film 'fits that live in my head rent free

By Miranda Parkinson

When you think of iconic fashion in film, what do you think of? Cher’s yellow plaid set from Clueless, a look that’s inspired countless outfits, at least one music video and can be seen every Halloween without fail? Miranda Priestly’s black fur coat and purple dress from The Devil Wears Prada, or Andy’s head-to-toe Chanel moment, complete with thigh-high boots? Maybe Sofia Coppola’s extravagant Marie Antoinette springs to mind, delectable frothy dresses in pinks and whites, liberally sprinkled with ribbons and bows.

However, I’m here to inform you that an injustice has been done. A heinous crime against costume design, if you will. Outfits that you don’t see every Halloween, that never make it to the fancy dress parties, and for what good reason?

Without further ado, I present to you three film ‘fits that live in my head rent free at all times. Estate agents, take note. Themed-party planners, grab a seat.

1. The Atonement Green Dress




Am I really writing a film article if I don’t mention Atonement at least once? This is the perfect dress. You know the one. The one worn by Cecilia (Keira Knightley) on that fateful summer night in 1935. Let’s count down the reasons why.

One – it’s the perfect green. Have you ever seen a more beautiful shade of emerald, a rippling green silk that practically shimmers under the gaze of director Joe Wright’s cameras? I thought not.

Two – it’s the perfect cut. Thin straps with a tantalisingly low back. A knotted drape around the hips to tie the look together (true Atonement nerds will know that the top and skirt are separate pieces) and an elegant train that billows as Cecilia walks.

Three – it’s the perfect mix…of mid-30s style and modern fashion. Who wouldn’t want to be Keira Knightley wearing the perfect dress on the hottest day of the year? It works just as well then as it does now.

In the interest of full disclosure – this isn’t technically an underrated fit. It was voted the best film costume of all time by a Sky Movies poll (as it should), got costume designer Jacqueline Durran nominated for an Oscar and has sparked hundreds of replicas. But are people shouting about it from their rooftops on the daily? No! And that’s a crime.

2. The Scheming Sunglasses of Cruel Intentions


Kathryn Merteuil and Sebastian Valmont are some of the most devious characters of 90s cinema – and their wardrobes reflect that. Rich, ruthless and irresistible, they always dress like they’re about to ruin your life. And they probably are!

This sunglasses-and-suits look just screams “we’re scheming”. Ryan Phillipe’s Sebastian sports a Prada suit, sunglasses and a wolfish grin. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Kathryn wears a dark, flower-patterned slip dress and a pair of excellent Calvin Klein sunglasses. Are they going to seduce you? Backstab you? The jury’s out.

Is this not the ideal couples costume? Although, given the context, maybe that’s not for the fainthearted. Bonus points if you accessorise with Kathryn’s iconic coke-cross necklace.

3. The Mermaids Scalloped Collar


Winona Ryder has many a memorable film ‘fit to her name (Beetlejuice, anyone?) but Charlotte’s signature look from Mermaids is one of the best. It’s simple in the best way – a black dress, contrasting Peter Pan collar with scalloped details and a modest gold cross. It couldn’t be further than the cut-throat fashion of Kathryn Merteuil and her sacrilegious necklace if it tried!


Charlotte’s outfit is also a sharp contrast to the eccentric, colourful outfits that her mother wears. Whilst Rachel (a bubbly, mesmerising Cher) favours skin-tight dresses, tiaras and big hair, Charlotte’s all about a sleek bob, doe eyes and a hefty dose of existential yearning. To be-come or not to be-come a nun, that is the question.

Could this look be described as an inverted Wednesday Addams? Maybe – and that makes it even better.

So, what do all these outfits have in common? Nothing much, apart from the fact that they occupy a sizeable chunk of real estate in my head, and with Halloween/dressing up/fun cancelled for the foreseeable future, it looks like that’s where they’re going to stay. With that said, if there’s another lockdown and you see me ordering five yards of green silk and a sewing kit – no, you didn’t.