Name any major fashion designer and chances are there’s already a movie about them. Usually they’re documentaries, following a day in the designer’s life, retracing their origins and looking closely at some garments. But that’s not all film has to offer when it comes to fashion. If you’re more interested in character development, amazing costume design, great art direction, or a juicy plot, take a look at our list. It should set you for at least an entire week to make time pass by quickly — and fashionably!
01 | Covergirl, 1944
Rita Hayworth plays the role of Rusty Parker, a redhead chorus girl at a nightclub run by her boyfriend, Danny McGuire, played by none other than Gene Kelly. Rusty’s looking for her big break and ends up winning a magazine contest. It’s obvious what the prize is, right? Her life begins to change and there’s enough dancing, singing and glamorous cutscenes to show just how far she gets. There are also plenty of iconic scenes with marvelous stage design, 19th century fashions and grand entrances.
02 | How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953
The romantic comedy stars not one, but three classic Hollywood actresses: Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. They all play gold-digging fashion models and together, they devise and execute a fool-proof plan to marry a millionaire. Obviously nothing goes accordingly and it’s fun to see it all unravel. The film’s sets are nothing short of stylish—even their penthouse at Sutton Place looks elegant after its furniture is emptied out in many scenes. There’s a mini fashion-show worth watching.
03 | Funny Face, 1957
The musical romantic comedy is loosely based on Richard Avedon’s career. You’ll spot many references to the photographer—for starters, Fred Astaire’s character is named Dick Avery. Legendary editor-in-chief, Diana Vreeland (who brought Avedon over to Vogue from Harper’s Bazaar), is the basis of Kay Thompson’s character, Maggie Prescott. They discover model Jo Stockton, played by none other than Audrey Hepburn, and head to Paris to work. There’s plenty of photoshoots, singing, dancing… and fashion—and it’s all incredibly fun to watch.
04 | Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (Qui-êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?), 1966
It might have been the Russians that flew to outer space first, and the Americans who first landed on the moon. But the French that were lightyears ahead in Space Age fashions (think Courreges, Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin). This fine satirical arthouse film shows plenty of it—there’s an entire fashion show scene in a church with models robed in (literal) metal couture. The fact that a camera crew is constantly following the titular character Polly makes for an interesting comparison to modern-day reality TV, too.
05 | 8½, 1963
Fellini and style go hand in hand. You cannot talk about his films without mentioning how fashionable his characters were. While everyone remembers La Dolce Vita for classic couture, 8½ gears towards the avant-garde. Both films are among the greatest of all-time, and both won an Academy Award for Best Costume, designed by Piero Gherardi. The plot concerns a troubled filmmaker working on a science fiction movie. As for the fashions, there’s an excess of feathers, the thickest of lashes, a constant parade of fancy headgear, and plenty more futurist capes.
06 | Blood and Black Lace, 1964
We wouldn’t have Quentin Tarantino today if it weren’t for Mario Bava, the “master of Italian horror”. This is probably the most luxurious murder mystery film on this list—it involves a faceless serial killer, a fabulously wealthy countess, a successful fashion design house, and a number of handsomely paid models getting slashed. While the film didn’t gain much critical acclaim upon its release, it is now constantly applauded for its cinematic style, blatant focus on the killings, and hypnotizing camera work.
07 | Prêt-A-Porter (Ready to Wear), 1994
This one’s a slapstick comedy with homicide and cameos from everyone who’s anyone. The plot is super simple: the head of the Fashion Council chokes to death and a couple of reporters go around investigating. Cher’s in it. Sophia Loren’s in it. And so are a bunch of other pretty damn great actors, some reduced to silly characters. There’s plenty of backstage footage, and many of them were actual shows: Thierry Mugler gets interviewed, and we see Björk walking down Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1994 runway.
08 | Eyes of Laura Mars, 1978
Starting to see a pattern here… Unfortunately, more models are killed in this movie. Only this time, there’s a surprising witness. Titular Laura Mars is a controversial photographer, known to stylize violences—and then it turns out that her photographs actually look precisely like various unpublished murder scene photos. Can’t be a coincidence, right? Anyway, note the costume design by Theoni V. Aldrige. It’s super 70s with Halston and Yves Saint Laurent vibes. Some of the shoots look similar to the work of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, too.
09 | Blowup, 1966
Here’s yet another film about a photographer falling witness to a murder! Main character Thomas (played by David Hemmings) is inspired by Swinging Sixties photographer, David Bailey. One day he goes to the park and accidentally photographs someone being killed. We follow him as he blows up the photograph to figure out what happened—there’s sex, drugs and rock and roll… and photo shoots too. Legendary model Veruschka stars as herself, and we see glimpses of Jane Birkin and Peggy Moffitt at their early days of their career.