Brooklyn is a transcontinental romance between Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and an Italian-American (Emory Cohen), who meet after Eilis moves to Brooklyn in pursuit of a better future. Not only is Brooklyn an emotional journey of life, love, and loss, but it is also a homage to the fabulous fashion of the time period. So to mark Brooklyn’s DVD release we take a look at iconic films that celebrate the fashion of the fifties.
First and foremost, let’s talk about Brooklyn. Part of the film’s appeal, besides the incredible acting and riveting storyline, is the fashion and how true it stayed to the time. Eilis’s story is subtly reflected through the costumes chosen by Emmy-winning designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux, as there is an evident change in style that coincides with both Eilis’s move to America from Ireland and her evolving emotional state. As she begins to overcome her homesickness and become more confident in her new country, her outfits in turn become more vibrant and bold. The dazzling fashion choices in Brooklyn earned the film a BAFTA nomination and Critic’s Choice Award nomination for Best Costume.
The American musical chronicling the romance between Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) is a classic in more ways than one. From the songs everyone knows to the Pink Ladies and T-Bird’s individual styles, this movie is a great depiction of high school life in the 50s. Sandy’s style evolves throughout the movie, as she starts out as a good girl in full skirts and pastel sweater sets and ends in the iconic all-black, tight leather outfit. The T-Bird’s show off their greaser style in leather bombers while the Pink Ladies rock their varsity-style pink jackets, cat eye glasses, and pencil skirts. It’s a very different 50’s style from what we see in Brooklyn, but it only goes to show the diversity of the time period.
This 1998 film stars Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon as twin siblings living in the 90s who get stuck inside the TV show Pleasantville, a black and white sitcom about an idyllic family living in the 50s. While the siblings try to maintain the storyline of the show and act as the characters would, their presence slowly starts to change the landscape of the town, making it colourful, modern, and riddled with social issues reflective of the time period. What is also mirrored well is the fashion of the time, as poignant in black and white as in colour. While the poodle skirts and letterman jackets make their usual appearance, what works even better are the adorned cardigans, gingham shirts, and retro hues.
Far From Heaven
This film, set in 1957, tells the story of Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore), a doting housewife to a seemingly perfect family; healthy and happy kids, loving husband (Dennis Quaid), and strong social standing. However, when Cathy discovers her husband’s secret life, her own life begins to spin out of control and she struggles to regain a sense of normalcy. What does remain constant is Cathy’s classic sense of fashion. She truly captures that quintessential 50s American housewife look with her elegant scarves, full skirts, and chic sunglasses. The bright clothes, refined hairstyle, pastel cars, and style of housing all work together to recreate what life looked like in 1950s suburbia.
Gentleman Prefer Blondes
Both filmed and set in the 1950s, Gentleman Prefer Blondes stars style icon Marilyn Monroe. Adapted from the stage play, it features several musical numbers, including Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” One of the most memorable aspects of not only the song but the movie (and why it’s making this list) is the famous pink dress Marilyn Monroe wears during the song. The outfit is completed with matching long pink gloves almost to her shoulders, short blonde curls in a style typical for the time period, and plenty of diamonds. The outfit instantly became legendary, and after filming sold in auction for over $300,000.
This biopic focuses on John Lennon’s teenage years, his turbulent relationship with his mother and aunt, and the discovery of his love for rock and roll. In a period where teenagers were angsty and misunderstood, Lennon turned to music and realised that rock and roll wasn’t just a genre, but a lifestyle. That lifestyle incorporated fashion as well. Lennon’s style had been suppressed by all-boys school uniforms, but once he discards those restraints, his true fashion sense develops. The slicked up hair and suits with attitude were essential to the Rockabilly look, and are part of what makes Lennon so iconic to this day.