With Milan closed, here are the best fashion films to get your fix

Murray Clark
·6-min read
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

From Harper's BAZAAR

Giorgio Armani isn't the sort to cancel a show last minute. And yet, at the onset of coronavirus, that's exactly what the famed Italian designer did last season in Milan, choosing instead to livestream the new (and really quite lovely) collection "in front of an empty teatro".

Much of the industry followed suit. Luxury conglomerate LVMH changed tack for the war effort, admirably producing hand sanitiser instead of ambrosial scents. With a number of cruise shows now cancelled, including Chanel and Gucci, it seems likely that the fashion calendar has taken an extended leave of absence. Even the Met Gala has been put on ice.

But fear not. While your eyes may be starved of new collections for the foreseeable (or, at least, new collections presented to a celebrity-packed front row) there's plenty of fashion to be enjoyed on the four corners of your screen: in documentaries, and films, in cult classics and, really, any sort of production that takes a modicum of pride in its appearance. These are some of favourites.

So buckle up (sunglasses on, naturally), and slip into your finest loungewear to watch the best fashion films ever made. Mr Armani and Mrs Prada are likely doing the same.



"They're such beautiful shirts," the spineless Daisy Buchanan sobs in The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald's seminal depiction of the Roaring Twenties. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such – such beautiful shirts before."

And frankly Daisy, nor have we, as Baz Luhrmann's 2013 adaptation wardrobed deceit and despair in fine silks, ostentatious suits and borderline fancy dress. Costume designer Catherine Martin even enlisted the help of Miuccia Prada to dress Jay Gatsby's world, making a truly rotten crowd look anything but.



Bret Easton Ellis's debut novel was made for the big screen. And though 1987's Less Than Zero has its detractors, the film all-but defines the Eighties aesthetic: generously-shouldered suits, ultra-masculine silhouettes and mops of flawlessly styled sweepbacks, on a young and lost Robert Downey Jr and a menacing James Spader.

Not a pleasant watch, sure, which is unsurprising given Easton Ellis' appetite for darkness. But for a faithful look at the razor-sharp style of Reagan's America, Less Than Zero is an excellent research platform.



Tom Ford's directorial debut was always going to be well-dressed. Nobody foresaw how well-made it would be, though, with A Single Man scoring a string of nominations on 2009's awards circuit thanks to its quiet, tragic retelling of a gay widow on a downward spiral of grief in the Los Angeles of 1962.

Standout performances from Colin Firth and Julianne Moore have cemented A Single Man's place in the Very Good Film lexicon, but it was signature Fordian tailoring (and one exquisitely organised underwear drawer) that won the GLAAD award winner its place in the pantheon of fashionable films.



Ah, the film that made fashion poke fun at itself: Zoolander is well-regarded in show season circles (and non-style ones, too) thanks to a very silly interpretation of what can be a very silly life.

If that wasn't absurd enough, though, Stiller's airhead supermodel Derek Zoolander is hypnotised by a megalomaniac foppish designer in Will Ferrell, and falls into a haphazard plot to assassinate the Malaysian prime minister. As ridiculously great as it sounds.



For all the dull, stats-crammed reports of the East Asian market's appetite for luxury, we're never shown the actual story. Not until Crazy Rich Asians anyway, which sees a stellar cast unite for a blockbuster that got diversity, filmmaking and fashion so right.

Following a would-be bride (Constance Wu) and her first meeting with her fiancé's absurdly wealthy family, this romantic comedy depicts the culture clashes and high expectations between stars like Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Gemma Chan, with lots of retina-scorching couture peppered into the mix.



A ludicrously unrealistic look at LA's high-fashion scene, what The Neon Demon lacks in verisimilitude it makes up for in visual spectacle, as would-be model Elle Fanning evolves into a well-lit demigod of sorts on her career's ascent.

It's textbook Nicolas Winding Refn, from the extra-terrestrial soundtrack to the jarring use of colour, to individual shots that are almost still life artworks, The Neon Demon is a macabre fever dream that quickly collapses into a nightmare.



Quoted, emulated and memed to within an inch of its life, there's still plenty of mileage in The Devil Wears Prada: a 2006 film that was the closest it got to working at a busy fashion magazine.

The clothes have aged horribly. So too the workplace conduct. But Meryl Streep's performance as an editor who could turn Medusa to stone is unrivalled, even by the page-boy-bobbed fashion bigwig she's allegedly based upon.



The Royal Tenenbaums established Wes Anderson as an auteur proper: staccato, clipped words of affection, doe-eyed gazes into the camera and a steady general beat of idiosyncrasy. Oh, and the clothes: lots of glorious, era-less, slightly surreal clothes.

From the moment a tracksuited Luke Wilson takes a seat next to a mascara-enhanced, cig huffin' Gwyneth Paltrow, we've got a standout Gucci collection long before Alessandro Michele ever got his mitts on the storied Italian fashion house.



If the rags-to-riches story of Coco Gabrielle Chanel doesn't grab you, then the wardrobe of Audrey Tautou - who plays the titular role in Coco Before Chanel - most definitely will. Breton tops, high-waisted, wide-leg trousers and androgynous tailoring form just part of Tautou's enviable look, and you'll find yourself browsing Net-a-Porter immediately afterwards in the hope of replicating her effortlessly gamine style.

As the name suggests, Coco Before Chanel looks at the designer's life before she launched her now world famous brand. It begins with her attempts to begin a career in showbiz and documents her move into fashion, when she became bored of the fussy, constricting styles of the time, instead creating pieces that had a boyish elegance.



Watching Funny Face is akin to being given a giant hug - it's a truly perfect rainy afternoon film. Fred Astaire stars as a fashion photographer who falls in love with a reluctant fashion muse, a bookshop assistant played by Audrey Hepburn. Having persuaded her to come to Paris for a magazine shoot (she only goes because she's always been excited by the Parisian intellectuals), Astaire helps Hepburn's character to become a famous fashion model, complete with a wardrobe provided by Hubert de Givenchy - something the actress insisted on. “His are the only clothes in which I am myself," she said at the time.

Expect sweeping shots of Hepburn in iconic Paris sites, from the Louvre to the Jardin des Tuileries. Leave your cynicism at home, and settle in for this frothy, escapist movie.

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