Best period costumes of all time

Best period costumes of all time

The costumes in 2006’s “Marie Antoinette” were so epic, we had trouble choosing just one photo to represent their beauty. Kirsten Dunst starred as France’s titular queen consort opposite Jason Schwartzman as King Louis XVI in the Sofia Coppola film, which is set between 1770 and 1789 — the years leading up to the French Revolution. The biopic won an Oscar for best achievement in costume design. In honor of the 15th anniversary of this aesthetically delightful flick on Oct. 20, 2021, Wonderwall.com rounded up our all-time favorite costumes from period pieces.

Keep reading to see them all…

RELATED: The most iconic dresses in movie history

The British period drama “Victoria” — which centers around the life of England’s Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901 — debuted in the United States on PBS in 2017 and ran for three seasons. The series, on which Jenna Coleman starred in the title role, featured some of the most stunning costumes on television with its elaborate gowns and show-stopping jewels.

RELATED: The best period TV shows to watch right now

Another series about the British monarchy that’s earned raves for its costumes is Netflix’s “The Crown,” which chronicles Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. The historical drama, on which Claire Foy starred as the queen for the first two seasons (Olivia Colman took over for season 3 and 4; Imelda Staunton will play the monarch on season 5 and 6), won Emmys for its costumes in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

RELATED: Actresses who’ve played Queen Elizabeth II

“The Favourite” focuses on the behind-the-scenes politics between two cousins jockeying to be court favorites during the reign of Queen Anne. Set in the 18th century, the 2018 period drama starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn serves up some gorgeous fashion and flawless jewels along with its intrigue.

Jaw. Dropping. There’s just no other way to describe the wardrobe in the criminally underrated Joe Wright-directed 2012 adaptation of “Anna Karenina,” which is set during 1874 and centers around the Russian aristocracy. Keira Knightley had the title role in the tragic love story, which won an Oscar for best achievement in costume design.

Keira Knightley has certainly experienced one of the best-dressed careers of any actress in the business. She donned this instantly recognizable slip dress — one of the most iconic big-screen style moments of the 21st century so far — in the 2007 drama “Atonement,” which is set primarily in England between 1935 and the mid-1940s. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran reportedly made the dress from scratch — and earned an Oscar nomination for best achievement in costume design for her efforts.

Scarlett O’Hara’s wardrobe in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind,” which is set during the Civil War and Reconstruction era, is truly phenomenal. Her green-and-gold curtain dress is one of the most iconic looks in cinema history, and yet she has several more instantly recognizable ensembles in the lauded film, which is one of our all-time favorites.

Set in the 1970s, “American Hustle” (starring Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams) follows two con artists who are forced by an FBI agent to set up an elaborate sting operation to nail some corrupt politicians. The 2013 film displayed ’70s styles we’ve come to know and love: wide lapels, bell bottoms, sequined jumpsuits, platforms and more. “American Hustle” went on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations, including one for best costume design.

“Outlander” stands out amongst many other period dramas because it depicts multiple centuries and locales. The Starz series, which follows time-traveling WWII nurse-turned-surgeon Claire Randall Fraser (played by Caitriona Balfe), is set in several decades (from the 1940s and 1700s back to the 1960s and 1970s) and countries (Scotland, France, Jamaica and colonial America), requiring a wide array of gorgeous costumes. “Outlander” costume designer Terry Dresbach and her team were nominated for Emmys for their work in 2016 and 2018.

It’s another one of cinema’s most iconic style moments: the (usually red) dress that Julie Christie’s Lara Antipova is forced to wear by her older lover in the 1965 adaptation of “Doctor Zhivago,” which is set in Russia between 1903 and the 1930s. The epic love story won five Oscars, including best costume design!

When “Cleopatra” — which centers around the titular Egyptian queen, who reigned from 51 to 30 BC — debuted in 1963, Elizabeth Taylor earned the Guinness World Record title for most costume changes in a film. Among her 65 getups was her stunning gold phoenix cape, headpiece and matching dress. Is it any wonder the film won an Oscar for best costume design?

Madonna broke Elizabeth Taylor’s record for most costume changes in a film when she starred as Eva Perón, the first lady of Argentina, in the 1996 adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Evita,” which is set between 1934 and 1952. Costume designer Penny Rose, who created all 85 of Madonna’s looks, reportedly modeled the singer’s costumes after Eva’s real wardrobe, to which she was given special access. Madge reportedly donned 39 hats, 45 pairs of shoes and 56 pairs of earrings in the gorgeous musical biopic.

It’s the film that inspired a million costume parties: 2013’s “The Great Gatsby,” which won an Oscar for best achievement in costume design. Leonardo DiCaprio starred as the titular millionaire while Carey Mulligan portrayed Daisy Buchanan, the exceptionally well-dressed object of his affection, in the 1920s-set drama.

Set in the 1940s, “Memoirs of a Geisha” starring Zhang Ziyi and Ken Watanabe tells the story of a beautiful Japanese girl who is sold by her family to a geisha house, where she becomes one of the most celebrated performers of all time. The 2005 film features stunning traditional Japanese costumes, geisha ensembles and breathtaking accessories. It won an Academy Award for best costume design.

