Some moments in film are so picture-perfect that over time they graduate from fleeting to iconic. So what does it take to craft a scene-stealing moment? There is no magic formula, but rather a marriage between screen siren or ingenue and a brilliant costume designer. Whether dripping with glitz and glamour, or introducing an entirely new everyday ensemble, these looks (and the women who wore them) have become famous in their own right.
Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
When we first meet Holly Golightly outside Tiffany & Co. in New York, the last thought on our mind is the sparkling jewels behind the glass. From the cut of her elegant Givenchy dress to the rack of pearls and oversized sunglasses, Hepburn carried off the look effortlessly. Her ensemble has become so iconic that it even has its own Wikipedia page.
Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
The androgynous style of Keaton’s title character would have been nothing without the actress herself: many of the clothes she wore in the film came from her own closet. Her oversized menswear, from high-waisted trouser and crisp collared shirt to suit vest, bowler hat and cheeky tie, won hearts across the world. Keaton credited “the cool-looking women on the streets of SoHo” as her inspiration.
Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues
One legendary singer portraying another. Diana Ross brings the house down as the incomparable Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. Ross takes on all of Holiday’s heartache and channels it into one giant finale: singing “God Bless the Child” at Carnegie Hall in a sparkling white dress accessorized with Holiday’s signature blooms in her hair.
Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind
“Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion.” When Scarlett and Ashley are caught in an embrace and gossip starts spreading about Bonnie, Rhett aims to put Scarlett in her place, telling her to dress the part of the harlot in a striking red gown. Sequins, feathers and a tulle overlay certainly stopped the talking and led to dropped jaws when Vivien Leigh entered the room.
Olivia Newton-John in Grease
Who can forget Sandra Dee’s total transformation from sock-hop keener to glamorous rebel? When Olivia Newton-John slipped into the all-black outfit of skin-tight slacks and an off-the-shoulder top for the final number, it proved more than enough to bring Danny Zuko—and audiences around the globe—to their knees.
Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Tortured and smart-lipped, Penelope Cruz’s Maria Elena stole the show on more than one occasion in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, from painting nearly nude in Juan Antonio’s home to approaching Cristina for a lip lock in the darkroom. Her most scene-stealing moment? Tossing her hair, smoking and posing for Cristina in a light pink slipdress. The most subtle sex appeal, carried off without a word.
Jennifer Beals in Flashdance
Alex Owens was a determined dreamer with some serious dance skills, and Jennifer Beals made her an instant hit in the classic 80s flick Flashdance. Water scene aside, the most iconic moment from the movie has an even simpler uniform: red pumps, an off-the-shoulder grey sweatshirt and one nonchalant bra removal was all it took to hook Nick Hurley and the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.
Of course there are more. Add in Julianne Moore’s semi-tragic Charlotte with a classic sixties vibe in A Single Man, the character-driven looks for the main characters in The Royal Tenenbaums or the nineties valley girl ensembles of the trio in Clueless—there are many more silver screen moments that will stand as stills in our minds for as long as Hollywood reigns. From opening montage to dramatic climax and closing credits, movies aren’t just famous for the stories they tell, but for the moments (and looks) we take home with us, too.