Cinema Style Ep. 3

And now for something completely different!

The first two films I discussed on here are very near and dear to my heart. But as much as I love them, the costuming is also pretty tame. It’s my intention to look at all sorts of movie costuming, not just the beautiful dresses (but I do love the beautiful dresses.)

So let’s talk about science fiction. I am, at some point, going to have to make an entire post listing iconic looks from 70s and 80s sci-fi flicks, but that time is not this time.

Science fiction has the ability to go there, whether it be socially like Star Trek, technologically like Metropolis or fashionably like The Fifth Element.

If you are a sci-fi fan, a film student or another movie costuming geek, you’ll likely have seen and/or heard about The Fifth Element before. Directed by Luc Besson, the film was released in 1997 to mixed reviews but gained a big fanbase. The film stars Bruce Willis as   cab driver Korben Dallas and Milla Jovovich as Leeloo, an embodiment of the fifth element. Leeloo has the task of combining with the other four elements to prevent the Great Evil from destroying the world, etc. At one point they get on a giant intergalactic cruise. It’s a whole thing.

In terms of plot, you get a lot of standard big-budget sci-fi stuff. There’s a gruff male lead shrouded in mystery, a beautiful and strange lady who kicks butt, a scary villain and the world in jeopardy. Something that did catch my attention the first I watched this movie was the costuming in it.


Gary Oldman as Zorg in The Fifth Element. Via Tumblr.

It’s pretty spectacular. The costume design for the movie was done by none other than French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, known for his own haute couture and prêt-à-porter fashions as well as his stint as the creative director of Hermès from 2003-2010. Gaultier also designed Madonna’s stage costumes for her 2006 Confessions tour and the infamous cone bra worn on her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990. Other clients include Mairlyn Manson.


Jean Paul Gaultier & Madonna. 90s. Via Pinterest.

Gaultier’s knack for the unexpected and attention-grabbing lends itself perfectly to The Fifth Element, as movie that is, by all accounts, a bit over the top. Gaultier created more than 1000 costumes for the film, from the main characters to extras in crowd shots.

Let me point you to some specific visuals.


Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element. Source.

Leeloo’s bandage outfit is a pretty good place to start. It’s a step up from her being completely naked, strategically covered up as at the beginning of the movie, she’s naked in the tank she escapes from. Think of it as Gaultier’s “underwear as outerwear” collection on an acid trip. Obviously, literally no one except Milla Jovovich could dream of pulling this off.


Leeloo. Source.

From the strategic bands to Leeloo’s orange suspenders. The ones that perfectly match her hair. With that white crop top and gold pants, that’s honestly a look that has potential for translation today. A little 90s, a little weird.


Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod. Source.

Now, we have to talk about Chris Tucker’s truly iconic turn as radio host Ruby Rhod. His performance was amazing and his costumes were ridiculously extravagant and suited the character perfectly. Highlights include his introduction look of all-leopard and the black satin and roses number seen in the singing performance sequences.


Ruby Rhod. Source.

And we need to talk about the extras. Gaultier’s obsessive attention to detail is to thank for every supporting cast member looking fire at all times.


The infamous see-through green skirt. Via Tumblr.

Not to mention what Gaultier did with uniforms. We have the cruise attendants in their blue bustiers and matching hats.


The flight attendants. Via Pinterest.

We can touch on the uncomfortable notion of service industry uniforms getting increasingly sexy and revealing in the future – seen initially with the gorgeous model-like McDonald’s employees who make a brief cameo in the movie’s beginning. I will say, the golden arches headpiece and red wig is a pretty great touch. Extreme branding meets extreme accessorizing.


23rd century McDonald’s. Via Tumblr.

From start to finish, The Fifth Element is a fun ride, and the costumes make that experience all the better. while the film itself had a huge budget and Dan Weil on production design, the costumes Gaultier created make the movie so much more memorable and have set the overall look for the 23rd century.



Elle (Gaultier Retrospective)

Dazed Digital (Gaultier and The Fifth Element)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To anyone who may follow this blog regularly, I’m going to be away the next few weeks on a road trip so there will not be any new posts! After I return we’ll be back to regular programming!



Cinema Style Ep. 2

For our second round of Cinema Style, I’m going to take you guys into a very, very sad period piece. Seriously, I was sobbing in the theatre. But even through my tears, I took notice of the costuming.

You probably already have an idea of which movie I’m talking about, but I’ll tell you anyway: Atonement.

If you’ve never seen it, the movie is directed by Joe Wright and based off of the book by Ian McEwan. It stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as Cecelia and Robbie, two young lovers torn apart in 1935 by a lie Cecelia’s younger sister Briony tells. Because of this lie, Robbie is taken to prison and only released four years later under the condition he joins the army. Tragedy and pretty crying ensues.


Gif via Tumblr

I felt a lot of emotions when I saw this guy in the cinema with my mom back when it came out in 2007 (10 years ago!!!) I was, in my core, sad. I was pissed at Briony, well actually, pissed at everyone in that movie because if you all just took a second to THINK THEN THEY COULD HAVE BEEN TOGETHER DO YOU THINK IT MAKES IT OKAY THAT YOU WROTE THEM INTO A HAPPY ENDING????


Through this roller coaster of emotions I, like many others, did take notice of the movie’s superb costuming. Or, to be specific, the dress. 

You can’t talk about Atonement without talking about Cecelia’s green dress. It’s an icon in and of itself, hugely memorable on its colour alone. Emerald Green.

 When you think of classic dress moments in movies, you think of a little black dress, maybe a red dress, maybe pink à la Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. These are the Hollywood starlet/femme fatale looks. Green is a weird one. It’s barely used in cinema on account of it supposedly making audience members uncomfortable. Remember Tippi Hedren in The Birds?


Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Source.

Keira Knightley is so stupidly beautiful and willowy that she could pull off anything, but this dress was a special case.

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, nominated for an Oscar from her work on the film, created the dress from scratch based on Wright’s vision for Cecelia at the fateful dinner party. Durran and Wright had previously worked together in 2005 on Pride & Prejudice, which, incidentally, also starred Knightley.

The dress was tailored to fit Knightley perfectly and moved with her as she walked. The descriptions of the dress in the book were taken to heart when the dress was designed, and certain features of it, backless with a train, are in line with 1930s gowns. The dress fits into the setting perfectly yet completely stands out.

cecelia dress 4

Photo via Tumblr

When you look at the other costuming in the film, it is starkly different to this dress. Briony, also being only 13 in the early scenes, wears the shift-dress shape of the 1930s in light colours.

Cecelia too wears lighter colours and materials in the early scenes, then when we enter wartime, she don’s the nurse’s uniform. Her silhouettes become more practical, her colours more muted.


Cecelia in 1935. Photo Source.


Cecelia during wartime via Pinterest

The dress itself stands as more of a fantasy, made more bold through Briony’s recollection, perhaps. Like they’re supposed to in any movie, the costumes tell the story. You could break up the styles into before the dress and after the dress. Plot-wise, that refers to before the dinner and after the dinner.

A quick search online can reveal many people looking for replicas of the dress. Since it was a custom creation, the original now moves around museum to museum. Back in 2012, it was at the V&A in London.

If anyone does find an excellent replica, let me know. I’m definitely not Keira Knightley, and I definitely don’t have an affair with the handsome young gardner on at the moment. But, you never know. Maybe I’ll wear it grocery shopping and recreate the library scene in the frozen food aisle.



Clothes on Film

The Costumer’s Guide

Fashion & Power