Cinema Might Be the Secret to Personal Style
Need some style inspo for 2024? Movies can be muses, too.
Fast fashion giants like SHEIN have convinced us not to think about those pesky problems. Instead, they draw our attention to their cheap prices and sponsored influencer hauls. In an age of hyperinflation, who can be blamed for seeking a bargain?
But there's another consequence of the reign of TikTok style: everybody dresses like everybody else.
Personal style is a relic of the past. I used to spend hours in New York's SoHo, window shopping and people-watching to get aspirational fashion inspiration. Now, all the stores and the shoppers look exactly alike. It's algorithm fashion. Everybody is wearing the same trend-du-jour, paired with a different color variation of the Adidas Sambas.
While I too love to participate in trends that resonate with me (through vintage shopping as much as possible), I often find myself thinking: what is my personal style? I don't want to dress how I did in college, but I fear that the past few years of social media trends has infiltrated my closet more than I think, erasing any sense of individuality and peculiarity from my closet.
It is after all, the unique and strange things about how you dress and how you style your clothes that make up your personal style. But now that I can't turn to people-watching or even Pinterest for fresh, new style inspiration, I've gone back to basics: watching movies.
Personal stylists like Allison Bornstein or Tibi's Amy Smilovic have amassed platforms — and both written books — about cultivating personal style in an overwhelming sartorial landscape. And both of them advise us to use three words as our anchors. The idea is this: pick three words that, when you go to get dressed, help you build an outfit that feels true to who you are. These words aren't "pear-shaped" or "autumn color palette," but rather words about your character and your inspirations. Words like "edgy," "romantic," or "pragmatic." To find these anchors, I've started going back to my favorite movies to discover a whole new vocabulary.
How you dress is a reflection of who you are and what you like. This is why so many TikTok "cores" take inspiration from esoteric lifestyle ephemera, not just specific items of clothing. It's about world-building. And where better to find worlds that inspire you than in movies and television?
I'm partial to 90s movies just like I'm partial to 90s style. Movies like Love Jones, 10 Things I Hate About You, Basic Instinct, and even Mary Kate and Ashley's Passport to Paris (I was destined, it seemed, to have a toxic love for The Row) have a sartorial chokehold on me. The 2000s romantic comedy also can't be ignored, so add How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Under the Tuscan Sun, andLove and Basketball to the roster. Plus anything Gwenyth Paltrow has ever been in, like Sliding Doors, Great Expectations, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
When I think about it, the most generative content that has helped me navigate my life, and style, as an adult has mostly been television and cinema. As a former Tumblr girl, I am no stranger to analyzing film screencaps and making them my entire personality. And over the past few years, titles like Hulu's High Fidelityhave actively influenced my purchasing decisions more than any influencer. And who wasn't sartorially inspired by Euphoria?
Now that I'm looking for style inspiration in movies and TV, I see potential in everything I watch. A color palette from a Regency-era TV show, a silhouette from a 90s period piece, an unexpected styling choice by a quirky character.
And in 2023, the year that the SAG actor's strike halted a season's worth of press tours, this was the perfect year to find fashion in film rather than in promotional material. Good thing we had a glut of good movies with great style to choose from. Here are some fashion highlights from the best movies in 2023:
Barbie was a marketing masterpiece. Pretty much a two-hour advertisement for Mattel, the film didn't pull any fashion punches. From Barbie's custom Chanel to her cowboy two-piece and even the pink jumpsuits, every moment in this film was a masterclass in style. No wonder Barbiecore reigned supreme this year. Even Ken had his moments — the double denim, the leather vest, and, of course, the "I am Kenough" sweater.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: Bottoms is proof that we should all be dressing like lesbians. It's a menswear masterpiece for any gender. Lots of layers, lots of overalls, and an enviable collection of vintage tees were all major style moments in this film.
Strange Way of Life
This stylish cowboy short film was the star of the Cannes Film Festival 2023. Some have called it filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar's Answer to Brokeback Mountain. This queer Western, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, might seem like an odd choice — until you realize it's styled by the fashion house Saint Laurent.
This Apple TV film was not talked about enough — despite its all-star cast of Sebastian Stan, Julianne Moore, and Justice Smith. A movie about con artists, how you dress and how you appear is a major theme of the story. So no surprise that, with all the talk of quiet luxury this year, Julianne Moore's ensembles are a stunning rival to Succession style.
She Came to Me
This odd indie film was a feast of perfectly crafted characters with fashion moments that felt so precise to the core of the characters. The female leads, Marissa Tomei and Anne Hathaway, are no strangers to iconic cinematic attire. Hathaway plays an uptight, wealthy therapist whose wardrobe is another quiet luxury dream for the Brooklyn townhouse creative class. But to me, nothing beats Tomei's ensembles as a tugboat captain addicted to romance. The juxtaposition between her worker's coveralls and her corsets is so sumptuous it's a play I'll be replicating in my own closet. Carhartts, you're about to be dressed up with vintage lingerie.
This chilling character study is another film where appearance is everything. Natalie Portman's character mirrors Julianne Moore's character in her quest to embody her essence, copying her clothes and her makeup in a disturbing display. But most surprising is Charles Melton's dad style in this film. The rugbies and New Balance combo is just at home on this tragic character as it is on fashion girlies in London and NYC.
Starring Harris Dickinson as a young father, this might seem like an odd choice. But this was the year of Scumbag Style and Blokecore (hence all the football jerseys and sports sneakers you've been seeing around) and no movie better encapsulates this than Scrapper. Plus, I can't get enough of Dickinson's bleached blonde hair in this.
Sofia Coppola's genius is that of perspective and aesthetics. And with a subject as fascinating and fashionable as Priscilla Presley, this film was a fantasy for the Tumblr girl in me and for the year of "girlhood."
It's Wes Anderson. Need I say more?
Daisy Jones & the Six
One of the great television triumphs of the year, this series was a feat of world building and nostalgia. It brought 70s style back and gave us some style moments that will likely go down in history. It's our generation's Almost Famous.