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15 Movies Worth Watching Just for the Costumes

The Academy Awards are one of the movie industry’s most prestigious and anticipated events. Out of the 24 categories, the costume design award is given to films that use historically accurate clothing with impressive, eye-catching looks donned by the movie characters. It’s not just the clothes that matter in the movie, but also the hairstyles and makeup.

Here are the 15 films of the past 20 years with the most amazing costumes that received an award for “Best Costume Design.”

1. Gladiator (2000)

The metal-looking costumes of Ridley Scott’s Roman epic, Gladiator, were made using foam rubber. Making them look natural and comfortable was challenging for the designer, Janty Yates. They made 12 sets of armor, with 8 repeats per set — 4 for the actor, 4 for the stuntman, some for the riding stuntman and fighting stuntman, and also for both the clean and muddy scenes.

The figurine on the breastplate of Russell Crowe’s cuirass was made from hardened black leather, not metal. And the actual pieces were facsimile silver, not actual silver.

2. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! had many captivating costumes that blended 1890s Parisian bohemia with the glamorous musicals of the 1930s. The designers, Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie, had 450 costumes designed, and another 350 were rented. Satine (Nicole Kidman) wore many eye-catching outfits, including a strapless Indian wedding dress.

She also wore one of the film industry’s most expensive jewelry pieces — a handcrafted diamond necklace made out of 18K white gold set with 1,308 dazzling diamonds totaling 134 carats.

3. Chicago (2002)

Rob Marshall’s late ’20s musical, Chicago, brought designer Colleen Atwood on board, who used ’20s art deco, Bauhaus, and Cubism. An academic article also studied Chicago’s costume and color images. Roxie Hart’s (Renée Zellweger’s character) skin-toned palette reflected her monotonous routine.

Her white beaded dress displayed her craving for fame, whereas a low-waistline blue and transparent black dress with a white collar disguised her guilt. Black and bold colored dresses expressed Velma’s fearlessness and strong character.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor created The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King’s intricately embroidered challenging costumes. Some costumes were made 40 times. Arwen’s pale green, light, airy coronation gown with the elaborate coronation crown with hanging jewels from the sides highlights Arwen’s little elven ears.

Her dark red and blue mourning gown (frock) with enormous sleeves and neckline was challenging; they repeatedly dyed the velvet to achieve the rich, baked red color. The embroidery around the shoulders and arms was hand-stitched for many hours.

5. The Aviator (2004)

Sandy Powell designed the costumes for Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Rather than copying real people’s looks in detail, she looked for inspiration. The fashion enthusiast, Howard Hughes, didn’t have any colorful photos, just old black-and-white ones. Sandy imagined the colors; she incorporated red, green, and blue shades into the costumes.

Actress Cate Blanchett’s outfits reflected Katharine Hepburn’s high-waisted, baggy trousers, loose-fitting blouses, and dramatic formal gowns very well.

6. Marie Antoinette (2006)

When movie director Sofia Coppola met up with Milena Canonero for Marie Antoinette, she gifted her a box of beautifully colored macarons with pastel hues and neutrals. In return, the “best cinematographic interpretation of the eighteenth century” was created. Canonero blended present-day modern and trendy outfits with elaborate eighteenth-century high-fashion dresses.

As such, the luxurious nature of Versailles was portrayed with silks, frills, florals, and candy-like fashion, Rococo and extravagant decor, the New Romantic movement, and John Galliano’s designs for Dior.

7. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Shekhar Kapur teamed up with Alexandra Byrne for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Before filming, she wanted to know everything about the film, and Kapur gave her the freedom to make his movie look very different, much lighter, and with a more feminine court. Byrne added bright and rich colors, making the main character stand out from the others.

Not all of the details were precisely accurate in the film. Kapur wanted Elizabeth to wear blue in one scene, but blue wasn’t a royal color in the sixteenth century, which was challenging.

