It's award season which means one very important thing: we're spending the next couple of weeks staring at screens and absorbing storylines—and obsessing over fictional characters' clothes.
And how we can we not? Considering some of us (hello) are still riding the late '70s wave (inspired by 2013's "American Hustle," obviously), costumes have a serious impact on the way a story is told, and how we see it.
But which decade is best? Considering period films aren't exactly few and far between, we've decided to rank which movies bring their aesthetic game the hardest and inspire us to, well, maybe go on and on about somebody's very cool coat. (We're looking at you, Jessica Chastain in "A Most Violent Year.") As well as how a few of those era's actual movies may have upped the fashion ante. Sorry in advance, anything set in the 1930s. (And sorry for not being able to rank you number one, 1995.)
Story continues below slideshow:
We couldn't rank this decade at number one and have a clean conscience, so instead we will simply provide the corresponding movie titles that prove how interesting the nineties were, are, and always will be.
And that'’s where it goes blank. Movies made in the 1990s are an aesthetic gift to us all. Movies set in the nineties still have a long way to go. (We're so sorry, favourite decade.)
It's not the decades' fault: the 1930s brought low times, lower times, and lowest times (historically), and in terms of style, it saw the flapper look dwindle and early forties silhouettes usher in. Sure, movies like "Atonement" saw fitted skirts, sheer blouses, and floral prints (and that green dress), but those weren't the norm. "Cinderella Man" (and Renee Zellweger’s wardrobe in it) mostly reflected the palette and pieces of the decade, and rightfully so: the 1930s were about feeding your family, not getting dressed up.
Just so everybody's aware, nobody here forgot that "Titanic" is set in 1912. (As if we could—and if we could write about "Titanic" every day, we would.) But "Titanic" is the exception. Remembering that "Downton Abbey" is a TV show and not a movie (so its style clout is no good here), most films set between 1910-1919 are less about high fashion and more about the social and political climates of the day. Minus, of course "Doctor Zhivago," which is a '60s take on the Russian revolution (and not exactly anything we can emulate now, anyway).
What can we say about the fifties? Movies like "Pleasantville" kind of hit the decade on the head thanks to full skirts, ankle socks, loud prints and hourglass silhouettes, and while classics like "The Seven Year Itch" gave us Marilyn Monroe's "silly white dress," there were still only so many fashion risks the masses were willing to take—meaning there are only so many looks we’re going to see onscreen. That, or compared to the most interesting movies, the set-in-the-fifties gems, just aren't as interesting.
Colour! Blazers! Skirts! Those espadrilles Allie wears in "The Notebook!" The forties—costumes-in-movies, wise—brought broader shoulders, shorter skirts (than the thirties -- and hell, even the fifties sometimes), and blouse/skirt combinations that still make us think we can pull off anything we saw in "A League of Their Own" (especially Madonna). The decade also gave permission for women to start wearing pants (and even though that doesn't exactly up aspects of the costume ante, let us all rejoice about this blessed development).
When we mention the 1980s, it's important we all understand what part of the decade we're all referring to. (Read: not the worst part of the 1980s, we promise.) Instead, let's bask in the glory of "Working Girl" (not a period piece, but a great example of an eighties movie whose relevence continues), its shoulder pads, business suits, and the combination of socks, tights, and sneakers. Then, let's pay homage to "9 to 5" (a 1980 gem) which delivered synthetic materials, pastel hues, and the remnants of 1970s over-embellishing. Frankly, even the "worst" parts of the eighties weren’t actually a disaster: "The Wedding Singer" poked fun at some of the era's most questionable trends, sure, (see: the bright workout wear we saw pop back up in the 2000s), but also reminded us a decade so rich in jean jackets couldn't possibly be all bad.
There's a reason 2013 saw an influx of flapper-era dresses and feathers, and we have the remake of "The Great Gatsby" to thank for that. We also have 2011's "Midnight in Paris" (thank you, Marion Cotillard’s entire wardrobe), 2002's "Chicago" (which had no impact on trends 11 years later, but still, here we are), and "Changeling" (despite the latter not exactly being a movie you see only for its costumes).
You can't go wrong with a decade that not only allows, but demands you wear everything. Seriously: all fabrics, all styles and cuts, all colours, all of it. So while 2013's "American Hustle" stepped up in everything from lycra to fur to leather, "The Virgin Suicides" brought attention to the whimsy of the decade: the lighter tones, the last gasp of sixties bohemian (and how some homemade clothes just didn't work that well), working to remind us that the era isn't as tacky as our parents would like us to think. (Even if it's a movie about their teen years à la "Dazed and Confused," which captures an aspect of Americana that we've begun romanticizing.)
As if any of us expected to find the sixties ranked lower. As films like "Catch Me if You Can" paid tribute to the bright prints and frivolity of certain sixties' trends, "A Single Man's" sleekness (courtesy of Tom Ford) shed light on the more refined aspects of the decade. ("An Education" did the same as Carrie Mulligan’s character began to mature.) On the flipside, "Dreamgirls" capitalized on the glamour of the Motown scene, as well as the iconicism of Diana Ross and the Supremes (whose aesthetic is still untouchable), while "Taking Woodstock" is on the other side of the spectrum (completely), drenched in the pared down, natural-looking hippie persuasion.
Oh, and lest we forget "Austin Powers."