this one does not blend into the background.
Scarlett O’Hara’s Drapery Dress: Gone With The Wind (1939)
In the Hollywood classic Gone With The Wind, protagonist Scarlett O’Hara arrives back at her war ravaged mansion to find her mother’s green drapes intact, and asks her maid to create a dress out of them. The result is one of the most iconic dresses in film fashion history; a symbol of Scarlett’s resourcefulness and will to survive and succeed. Costume designer Walter Plunkett created a dress out of dark green and olive velvet, using a hoop skirt, fading techniques, and belt detailing to create the illusion that it was made out of curtains. The dress has been parodied several times over the years, but that doesn’t make it any less a classic and outstanding dress.
Satine’s Elephant Love Medley Dress: Moulin Rouge (2001)
Director Baz Luhrmann is known for his lavish, dramatic set designs and costumes, and Satine’s red dress in Moulin Rouge is no different. Nicole Kidman plays courtesan Satine in the famous movie, and the red dress she wears during the “Elephant Love Medley” musical number is the most well-known costume from the film. Australian costume designer Angus Strathie created the dress as well as the hundreds of other costumes featured in the film. The corset bodice, bustled skirt, and dramatic red tone creates a sense of lust, passion, and glamour that is unforgettable.
Allie’s Blue Dress: The Notebook (2004)
While not as lavish or dramatic as some of the other dresses on this list, Allie’s blue dress from The Notebook is iconic in its own way. This simple blue button down dress is part of some of the most recognizable scenes in romance movie history—including the famous kiss in the rain between Allie and her leading man, Noah. The movie is set in the 1940’s, but this blue dress still holds up in contemporary fashion. It’s simple, classy, and a less traditional symbol of romance and passion.
Hermione’s Yule Ball Gown: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
While the Harry Potter films may not be your first thought when it comes to famous film dresses, there are a few memorable dress moments between the magic and action. In the fourth film, bookworm Hermione makes a memorable entrance at the school ball in this long feminine pink ball gown. While it’s hard to replicate the impact of this moment as it occurred in the book, costume designer Jany Temime created a vision in pink that could not be missed or forgotten.
The Queen’s Wedding Dress: Marie Antoinette (2006)
A list of best movie dresses isn’t complete without at least one wedding dress! Costume designer Milena Canonero won an Academy Award for her work on Sofia Coppola’s decadent Marie Antoinette from 2006. Set in the 18th century at the French court, all of the dresses that Kirsten Dunst’s titular queen wears throughout the film are beautiful, detailed, and built on a historical basis. The wedding dress is one of the largest and most lavish; it features wide panniers under the skirt which were at the time relegated to only the most formal high court occasions. It may be a historical dress, but it still appeals to our modern tastes!
The Green Dress: Atonement (2007)
Keira Knightley’s green dress in Atonement may be included on every best dress and costume list since 2007, but it’s well deserved! Costume designer Jacqueline Durran created this vintage inspired dress completely from scratch. The green gown is feminine and tempting, simple but complex in construction; Durran referred to it as a representation of “heightened perfection.” The way it flows and moves is captivating on film, as is the way the emerald green pops among the rest of the set design and costuming in the movie. The green dress is elegant and a masterpiece of costuming.
Alice’s Red and Black Dress: Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Even if you’re an Alice purist, there’s no denying that the costume in Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation are works of art. Colleen Atwood, who has designed costumes for most of Burton’s films, won an academy award for her work on these costumes. There are many beautiful dresses, but for us the standout is Alice’s red, black, and white dress that she wears in the Red Queen’s palace and throughout the ending. It’s fun, flouncy, and asymmetrical. This dress provides the illusion of having been ripped and mashed up but at the same time is completely wearable. It marks a transition in Alice’s time in Wonderland, while maintaining a difference between her and the Red Queen. It’s the kind of dress you would love to wear to a Halloween themed prom—or maybe a Tim Burton themed one!
Daisy’s Flapper Gowns: The Great Gatsby (2013)
Baz Luhrmann appears on this list once again with his 2013 adaptation of the famous novel, The Great Gatsby. This movie captures the decadent nature of the flapper era and is full of beautiful detailed costume. The dress of the main female character, Daisy, is one of many stunning flapper costumes from the film. Catherine Martin, costume designer, collaborated with Prada to create the dress as well as many of the other costumes from the film. Vintage lace and beading was used while she tried to keep the styling both authentic to the era and fun and appealing to modern audiences.
Cinderella’s Ball Gown: Cinderella (2015)
One of the struggles of making live action adaptations of Disney movies is recreating the magic of princess ball gowns. Designer Sandy Powell managed it for this live action version of Cinderella’s ball gown though. This massive dress is truly the thing of childhood dreams—maybe even for those of us out of childhood! There are 250 metres of fabric in the dress, with a stop layer of silk and a steel corset and skirt cage. The blue almost seems to shimmer, making it look like a fairytale illustration in motion. This dress is a princess gown that is sure not to disappoint!