8. The Duchess (2008)

Saul Dibb worked with Michael O’Connor for his eighteenth-century period piece, The Duchess. O’Connor designed historically accurate outfits for Georgina’s wardrobe and ensured she looked like a fashion icon of the eighteenth century with beauty and elegance. Actress Keira Knightley wore 27 costumes, and to get her entirely costumed took 2 hours, which included sewing her into corsets.

Her makeup, clear skin, red lipstick, and high hairdo with a wig were all accurate.

9. The Young Victoria (2009)

For The Young Victoria costumes, Sandy Powell visited Victoria’s clothing archives at Kensington Palace, and each outfit Emily Blunt wore in the movie was insured for $10,000. Swarovski loaned various pieces of jewelry. Young Victoria wore a lot of pastels, like pink, yellow, and light blue, with ruffles, lace, and ornamentation.

As per Victoria’s coronation robe, they dyed a purchased plain fabric with metallic thread to get the right shade of gold, then added intricate embroidery by printing and hand painting.

10. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Colleen Atwood’s designs for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland stole our hearts. Alice’s blue dress isn’t childish; the heavy black decoration says everything. Her clothes go through a transformative new world down the rabbit hole. They were lucky to find some laser-cut leather in Italy that looked burned, then re-embroidered it with gold thread, which was used for Johnny Depp’s (the Mad Hatter) hat.

They also stuffed a clown wig in the hat. The scissors, thread, thimbles, and a pin cushion that Johnny Depp used were all period items.

11. The Artist (2011)

Michel Hazanavicius’s comedy-drama film, The Artist, was in the hands of silent-movie lover Mark Bridges, who worked with vibrant colors to achieve the desired contrast. Also, he had to design costumes both in black-and-white and color. In an interview, Bridges mentioned that contrast is essential in a black-and-white world. Peppy’s first costume looked medium-value gray. It was actually a kind of coral color.

12. Anna Karenina (2012)

Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina movie brought Jacqueline Durran on board for the impressive costumes who blended the traditional 1870s with Dior’s 1950s couture designs and architectural hats and veils with elegance. The colors played essential roles, like, for example, when Anna wears a black sleeveless bustle dress — the black color refers to the rejection of Vronsky’s love. Her fabulous red bustle dress represents her falling in love.

The diamonds, pearls, and everything Keira Knightly wore in the film were original and from Chanel, including the vintage furs worth $2 million.

13. The Great Gatsby (2013)

The director, Baz Luhrmann, and his wife, Catherine Martin, came together for The Great Gatsby in Australia, creating the set from scratch. She created 1,700 eye-catching vintage outfits for the cast, reflecting the flapper style of 1920s fashion, complete with shine, shimmer, and glimmer style with a modern twist. She collaborated with Brooks Brothers on over 500 ensembles and hundreds of boater hats, as well as with Prada for about 40 dresses.

Daisy’s (played by Carey Mulligan) party dress was made by Prada, while her headband was from Tiffany & Co.

14. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Milena Canonero designed the fantastic costumes for Wes Anderson’s 1930s movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Monsieur Gustave’s outfit, as well as the rest of the hotel employees’ getups, was inspired by Italian tailor Umberto Tirelli’s sketches. The costume’s purple color was inspired by the old cassock that Canonero kept at her house.

Fendi and Prada were inspired by Klimt’s paintings when designing Madame D.’s (played by Tilda Swinton) clothes. Swinton spent around 5 hours a day on makeup.

15. Black Panther (2018)

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther created quite a buzz thanks to its awesome costumes. The designer, Ruth E. Carter, became the first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Costume Design. To create the stylish superhero look, the designer combined futuristic elements, traditional African clothing, haute couture, and rare accessories made from seashells, examples of body piercings, and body art.

The designer explained that every character had a particular color; T’Challa was black, Okoye was red, and Nakia was green; wearing red, black, and green.

What are your favorite looks from movies? Let us know in the comments!

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