A Brief History of Fashion in the Film Industry - Raindance

Since first being invented, movies have fascinated people all over the world. The ability to lose oneself in a series of images, sounds, and emotions surrounding a story can be powerful. Of course, movies have changed a lot over the last century. Not only have audience tastes changed drastically with each passing decade, the way that movies are produced and designed has also seen significant shifts. In fact, observing the evolution of film over the years can reveal a lot about the world of fashion and how it has influenced cinema.  

Without costumes, movies would lack a lot of appeal. What’s a cowboy film if no one has a hat? How do you convey a period drama set in Elizabethan England when the actors are wearing jeans? Or complete stunts in action and sci-fi films? The right wardrobe helps to suspend disbelief and captivate audiences. Look over these points to learn more about the fascinating history of film. 

It Began on the Stage

Modern film can trace its roots back to the stage. Live performances have been a part of most human cultures since as far back as recorded history goes. Film was the first opportunity to immortalize these stories in a way that allowed them to be told over and over across generations without change. Naturally, these theatrical origins can be seen heavily in the way costumes were designed for early movies. Clothing in early Hollywood films often seems extravagant, with men dressed in sharp suits and women dripping with glamour. Even horror and fantasy films of those early days seem stylized. 

As film moved away from theatre and took on a life of its own, so did the process of designing clothing for movies change. Realism became more and more important, with audiences seeing through the “veil” that often exists in life performances. On a stage, the imagination can fill in the blanks. In a film, the audience sees all. A person wearing the wrong clothes can change the entire feel of a movie. This shift toward authenticity in film fashion led to some remarkable developments in terms of the overall quality of modern cinema. 

The Details Are Everything

Size matters in a movie. Blockbusters tend to see the success that they do because the stakes are high, the emotions are explosive, and the shots are breathtaking. This obsession with “bigger and better” is most obvious in large Hollywood films, but the overall size of the silver screen plays a huge part in the way consumers and designers create the worlds of each movie. A camera can capture even the smallest of details in an actor’s clothing. Should something appear fake or cheap, an audience will notice this on display.

An attention to detail can be observed in almost every costume element shown on the screen. From elaborate outfits pulled from the pages of history books to the specific appearance of accessories like hats and wallets, a great amount of effort is put into the smallest of details to provide as much authenticity as possible.  The next time you’re watching a movie or television show, take a look at the clothing worn by each character. You’re likely to notice that even the smallest of details are meant to emphasize the particular character’s personality in some nuanced way.

Embracing the Bizarre 

While capturing the look of the real world is important for many movies, there are some films that call for a unique or oddball aesthetic. The diverse nature of cinema means that there will be all kinds of stories told on the big screen. Not only does this help to tell tales that might not otherwise be heard by large audiences, it also acts as the perfect realm for experimentation. Post-apocalyptic thrillers and moody indie films alike embrace the opportunity to use costumes in bizarre and fun ways that might not look normal when observed in the real world.

The Main Takeaway

The history of film is packed with interesting tidbits of information about the people of the world and how tastes have evolved to meet each time period. By looking at the evolution of costumes, you can discover how the clothing worn on the screenplays a pivotal part in bringing the magic of movies to life.



Finnegan Pierson loves business and has a passion for technology and films. As a freelance writer, Finn hopes to influence others so they can have a positive business experience.