ByAlanna Cecilia, writer at
I've read the book, I've seen the movie, and now I'm going to talk about it.
Alanna Cecilia

As was mentioned in the first part of this series (which you can read here), costumes are one of the most important parts of making a character - and oftentimes, a film - memorable. The surge in cosplay culture over the last decade has really helped us to appreciate the complexity and skill that goes into crafting costumes - especially ones that seem so simple due to their iconic status.

Here are the 10 most iconic film costumes as worn by actresses (that are not directly inspired by visual media like comics or video games).

10. Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) - The Fifth Element

While this costume can very easily be over-sexualized, nothing else would work with Leeloo's bright orange hair. Her costumes throughout the film straddle the line between innocent and playful, edgy and sexy.

9. Maria (Julie Andrews) - The Sound of Music

It's funny, but when you watch The Sound of Music at an older age, you realize just how "sixties" most of the costumes and hairstyles actually are. Still, that doesn't prevent Maria from being memorable. Her costumes, especially the famous one pictured above, distinguish her as a character, and never detract from the beautiful Austrian setting.

8. Sandy (Olivia Newton John) - Grease

Say what you will regarding Grease's final message about changing yourself to make someone else happy (I'm not a huge fan of it myself), but Sandy's transformation is one of the most shocking and memorable in film history. Her costume at the end of the movie is so sexy that people may be a little uncomfortable when they remember that her character is technically in high school.

7. The Bride (Uma Thurman) - Kill Bill

Quentin Tarantino doesn't mess around when it comes to costumes (think of the blue velvet suit in Django Unchained, or Uma's severe bob in Pulp Fiction). However, out of all of his films, the Bride's yellow jumpsuit is both the most visually striking and memorable. Its color and clean lines subtly hint at the danger and smooth action the Bride is capable of, similar to the bright colors of a deadly snake.

(As a reader pointed out in the comments, the jumpsuit is a direct homage to the costume worn by Bruce Lee in the 1979 film Game of Death.)

6. The Monster's Bride (Elsa Lanchester) - Bride of Frankenstein

Okay, she's wearing a corpse shroud, which probably wouldn't fly on most fashion runways. But that hair! If this list were strictly based on cinema's most iconic hairstyles, this lovely (but dead) lady would certainly be in the top three. It's a look that continues to inspire countless Halloween costumes and visual gags on both the silver and television screen.

5. Dorita (Carmen Miranda) - The Gang's All Here

If you've ever seen a person wearing a fruit hat - in a movie, TV, real life - then they were probably inspired by Carmen Miranda, a Brazilian performer who took the US by storm with her music, dancing, and exotic costumes. She would probably be thrilled to see that her larger-than-life personality has continued to keep the world colorful.

4. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) - Breakfast at Tiffany's

It's hard to escape this image, unless you've never spent time inside a college dorm room or book store. Audrey Hepburn encompasses the heart of glamour with just a simple smile (and we'll forgive her for smoking in here). Perhaps it is thanks to her that, 50 years later, long black gowns and pearl necklaces are not even close to going out of style.

3. The Girl (Marilyn Monroe) - The Seven Year Itch

While this may be the most iconic dress on the list, the fact that most people can't name the film it came from keeps Marilyn from being number one. The famous flying skirt was actually a bit of an accident that happened after Monroe stood on top of a subway grate. The dress itself was purchased and belonged to Debbie Reynolds (Carrie Fisher's mom) for several years, which leads us to...

2. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) - Star Wars

This is actually the fourth all-white costume to make it onto the list, but let's be real: we don't care about the dress. We're all about that hair. Like other Star Wars characters, it is hard to explain just why Princess Leia's look is so iconic. It just is.

1. Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) - The Wizard of Oz

No one before or after Judy Garland managed to make a gingham dress look so good. While it is well-known now how Garland suffered for the role (for example, her breasts were bound to make her look younger), there is no denying that she and Dorothy are inseparable in many people's minds. However, the biggest part of the outfit is that pair of ruby slippers. By departing from the silver slippers in Frank L. Baum's book, The Wizard of Oz created the most iconic footwear in the history.

And there it is: my list of cinema's most iconic female costumes. They are beautiful, strange, sexy, elegant, and empowering, but they still pale in comparison to the awesome women who wear them. If you're interested in reading my list of the top 10 most iconic male costumes, check it out here.


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