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7 Dresses That Portrayed The Strength Of Women In Film

Going behind the seams.

Fashion has always played a paramount role in film. Stylists utilise wardrobe as a visual technique to inform the audience on a character’s personality and socio-economic status, playing nothing less than an integral role in the storytelling and plot development of a movie.

The importance of wardrobe for one, is palpable at awards ceremonies. Notable stylists and costume designers include Edith Head who won eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Patricia Field, of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada, and designer Elsa Schiaparelli, known for her work on Moulin Rouge, The Tunnel and Love in Exile.

Above, we look at seven key dresses in film — ones that have successfully captured the notion of female empowerment, strength and confidence.

#1: Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress on Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Movie: On the Basis of Sex (2018) An American biographical legal film directed by Mimi Leder, On the Basis of Sex revolves around the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Played by Felicity Jones, Ruth appeared in a ’70s inspired printed wrap dress when she held a moot court in her living room to prepare for her courtroom debut on a tax case that discriminated based on gender. Designed by Diane von Furstenberg, this number emphasised the character’s independence and strength — after all, the wrap dress was seen as a symbol of sexual freedom and liberation during the seventies. Image: Jonathan Wenk, Focus Features #3: Raf Simons for Jil Sander’s red dress on Emma Recchi
Movie: I Am Love (2009) In this Luca Guadagnino film, Tilda Swinton’s character, Emma Recchi, is married to a wealthy husband who only saw her as an object that belonged to him — nothing more. She was often dressed in dull colours, and was only given bright hues (particularly vermilion red) after committing an extra-marital affair with Antonio Biscaglia. Designed by Raf Simons during his tenure at Jil Sander, what we love about this red midi number is its representation of Emma’s comprehension on true happiness. It was a symbol of how she finally mustered the courage to break herself free from her husband’s control. Image: Magnolia Pictures #2: Marchesa’s ruffled gown on Rachel Chu
Movie: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Despite facing rejection from her boyfriend’s mother, Eleanor Sung-Young due to her Asian-American middle class roots, Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) brazenly showed up at Colin Khoo and Araminta Lee’s wedding in a jaw-dropping baby blue ruffled gown. Although this stunning number from Marchesa is whimsical and feminine, it allowed Rachel to exude confidence in an attempt to prove to Eleanor that she’s no pushover. Ballsy. Image: Crazy Rich Asians #4: Givenchy’s black dress on Holly Golightly
Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) We need no further introduction as to why this black sleeveless dress worn by Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, at the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic garments of film history. Designed by Hubert de Givenchy, this fitted number, which features a flattering bateau neckline, is no basic LBD. It represented Holly Golightly’s personality in a nutshell: glamourous and confident, yet reckless and rebellious at the same time. #5: Tex Saverio’s wedding dress on Katniss Everdeen
Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) It’s not just a wedding dress. It’s the wedding dress that displayed Katniss Everdeen’s (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence) fearless attitude towards the totalitarian leadership by the Capitol. When Katniss started spinning, this multi-tiered alabaster chiffon number — designed by Indonesian designer Tex Saverio — transformed into a navy blue gown fashioned with wings that resembled a Mockingjay, a bird that symbolises free will and independence in the fictional series. In other words, this gown was a prelude that ingeniously portrayed the idea of rebellion and defiance. Image: Murray Close, Lionsgate #6: Monique Lhuillier’s silver gown on Anastasia Steele
Movie: Fifty Shades Darker (2017) Dakota Johnson’s character, Anastasia Steele, in the Fifty Shades trilogy was once a conservative English literature major. As the series progressed, she explored her sexuality and ideas of eroticism and romance, with the help of Christian Grey. We believe that this custom-designed Monique Lhuillier slinky silver gown, which made an appearance in the second series, was that bridge between her former self and her current courageous personality. Featuring a satin sheath material with a draped neckline and cross back, this ball gown displayed the newly found confidence that Anastasia acquired as she managed to “tame” Grey, which was later explored in the sequel Fifty Shades Freed. Image: Universal Pictures #7: Celine’s black dress on Elle Woods
Movie: Legally Blonde (2001) As a well-loved fashion merchandising student, Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) left us bewildered when she decided to enroll into Harvard Law school for the sole purpose of winning her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, back. However, as the series progressed, we learn that she is a serious and fastidious individual. She eventually secured a prestigious internship at Professor Callahan’s law firm, and this dress proves it all. Designed by Michael Kors when he was serving as the creative director for Celine, Elle ditched her iconic pinks for an elegant black midi number that showcased her brilliance, determination and perseverance.