Last year, the fashionable film that people couldn’t stop raving about was Phantom Thread. Makes sense, given that the film is literally about a fashion designer. There are sumptuous silks aplenty, not to mention antique lace, tailored skirt suits and too many elaborate gowns to count. This year, though, the Most Stylish Film mantle could belong to any number of films whose premise has nothing to do with fashion, yet there’s style oozing out of every frame. Here’s our pick of the films whose sharp curatorial eye and strong sense of fashion made them a delight to behold in 2018.
The costume designer for this period film is Sandy Powell, the Oscar winner behind the looks of films like Shakespeare in Love, Carol and Gangs of New York. She’s likely to add another nom to her name with her latest film, The Favourite, which stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as the three leads. The 18th century absurdist drama about Queen Anne and the women jostling for power in her court provides the perfect setting for Powell to flex her style muscles, because rather than skewing to historical accuracy, the film’s director Yorgos Lanthimos wanted the film’s costumes to reflect the wicked humour and dark comedy driving the film.
Rather than the over-the-top gowns and pastel frills of the 1700s, Powell decided to embrace a black and white colour palette in order to create a “punk rock” version of the royal court. From repurposed denim for the servants to black laser-cut vinyl and cotton for the court costumes to a dramatic ermine-covered formal robe for the Queen, each look is full of personality.
“Normally I do spend a lot of time on colour. I love colour,” Powell tells Vulture. “But it was quite nice to do something that was different. So because it was black I had to really look into different textures and also things that would light. That sort of worked terribly well within the story and within the settings, and economically actually we had very, very limited funds and time. So there wouldn’t have been time to have done court costumes as they would have been.”
Over the course of her lifetime, early 20th century French writer Colette lived many lives. Her journey from innocent young girl in the countryside to iconoclastic writer in Paris is a fascinating one, made even more compelling by the fact that she comes into her own as a gender nonconformist during an era when a woman wearing trousers was unthinkable. Costume designer Andrea Flesch used clothes to mirror Colette’s evolution in this biopic about her life starring Keira Knightley.
“What’s special in her character is that she always finds her way to be unique and modern. I feel her wardrobe reflects her independent, sensitive, pure personality, which breaks through the strict rules of fashion at the turn of the century,” Flesch tells Variety.
Flesch poured over archival photographs, paintings and the period fashions of the time to create the costumes, many of which were actually vintage and restored at the Museum of Applied Arts in Hungary.
Costume designer Ruth E Carter has two Oscar nominations to her name—for Amistadand Malcolm X—and has worked on over 40 films, but Black Panther was an experience like none other. The biggest source of inspiration, she tells Forbes, was in “bring[ing] ancient Africa to the foreground in a way that’s never been seen before in cinema.” Featuring an all African and African-American cast, the film depicts a fictional country known as Wakanda, telling the story of its rich history through vibrant colours, traditional crafts and ancient tribal designs.
“I selected things from indigenous tribes and implemented them in a futuristic model,” Ruth E Carter tells British Vogue. “Because the culture that [director] Ryan Coogler created is unique, I could combine elements of many African tribes – including the colour red, the triangle shape, neck rings and beadwork – without worrying about cultural appropriation.”
“The chevron marks on the armour of the all-female warrior clan known as the Dora Milaje, for example, mimic the sacred geometry and imagery found in African artwork,” explains the Vogue piece. “The stacked beadwork suggests the wearer’s marital status, and the tiny talismans on the fighter’s front tabard—a fertility doll, a piece of jade or amethyst perhaps—are symbolic of the wearer’s skill set and spirituality.”