No one is born with an innate sense of fashion. It’s learned, first gradually and then in earnest, through the media we take in. Fashion magazines, reruns of Project Runway, Queer Eye binges, and movies. The styles we see on screen can have a huge influence on how we dress ourselves. Just think about the last time you saw a great heroine wearing a chic outfit and wanted to look just like that. Or maybe it was a James Bond movie with a perfectly tailored suit that inspired you to figure out how to tie a tie for the first time.
It doesn’t have to be The Devil Wears Prada levels of high couture either. Plenty of films have practical, manageable, and stylish fashion choices that you can easily replicate. If you’re looking to take away some unique fashion tips, look at these features for advice.
Beyonce: Homecoming: Celebrate your identity
The best part of Homecoming, the already historic concert film covering Beyonce’s 2018 headlining slot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, actually had nothing to do with the music. It was the stage outfits busted out by Beyonce and her fellow performers. Based on the uniforms worn by step teams and marching bands at historically black colleges and universities, there were no flowing dresses or leotards that had become Beyonce’s signature. The focus wasn’t on her personal fashion choices. Instead, it was a celebration of the background and culture that deserves to be celebrated. Did it work? Well, there’s a great scene from the second night’s performance of a fan having made Beyonce’s outfit from the first night, from scratch, in a week’s time. If that’s not the proof of a major cultural moment, I don’t know what is.
Phantom Thread: Work your ass off
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 film is not actually a love letter to fashion. It’s a love letter to hard work. It’s a love letter to obsession, and sweat, and paying attention to the most minute of details. It ponders the idea of complete devotion to your craft, even if it controls your life. It’s probably not applicable to, say, picking out which outfit you’re going to wear in a day to day context, but it should inform your fashion choices as a whole. Style can be utilitarian as well, and the best outfits are the ones where you have the room to do whatever you want while still coming off as couture. So consumed with the role was star Daniel Day-Lewis that he retired following its completion. Now that’s dedication.
Zoolander: Don’t be afraid to get goofy
There’s a great scene in Zoolander where Ben Stiller’s eponymous character thinks back to all the ridiculous outfits that he’s had to wear in his modeling career, culminating in a not-at-all subtle jab that he’s a literal dancing monkey. Some might look at that scene and see a humiliating figure who has no autonomy over his life, but you know what I see? Commitment. Just because he’s not smart enough to realize he has no free will over his decision doesn’t mean that Derek Zoolander is any less dedicated to making those styles work. In fact, his total lack of self-awareness is actually inspiring: if a complete dofus can make these goofy outfits work, there’s no reason why an intelligent person like you can’t rock a headband every once in a while. Bonus points if you can stop an assassination with a killer facial expession. Talk about feeling your look.
Annie Hall: Push Gender Boundaries
Many aspects of Woody Allen’s ode to a singular lost relationship has not aged well, most of those aspects having to do with Allen himself. But one thing that has never faltered is Diane Keaton’s impeccable sense of style as the titular central character, a free spirited and highly unorthodox figure who cuts a unique figure across mid 70s New York City. You can tell Annie is completely distinctive from the moment you see her: a traditional tennis outfit is shed to reveal suits, long flowing dresses, and a mix of men and women’s fashion that seems to change on a whim. Allen’s Alvy spends the entire film completely obsessing over Annie, and it only takes a casual look at her to know why. There’s an unknowability to her, and you could snuff that out even if she never said a word. Imagine if you could have that kind of power just by wearing a vest.
9 to 5: Dress for Success
It’s a rough world out there, especially for a working woman. Everytime you get a good idea, your male boss takes credit for it. You get paid half for doing twice the amount of work. You’re the object of ogling and sexist remarks just about every day. How do you respond? By kidnapping your boss and reforming the work environment by force, all while cutting a stylish figure in your best business wares. Sometimes you’ve got to commit a felony, smash the patriarchy, and attend a meeting all at the same time. For those kinds of days, turn to Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and the style icon that is Dolly Parton. The styles here might scream 80s, but they’re badass threads nonetheless.
Bonnie and Clyde: Dress to Kill
Sometimes you just have your back against the wall. The whole world is pressing down your neck, and everybody wants to take you down. With eyes and guns drawn on you, make the most of a final statement. Stare down that barrel with an impeccably tailored suit or a killer sweater/skirt/beret combo. Pinstripes always look good, even splattered in blood. Dress for the best but prepare for the worst. Sure, it helps if you have the superhuman good looks of Faye Dunaway or Warren Beatty, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from going all out anyway. I mean, Gene Wilder is in this movie, and even he looks pretty snazzy. If your goal is to go down in flames, you might as well leave a pretty corpse.