Just as cinematographers and costume designers find inspiration from the fashion world, trendsetters take cues from film. From the moment Elle Woods took on "the man" in Legally Blonde and normalized what has come to be known as Barbiecore, to the cast of the cult classic Trainspotting bringing back new age grunge, films have been setting fashion trends since the introduction of the video camera.
Even some of the most memorable movie quotes have to do with fashion trends and the ensemble choices of some of our most favorite characters. For example, it was Wednesday Addams who famously said: "I'll stop wearing black when they make a darker color." It was Karen Smith from Mean Girls who let the world know that "on Wednesdays, we wear pink." And it was the devilishly stylish Miranda Priestly who reminded us that florals for spring is hardly "groundbreaking."
Whether entire costumes inspired generational fashion trends or simply gave an up-and-coming group of fashionistas the silent permission to play around with various styles, movies have been serving us some truly iconic fashion moments and (thankfully) show no signs of letting up.
Bold Matching Plaid Sets
The 1985 hit Clueless inspired a slew of fashion trends, including slinky slip dresses, laid-back athleisure and the quintessential, always-classic baby tee.
The look that Clueless is most known for inspiring, however, is the bold matching plaid set, especially when paired with knee-high socks and chunky heels. Iconic!
The Pixie Cut
The groundbreaking horror film Rosemary's Baby made Mia Farrow an absolute star—and solidified the pixie cut as an elegant option for anyone looking to gave themselves a bold new look.
In the film, Farrow's cut complimented her facial structure and at a time when most leading ladies wouldn't dare to cut their hair so short.
The Little Black Dress
Name a more iconic Hollywood moment than Audrey Hepburn wearing a little black, shoulder-less dress with matching gloves and a tiara. Go ahead... we'll wait. You can't!
Hepburn revived the little black dress in her iconic portrayal of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, proving once and for all that you can't go wrong with simple elegance.
All-Black Ray-Ban Sunglasses
Ray-Bans have always been a fashion staple, but after Tom Cruise rocked a pair of all-black Ray-Ban Original Wayfarers in the iconic film Risky Business, the company saw what was reported to be "major profits surge"—sales increased by 50% after fans desperately wanted to pull of Cruise's "devil-may-care" look.
Very few movie scenes are most iconic or memorable than Jennifer Beals taking off her bra without removing her off-the-shoulder sweater in the 80s film Flashdance.
Beals rocked the off-the-shoulder sweatshirt on the movie poster as well, creating a fashion frenzy of sorts as more women in the 80s looked to emulate her effortlessly chic ensemble.
Gender-Bending Suits And Blazers
The 1997 romantic comedy Annie Hall featured a young Diane Keaton rocking a gender-bending look, complete with loose trousers, oversized blazers, neckties and fedoras.
Keaton's portrayal as the effortlessly cool, more masculine Annie Hall captured the imagination of fashionistas for decades to come, especially as more designers continue to play around with concepts like gender.
The Halter Dress
The 1955 film The Seven Year Itch starring Marilyn Monroe gave the world one of the most memorable moments in cinematic history—the moment Monroe stood over a subway grate and had the bottom of her dress famously blown up into the air.
That moment propelled halter dresses to the top of the fashion food chain for a time being, and is still considered a quintessential, old Hollywood gown.
The Three-Piece Polyester Suit
You didn't have to be alive when the 1997 film Saturday Night Fever dominated box offices across the country to be heavily influenced by the movie's stellar costumes. Thanks to actor John Travolta's stellar dance moves, the three-piece polyester suit became the must-have club ensemble of the decade, changing the look of dance floors across the globe.
Black-And-White Checkered Vans
The movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High —as well as the subsequent CBS sitcom based off the film—inspired an entire generation of kids to rock their best preppy, stoner, devil-may-care ensemble. But no one character sparked a trend like Sean Penn's skateboard-loving Jeff Spicoli, who solidified the black-and-white checkered Vans as the "it" shoe of the 80s.
The classic 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde gave birth to the ride-or-die couple and solidified the beret as a fierce accessory for women (and men) around the world. According to Entertainment Weekly, sales of the iconic hat soared from 5,000 to 12,000 per week in the French village shops where the beret originated as a direct result of the film.
The High-Waisted Denim Look
Director Spike Lee's iconic 1986 film She's Gotta Have It inspired an entire generation of would-be hipsters with its unique statement pieces that, while not particularly groundbreaking today, certainly changed the fashion game. Characters living in Forte Greene rocked high-waisted denim jeans, boxy button-down shirts and large statement accessories that morphed into Brooklyn's first official hipster uniform.
Floral Prints And Costume Jewelry
The 1986 John Hughes film Pretty in Pink ushered in an era of bolo ties, vintage cardigans, oversized suit jackets and—thanks to actress Molly Ringwald—floral prints and loud, statement-making costume jewelry. So many of Hughes' films went on to define an entire generation of 80s kids, including 80s fashion.
Layered Mesh And Lace
The ultimate material girl embodied 80s fashion, so it's no surprise that the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan staring the pop icon set some serious 80s fashion trends. Whether she was pairing lingerie with religious statement pieces or tressing her already sky-high locks, Madonna inspired an entire generation of young women to push the fashion boundaries. Yet it was her chaotically decision to randomly layer mesh over lace that really set her apart as a fashion icon.
The 2006 hit film Marie Antoinette inspired looks both on and off the red carpet, especially at the Palais des Festival in Cannes, France. But the style trend most set by this movie was the growing popularity of pastel gowns, including light purples, greens and blues. Viewers took the 8th-century inspired costumes of the film and turned them into chic, modern looks.
