When I asked some classic movie fans for what  their favorite movie costumes were I got some surprise answers. These were heartening in this age of narrowing focus on “the best”or more often “the most mentioned in the media” answer to such a question. But then again I was dealing with a group of discriminating and knowledgeable film fans and fellow bloggers. Their answers also run the spectrum of older classic and more recent movie costumes and film fashion, some are well known and some not at all.  Here are their responses:

Patricia Gallagher’s favorite gown was worn by Grace Kelly in Rear Window,  this was the dramatic black and white coctail dress she is first seen in at Jimmy Stewart’s apartment. Edith Head designed it with a simple black decollete top and a full white chiffon skirt decorated with beaded twig decorations in black. It was quite smashing, one of Edith Head’s best designs. Grace wears black strappy heels with the outfit.

Grace Rear Window2

Deborah Thomas said her favorite was worn by Deanna Durbin in It Started with Eve, 1941. This outfit was designed by Vera West in a scene where Deanna Durbin is chased around a piano by her beau Robert Cummings. Deanna Durbin was a huge star in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She single-handedly kept Universal solvent with her popular films. Vera West designed costumes at Universal from 1928 until 1947.

Favorite Movie Costumes Durbin, Deanna (It Started With Eve)_01

Marsha Collock said her favorite was the “love bird dress” from  Gone with the Wind, 1939, designed by Walter Plunkett. The gown was made of blue silk and has “love-birds” sewn diagonally onto the front and right shoulder of the gown. It is seen briefly during a honeymoon scene in New Orleans. The gown is rarely seen in photographs. It was reportedly owned by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts as late as the 1970s, but was in poor condition then.

Favorite costumes GWTW

Jacqueline T. Lynch said her favorite costume was Audrey Hepburn’s garden party gown from Sabrina  designed by Hubert de Givenchy. It is embroidered with black floral decorations on white silk organza. The gown has a detachable train that flows from the hips.

Audrey Sabrina

Dan DeSantis said he had many favorites, but especially the men’s fashions worn in The Red Shoes. Indeed, these are striking to me as well. The chic but casual style of the clothing of the International set at the Riviera, 1925-1965, is a lost art. This was a time when men believed in dressing up to look their best in their leisure, though here they are so dressed in producing art. The stills don’t do it justice, so the film has to be seen to appreciate the men’s wardrobe (and this wondrous  film as a whole).

Favorite costumes red shoes

Danny Reid’s favorite was the classic 1930s look of Kay Francis in Mandalay, designed by Orry-Kelly, 1934. The puffed tulle shoulders became popular after the “Letty Lynton” dress that Adrian designed in 1932. Kay Francis was a style-setting clothes-horse of the 1930s.

Favorite costumes Kay Francis

Aurora Bugallo’s favorite was worn by Eve Marie Saint in North by Northwest, 1959It’s a black silk dress with red embroidered roses, with a deep v-cut back. The dress was selected by Eve Marie at Bergdorf-Goodman in New York, where Alfred Hitchcock was filming. The costumes were designed at MGM but the head- designer Helen Rose was unavailable at the time and Hithcock didn’t like what had been provided. This one provided plenty of drama.

Favorite costumes North by Northwest

James Kelly said his favorite costume was worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County, 1957it was a cream colored tulle and lace ball gown designed by Walter Plunkett. This movie was one of Walter Plunkett’s best costume productions.

Costume favorites Raintree County Bob Willoughby

Billy Alvarez said his favorite costume is Deborah Kerr’s ball gown from The King and I, 1956designed by Irene Sharaff. The copper-colored satin gown with train and puffed lace sleeves was worn by Deborah Kerr as she danced with Yul Brynner. Irene Sharaff won a Best Costume Oscar for the film.

Favorite costumes king & I

Darian Dare’s favorite costume was Barbara Streisand’s “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” white satin decollete gown worn with a collar and headpiece in Funny Girl, 1968, designed by Irene Sharaff.

Favorite costume Barbara Streisand

Patricia Nolan Clark said her favorite costume was worn by Jane Wyman in Just for You, 1952. Jane’s costumes were designed by Edith Head.

Favorite Movie Costumes  Jane Wyman

Becky Barnes said her favorite costume was worn by Nicole Kidman in The Others, 2001. This mauve-colored outfit was designed by Sonia Grande. Its simplicity and somber tones fit the character and the plot. and This costume designer is not well known, although she has designed Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona for Woody Allen.

Favorite costumes Nicole Kidman The Others

Favorite costumes Nicole 2

Michael Munnelly’s favorite costume was worn by Kate Winslet in Titanic, 1997, designed by Deborah L, Scott. This was Rose’s peach-colored and sequined black lace gown worn early in the film when she wants to jump overboard before Leonardo Di Caprio prevents her from jumping. This costume sold at auction in 2012 for $330,00.

