Seven classic films with fashion flair for Mother’s Day

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Funny Face (1957) Paramount-Directed by Stanley Donen. Starring: Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson.  

The four-time Oscar-winning fairytale Funny Face is a fashion enthusiast’s ideal film. The Cinderella story of a beatnik bookkeeper transformed into a high-fashion model, with Paris as its willing backdrop. The film was costumed by eight-time Academy Award Winner Edith Head, however, the haute couture gowns worn by Hepburn were created by French design icon Hubert De Givenchy, with whom Hepburn had a lifelong friendship. An entertaining 1950s time capsule that still plays extremely well in modern times, even if you are not a fan of Givenchy its stylized color overlays, Parisienne l’ enchantement and peppy musical numbers, are certain to please.

Red, Green, Gold-The Wiz (1978) Universal Pictures/Motown Productions-Directed by Sidney Lumet. Starring: Dianna Ross, Michael Jackson, Ted Ross and Nipsey Russell.

An all-black cast presents the urban version of the “Wizard of OZ.” This is not exclusively a fashion film, however there is one scene that deserves notoriety for its accurate snapshot of fierce ’70s style (learn more about ’70s fashion here). Filmed in between New York City Twin Towers, the production required over 600 dancers and over 120 wardrobe handlers. The undertaking was so immense, due to the speed of sound, 22 speakers had to be hidden within the set so that dancers could hear the playback in unison. With legs seemingly up to their eyeballs, female dancers rival the height of their male counterparts, solidly backed by a combination of R&B, disco and a gospel-imbued Quincy Jones soundtrack. Tony, Emmy and Oscar-winning set and costume designer Tony Walton collaborated with top Seventh Avenue designers, including ’70s fashion icon extraordinaire Oscar De La Renta. Sophisticated and elegant, Red, Green, Gold will capture your attention from its heavy bass-laden opening to its climax of the high energy “Golden Gold.” It’s the ultimate!

Funny Girl (1968) Columbia Pictures-Directed by William Wyler. Starring: Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif. 

This is Streisand’s first movie and she explodes onto the scene. Playing the role of real-life Ziegfeld Follies star and comedienne, Fanny Brice, Streisand was unmistakably primed and poised for her film debut. Her comic timing is impeccable and her musical phrasing is delightfully unexpected. The orchestration cleverly remains true within its brassy Broadway hue, resulting in seamless cohesion. With dramatic costuming by Irene Sharaff, and sumptuous sets by William Kiernan, every scene is absolutely delicious.  Although Sharaff is the veteran actor Streisand dominates the film, earning every inch of her diva status, garnering an Academy Award for best actress (of which she tied for with Katherine Hepburn).

Gigi (1958) MGM-Directed by Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan.

Set in Paris during La Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Age) Gigi (Leslie Caron) is a young courtesan in training. From its opening scene, Gigi drips with Edwardian fashion created by the prolific Cecil Beaton. However, it’s not only the wasp waist form in this film that is spectacular; the Art Nouveau sets are also extraordinaire. Clever, good-humored and sumptuous, Gigi is a visual feast.

My Fair Lady (1964) Warner Bros-Directed by George Cukor. Starring: Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.

Set in early 20th century London, a phonetics instructor, convinced he can create a respectable high-society woman, accepts a challenge regarding a destitute Cockney flower girl. Once again, Cecil Beaton creates exquisitely lavish costumes, especially paying attention to accentuate Hepburn’s long neck and slender body. Audrey’s iconic ascot headpiece alone is such an impeccable creation of millinery, rich in its uncommon detail, it could solely be worn without a stitch of clothing. The ascot racecourse scene with its enduring white-on-white set, black white and gray costuming and elegant staging resembles a Vogue-like photoshoot come-to-life. With over 1000 costumes created and visually sumptuous sets, it may possibly make you forget the storyline. 

Cleopatra (1963) 20th Century Fox-Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton. 

Epic, opulent and salacious. With a total of over 26,000 costumes and over 60 exquisite costume changes specifically for Taylor. Given the current day’s inflation, Taylor’s wardrobe alone was worth over $1million. For the film’s most famous scene, Cleopatra’s entrance into Rome, in addition to the coordinating gown and head-piece, Oscar-winning New England native costumer, Irene Scharaff, created the 24-karat gold cape, made of thin panels of gold-painted leather to resemble the wings of a Phoenix, embellished with thousands of hand-stitched gold beads and sequins. Cleopatra’s fashion influence did not end with the film, seizing an evident opportunity, fashion lines, as well as make-up manufacturers catered to a willing and eager audience. However, the greatest irony of Cleopatra is that the story behind the camera was exceptionally more intriguing than the colossal undertaking of the film itself. 

Auntie Mame (1958) Warner Bros: Directed by Morton DaCosta. Starring: Rosalind Russell

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell) becomes the caretaker to her young nephew after his ultra-conservative father dies. Progressive and eccentric, Mame opens up an entirely unusual and unconventional world to her nephew. With dazzling costumes by three-time Oscar-winning Orry Kelly, the film is perfectly cast with amusingly heartwarming scenes, brilliantly witty dialogue and stylized sets.

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Constance Cherise is a classic film aficionado. Reach her at Review her portfolio here.

About this Author

Constance Cherise

Constance Cherise is a freelance writer and contributor for Turner Classic MoviesSee her work here.