The Party Gown
Grace Kelly was a natural beauty in every scene she acted in, and the 1956 film High Society was no exception. With her effortlessly chic party gowns—including romantic statement dresses and one particularly stunning blue organza ensemble—Kelly embodied 50s glamor and inspired generations of fashionistas to come.
The 1970 film Love Story was one for the ages, and it certainly moved the fashion needle forward with the film's signature looks, including camel coat, striped scarf, and knitted beanies. Ali MacGraw, who played Jenny in teh film, originated from the fashion world—she was a former assistant to legendary Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland—and it certainly showed on set.
Trousers For Women
The incomparable Katharine Hepburn took zero prisoners on set of the 1940 film The Philadelphia Story, especially when she normalized high-waisted trousers for women. What was assumed to be strictly menswear served as a feminine, take-no-prisoners touch to Hepburn's style and liberated a generation of women who were still beholden to outdated fashion "rules."
The High-Slit Dress
The 1966 film Blow-Up had everything, including barely-there miniature dresses with thigh-high slits that seemed to defy gravity and all things science. German model Veruschka's quick cameo in a sparkly dress with a dramatic slit changed the fashion game.
Perfectly Tailored Three-Piece Suits
The 1968 heist movie The Thomas Crown Affair solidified the late, great actor Steve McQueen as a fashion "it" man while simultaneously proving that every gentlemen needs a perfectly tailored, three-piece suit. Good luck picking out your favorite suit in this film—they're all fire.
Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby was a fashionista's absolute dream, especially when considering actor Leonardo DiCaprio's extensive wardrobe of pastel-colored suits. The light pink ensemble DiCaprio wears during a particularly tense scene was, is and remains iconic and gave men across the world silence permission to lean into their feminine side when dressing like a leading man.
Sex and the City—the movies, the television show and the recent HBO Max spin-off—has been serving us looks for decades, each one more obsession-worthy than the last. Character Carrie Bradshaw was sure to push the fashion boundaries, and in doing so gave us the trend of pairing clashing patterns together in new and exciting ways.
Tweed Blazers And Knee-High Boots
The Devil Wears Prada wasn't just a fashion movie... it was (and remains) the fashion movie. The entire cast serves us some truly iconic fashion moments, complete with large statement belts, leopard-print fur, gold high heels, chic berets and oversized sunglasses. But it was actress Anne Hathaway's memorable tweed jacked and Chanel boots that truly made an impact in the fashion world.
Mini-Skirts And Kitten Heels
The 2004 hit Mean Girls gave us everything: Burn books! All things pink! Chokers! And, of course, a sea of miniature skirts paired with kitten heels. The coming-of-age high school film certainly ushered in a new wave of preppy chic, and we were here for it.
Cropped Cardigans And Cargo Pants
The 1999 cult classic 10 Things I Hate About You is beloved for a reason, and the movie's fashion inspiration is certainly on reason why fans continue to watch the movie year after year. While the late, greater Heath Ledger was giving us his best bad boy grunge look, the women of the film were serving up platform flip-flops, cropped cardigans, printed tan tops and cargo pants. Talk about iconic (and a trip down high school memory lane).
The Baby Doll Dress
The adorable romantic comedy 13 Going on 30 was as playful as it was inspiring for those obsessed with fashion. Not only did Jennifer Garner end up wearing one of the most iconic dresses in rom-com history—the baby doll dress—her looks still continue to inspire new generations of young women. Thanks to TikTok users (who know what's what!), the iconic rainbow miniature dress has made a recent fashion comeback.
What, like it's hard? Before Greta Gerwig's Barbie made history, Elle Woods was kicking legal butt and normalizing Barbiecore with her fierce, bright pink power suits and miniature dresses. Elle Woods crawled so Barbie could run, folks.
Feather Trims And Silk Dresses
The 1997 film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion was a masterclass in 90s fashion. Actresses Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino were the ultimate party girls in their sparkly miniature dresses featuring form-fitting silk, fur trim and almost-always paired with chunky heels.
Whether you were Team Jacob or Team Edward, if you're a fan of fashion you were undoubtedly part of Team Vampire Chic, courtesy of the Twilight franchise. The film made the Gothic style trend cool again, inspiring millennial teens to "freshen up" with some undead makeup featuring pale faces, blood-stained lips and heavy, dark eye makeup. It was a mood.
I mean, does silk couture gowns ever go out of style?
It's hardly a surprise that the 2017 film Phantom Thread brought home both an Academy Award and British Academy Film Award for Best Costume Design—the fashion was simply breathtaking. The gowns highlighted in the movie were equal parts historically accurate and inspired by the good (and not so good) aspects of fashion, only making the film that much more inspirational.
Aggressively Unbuttoned Collared Shirt
We have actor Richard Gere and his 1980 performance in American Gigolo to thank for the aggressively unbuttoned collard shirt trend. Thanks, Richard! (OK seriously the man was pulling it off and this trend caught fire for a very, very specific reason.)
The 1996 cult classic Trainspotting revived the underground grunge look, ushering in a new grunge style that has remained (to some extent) to this day.
The Varsity Uniform
Eddie Murphy changed the cinematic world and forever inspired. the fashion world with his signature grey sweatshirt and a navy hoodie. When Murphy paired the look with a simple pair of Adidas and slim blue jeans, he solidified the Varsity Uniform trend as a fashion staple.