Movies cannot exist without fashion and vice versa, and the resurgence of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’s Y2K ‘Poo’ looks and ’90s fashion, stands as testament to that. Be it a period drama, a musical or even an action film, costume makers painstakingly create outfits to perfectly build the personality and energy of a fictional character, and some even end up defining the fashion landscape in pop culture for years to come. From Marilyn Monroe’s flying white dress in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Reese Witherspoon’s all-pink-everything courtroom dress from Legally Blonde (2001), to Dimple Kapadia’s polka dot co-ord from Bobby (1973) and Priyanka Chopra’s ‘desi girl’ golden sari in Dostana (2008), fashion has been an integral part of films and mainstream culture since a long time.
The avatars adapted and portrayed by Bollywood and Hollywood divas have served as inspiration to countless fashion revolutions over the decades, and some dazzling dresses stuck with us as part of pop culture and movie history. Trends flew back and forth but several historic movie dresses and brilliantly ideated ensembles stood the test of time, let’s take a look at some of those.
Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress from The Seven Year Itch
Monroe’s iconic white dress from the Billy Wilder-directed 1955 film The Seven Year Itch has been seared into our brains since the dawn of time (or, 1955, in this case) for its breezy design and flowy silhouette. The legendary dress was created by costume designer William Travilla and worn in the movie’s most popular scene. The image of it and her above a windy subway grating has been described as one of the most notable moments of the 20th century, immortalising the legacy of the girl in the nearly up-skirt shot. The sultry blonde bombshell defied and then redefined expectations of how a lady (and a famous one at that) must walk, talk and dress. And of all the glamorous, slinky outfits that Marilyn Monroe sported, her flouncing white dress is absolutely the most iconic.
Emma Watson’s Layered Ombré Pink Dress from Harry Potter
From the enchanted objects to the spellbinding architecture, we’re obsessed with all things Harry Potter—especially the daliesque costumes. An unforgettable coming-of-age movie dress is donned by Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire for the coveted Yule Ball—for the muggles who’re unaware—it’s a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament and an opportunity for the Hogwarts students to socialise. The delicately cascading buttery layers and frills of the dress, paired with her elegant half-up half-down hairdo with tendrils of hair grazing her neck, is the pinnacle of Hermoine accepting her feminine side and stepping into womanhood proudly. The costume designer, Jany Temime, wanted to let Hermoine’s multifaceted personality shine through. So, when she decided to shed her ‘class-topper, only-hangs-out-with-boys, tough girl’ persona for the evening, this dress was the perfect embodiment of her teenage sentiment.
Dimple Kapadia’s Polka Dot Co-ord Set from Bobby
Dimple Kapadia, at a tender age of 16, was touted as a Bollywood sensation and a youth fashion icon in 1973, all thanks to her ‘knotted polka-dotted cropped shirt and hot black mini skirt’, which she sported in her debut movie Bobby, alongside Rishi Kapoor. Till date, the polka-dot print is famously known as ‘Bobby print’ in India. Kapadia made her way into our hearts as the true risk-taking fashionista and sex symbol in an era where it wasn’t so common or even acceptable. The roller coaster of her on-screen love story blessed us with a lot of evergreen songs, along with some iconic sartorial moments that went down in the history of Bollywood’s fashion.
Priyanka Chopra’s Golden Sari from Dostana
Dostana’s iconic song didn’t just forever bestow upon Priyanka Chopra the title of ‘Desi Girl’, it also gave fans a note-worthy wedding and cocktail party look—a versatile, glimmering metallic sari that will never go out of style. In Karan Johar’s 2008 rom-com, which also starred Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham, there was no dearth of gorgeous sun-kissed sets, groovy tunes and attractive costumes set against the backdrop of Miami’s blue beaches. For ‘Desi Girl’, the less-is-more approach was adopted by designer Manish Malhotra, and the golden sari was accessorised with a matching bikini-style blouse and a minimalist diamond tennis bracelet. The sequinned border of the sari helped PC effortlessly stand out in a crowded room.
Kareena Kapoor’s Y2K looks from K3G
Pooja Sharma, aka Poo, played by the gorgeous Kareena Kapoor Khan, was a major style icon for ’90s kids and her fashion choices remain relevant even today, under the Y2K bandwagon. Before she became the queen of preaching self-love with her infamous line “Main apni favourite hoon,” in Jab We Met, Kareena was already promoting this idea to generations of women with Poo. The actress revolutionised and birthed the ‘insta baddie’ fashion as we know it today in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham with her asymmetrical sequined backless tops, mini leather skirts, fur-lined jackets and glamorous “brownie-glazed-lip” make-up looks. Poo also shook things up in the ethnic wear department with Manish Malhotra’s iconic brainchild—the pink sharara set featuring a cropped lopsided open-back blouse with criss-cross detailing, palazzo pants, and a matching dupatta, all embellished with silver sequin work.
Reese Witherspoon’s All-Pink Courtroom Dress from Legally Blonde
Designed by Sophie de Rakoff, Elle Wood’s bubblegum pink dress from Legally Blonde is a piece of fashion iconography which shaped pop culture for the past 20 years. When Elle Woods sashayed into that courtroom donning head-to-toe pink in the 2001 movie, she was upholding a cinematic costume design tradition that dated back over 50 years, situating that bright colour on a point where femininity and power intersect. The femme fatale pink ensemble featuring a pink satin sash, cuffs and lapels, pink heeled sandals with sparkle details, a pink bag, lips and pink nails—this entire outfit was a defiant statement on her part about confidence, knowledge, busting preconceived notions about women’s intelligence, and the refusal to let other people dim her light.
Alicia Silverstone’s White Mini Dress from Clueless
Alicia Silverstone’s Cher from Clueless served a myriad of unforgettable fashion moments, including her yellow plaid ensemble, buttoned down shirt with a pinstripe jacket look, and of course her sultry white mini dress—all of which can be worn and labelled as fashionable and trendy even today. In the 1995 movie, Cher selects a bodycon white mini dress for a first date with a new guy from school. This inevitably elicits the question from her overprotective father, “What the hell is that?” “It’s a dress,” quips Cher which is followed by a “says who?” as a retort from her dad. To which she says “Calvin Klein.” This iconic dialogue exchange between the two even became a viral TikTok sound which was used by thousands of fashionistas to show off their sexy, statement-making dresses on social media.