Cate Blanchett’s ensembles (and makeup) in 1998’s “Elizabeth” were so stunning that she looked nearly unrecognizable. The British biopic, which focuses on the early years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, showcased breathtaking royal gowns, blinding jewels and elaborate accessories that earned an Academy Award nomination for best costume design.

The show-stopping ensembles in “Dreamgirls” are a sight to behold. The 2006 big-screen adaption of the musical follows the career of the Dreams, a fictional 1960s girl group (played by Anika Noni Rose, Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson) and a manipulative record executive. “Dreamgirls” was rewarded for its beautiful costumes with an Oscar nomination for best costume design.

Kate Winslet may have spent much of 1997’s “Titanic” sopping wet, but before the titular ship started to sink, she had the honor of sporting some truly gorgeous costumes as her on-screen alter ego, Rose DeWitt Bukater. Our favorite is the tailored coat dress Rose donned while boarding the luxury passenger liner, which sank in 1912. Unsurprisingly, the film won an Oscar for best costume design.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers starred as King Henry VIII, who reigned over England from 1509 to 1547, and “Game of Thrones” star Natalie Dormer portrayed his second wife, Anne Boleyn, on the Showtime series “The Tudors,” which aired from 2007 to 2010 and featured more than a few stunning ensembles. The series earned three Emmys for outstanding costumes over the course of its run.

“Downton Abbey” centered around the lives of an aristocratic family and their domestic servants at a fictional country estate in Yorkshire. The series, which took place between 1912 and 1926 and aired from 2010 to 2015, featured some of the most detailed and accurate costumes on television — such as the evening dress Laura Carmichael donned as her on-screen alter ego, Lady Edith Crawley. The drama won an Emmy for outstanding costumes for a miniseries, movie or a special in 2011, as well as three Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Glenn Close starred as the scheming and exquisitely dressed Marquise de Merteuil in 1988’s “Dangerous Liaisons,” which is set in Paris in 1781. The drama racked up seven Oscar nominations and ultimately took home three Academy Awards, including best costume design.

“Mad Men” didn’t just make stars of Jon Hamm, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks. The AMC series also made a star of its main costume designer, Janie Bryant, who earned four Emmy nominations and won two Costume Designers Guild Awards for her work on the drama, which is set primarily in the 1960s and aired from 2007 to 2015.

Janie Bryant also earned raves for the way she dressed the inhabitants of the titular city in South Dakota on the HBO western “Deadwood,” which was set in the 1870s and aired from 2004 to 2006. Timothy Olyphant starred as the sheriff on the series, which won an Emmy for outstanding costumes and earned four Costume Designers Guild Award nominations.

“My Fair Lady” wouldn’t be the classic film it is today without it’s amazing costume design, which came from the mind of designer Cecil Beaton. The 1964 musical follows Audrey Hepburn’s character, Eliza Doolittle, as she transforms from a poor Cockney flower seller into a high society London socialite in the early 1900s. Eliza’s outfits reflect that change and she is shown in elaborate gowns, like the one pictured, throughout the end of the film. “My Fair Lady” took home the Oscar for best costume design, rounding out its eight Academy Award wins.

Gwyneth Paltrow starred as a wealthy merchant’s daughter who poses as a man so she can act in one of Shakespeare’s plays in 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love.” The love story featured both costumes and costumes of costumes, making it a feast for the eyes — and that’s how it picked up an Oscar for best costume design!

Martin Scorsese was bound to strike Oscar gold when he cast modern A-listers as the Hollywood stars of the ’30s and ’40s in his 2004 Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator.” Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her portrayal of actress Katharine Hepburn, while Leonardo DiCaprio starred as the titular film director and aviation enthusiast. Among the honors the film claimed is an Academy Award for best achievement in costume design.

“The King’s Speech” is well known for Colin Firth’s Oscar-winning performance, but the 2010 movie has also received massive praise for its costume design. Set in the 1930s, the biopic follows Britain’s King George VI as he works to overcome his stutter after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicates the throne. The movie’s characters were styled in perfect ’30s attire, leading to an Oscar nomination for best costume design.

The 1956 big-screen adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” centers around Deborah Kerr’s Anna Leonowens, a widowed British schoolteacher who serves as the governess of King Mongkut of Siam’s children during the 1860s. From Anna’s stunning gowns to the King’s striking ensembles, the film’s costumes are truly something to behold. It’s clear how the film managed to score an Oscar for best costume design, right?

The Showtime series “The Borgias,” which aired from 2011 to 2013, centered around the corrupt patriarch of the titular noble family — Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons), who became Pope Alexander VI — around the turn of the 16th century. Joanne Whalley and Lotte Verbeek also starred on the show, which won two Emmys for outstanding costumes.

Denzel Washington made quite a splash in his stylish costumes in 1992’s “Malcolm X.” The biopic follows the life of Malcolm X through his early years as a petty criminal to his later life as a celebrated activist. The movie features striking 1940s zoot suits (pictured here), beautiful 1960s ensembles and signature accessories, all contributing to the film’s Academy Award nomination for best costume design.

Costume designer Anushia Nieradzik brought the 18th century to life in 2013’s “Belle.” The period drama is fictional accountant of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a real-life biracial woman who was raised as a gentlewoman in her uncle’s household in England. The gorgeous gowns, petticoats and attire helped the film to earn the Satellite Award for best costume design.































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