Favorite costumes Titanic

Barbara Allen’s favorites were the sarongs that Dorothy Lamour wore in several movies starting with The Jungle Princess, 1936, The Hurricane, 1938, and several subsequent movies. With the start of World War II, silks and other fabrics became restricted or hard to find. Silk was used for parachutes, and European fabrics had been cut-off by the war. Barbara Allen’s mother was a specialist working at the Paramount Pictures’ Wardrobe Department, where she hand-painted the floral prints on sarongs and other costume’s fabric due to its otherwise unavailability in sufficient variety.

Dorothy  lamour  in  a  knockout  pictorial  spread!!!

Inge Gregusch said her favorite costume was worn by Greta Garbo in Inspiration, 1931.  This is a stunning Adrian-designed black velvet gown and train with cut-crystals at the neckline and shoulders, with long gauntlet gloves. The gown has survived, and was recently exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Hollywood Glamour Exhibition.

Favorite costumes Inspiration gretagarbo

And what’s my own favorite? There are so many. But to be fair to the those that responded, I too will pick just one. So here it is. Loretta Young in Midnight Mary, 1933, designed by Adrian. This silk satin gown with the caped shoulders, exposed back, fringe train, and accessorized with a medallion is too beautiful. And its the cover of my book on Adrian.

Favorite costume Loretta in Adrian


Thanks for sending in your favorites They are all wonderful!




    1. I’m sorry you missed it Inge. I’m sure it was a great exhibition. I would love to have seen it myself, although I knew the previous owner of the gown. It is in relatively good condition from the images I’ve seen of it, although I don’t know if it had any restoration work on it. I think my real favorites is the Adrian gown worn by Garbo in “As You Desire Me,” the very simple backless black costume with the high neckline and beaded sleeved at the wrists, and with a slit up the torso. The stills don’t capture it because you have to see it 360 degrees. Its front and back are such a contrast that its what I love about Adrian.

      1. Oh, Christian, you are making me weep! That “As You Desire Me” gown is my true favorite as well. Back in the 1970s it was photographed by David Bailey for British VOGUE worn by model Marie Helvin (also his wife at the time). How they acquired it, I don’t know. Perhaps that big 1970 auction? As you say, the still photographs don’t do it justice. I replay my VHS of “As You Desire Me” over and over, with pauses–just to get a better idea of how Adrian constructed that masterpiece. PS: I also love the black funnel necked top with the toreador pants Garbo wears as Zara. You are truly the only person I’ve ever communicated with who ‘gets’ it. “It” being the brilliance of Adrian. Thanks so much, and, I apologize for babbling!

        1. Thank you so much Inge for sharing this with me.I can’t think of another person who would have picked this costume as their favorite – its too subtle, and too different. We know that the role of film costume is to define character (although a secondary role in the 1930s was often to attract women through fashion). Adrian was a master at both, and additionally, used costume symbolically, almost subliminally. So with this costume, where Garbo’s character has lost her memory, she has a dual personality, and so the costume protects her throat and, yet a split up the bodice leaves her open. And her back is completely exposed, as well as the back of her arms and sometimes her shoulders – very vulnerable, now I apologize for babbling. I know you know these things, but I write them for any readers that do not see the context.

  1. Great stuff! I love hearing what happened to the costumes. Marsha must be over the moon to find out about her ‘Lovebird’ dress and its fate. Not that I was asked, but I’ll tell you anyway. My favorite is Adrian’s gown for Greta Garbo in “Inspiration”.

    1. This is a great one Inge, I added the Inspiration gown to the list. I’m afraid the Lovebird costume sounded in poor condition. If it was made of silk, there is not much to do to restore it that I know of.

      1. Thanks, Christian. As a person with a Design and Costume background, I figured the lovebird dress would have been in awful shape, and told Marsha so. The weight of those birds alone would have torn it. The “Inspiration” gown exists (in the Drexel Collection), but I don’t know what condition it’s in.

        1. What wonderful and/or interesting fan selections! Great idea, Christian. I’m late to the party, but even so…my own most fave, really, is the Givenchy gown Audrey Hepburn wore in the opening scenes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. After that, just about anything Travis Banton designed for Marlene Dietrich, not to mention Edith Head’s work for Grace Kelly in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. And there’s the black cocktail dress by Anthea Sylbert that Faye Dunaway wore in Chinatown (I pretty much love everything Faye wore in that film).

          1. The Audrey Hepburn gown from Breath at Tiffany’s is pretty phenomenal. I find it so much more interesting from the back. Your other favorites are great also – all wonderful costumes and great fashions. Thanks for highlighting your faves.

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