27 thoughts on “Iconic Historical Movie Costumes of the 1960s

  1. Romeo and Juliet the Zeffirelli version costumes by Danilo Donati 1968

  2. I really need to watch Anne of a Thousand Days and The Leopard. I’ve hear great things about both films. I also want to watch Cleopatra at least once just for Liz Taylor’s sake. Plus those costumes!
    I’ve seen El Cid and Dr. Zhivago once each and they were a slog to get through. Although, my aunt was inspired enough by El Cid to name one of my cousins after one of the characters.
    My Fair Lady is my favorite musical and Eliza’s white lace dress with the black and white ribbon is my favorite film costume of all time, although Scarlett O’Hara’s wardrobe comes a close second. But I also love the gold column dress worn by Eleanor Parker in The Sound of Music. It’s a dress of dreams and one I would wear today if I could.
    Faye Dunaway is at her most beautiful in Bonnie and Clyde although I didn’t really enjoy the film.
    And as a huge fan of the great Kate, I was blown away by her performance in The Lion in Winter. Freakin’ amazing!

    1. For me, “The Leopard” and “My Fair Lady” hold up best in general: acting, script, gorgeous production values. This whole article brings back good memories: my big sister’s movie magazines and my young ideas about personal beauty. (Christie, Loren, Redgrave and Streisand are still favorites.) Thanks, Sarah.

  3. Glad to see Man for All Seasons here as that’s mine.. I don’t find it dry but I have witnessed my own development in my responses to Thomas More in that film.. as a kid I thought he was a bit cowardly but as an adult (and now a lawyer) I see it differently. I’m sorry you find it dry; for me it’s fascinating but to each her own.

    I’m also with you on Anne of the Thousand Days.. only saw it once a long time ago but compelling. I like Doctor Zhivago quite a bit as well. Pulling from both that and Man for All Seasons screenwriter you end up with Lawrence of Arabia set ca WWI, which is mostly Bedouin and military men (so not as spectacular but I’m down for Omar Sherif).

    And in the ridiculous fantasy but hilarious fun, Omar Sherif and Sofia Loren in Italian medieval/renaissance fantasy comedy More than a Miracle.. it’s been a while but I remember my sister and I laughing uproariously… at one point Omar the prince sets up a dishwashing contest to pick his bride since the girl he’s fallen in love with, Sofia, is a kitchen maid. And for some reason St Joseph of Cupertino, aka the “flying friar”, or someone like him, comes floating in? We were in stitches.

  4. That was super fun! While I love the costumes in Bonnie and Clyde and Cleopatra I have to admit to a particular fondness for 1960s does Edwardian, of which there seems to be a whole lot. The ones you mentioned above and The Wrong Box, Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies,Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the list goes on…

  5. I’d have included Tom Jones in addition. And The Wrong Box is one of my all-time favorites.

  6. You got most of my favorites – but I would add Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) for Sally Ann Howes outfits, and also How The West Was Won (1962) – even though Debbie Reynold’s hair drives me crazy (wearing 1950s hair instead of 1850s)!

  7. Mayerling (1968)

    Omar Sharif, Catherine Deneuve, James Mason, and Ava Gardner!

    Set in the 1880’s and quasi-based off of the true life romantic tragedy of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his mistress Baroness Maria Vetsera.

    Their real demise remain a mystery to this very day, but the costumes and eye candy for the film made this one a personal favorite above Dr. Zhivago, et al.

  8. I love Anne of the Thousand Days, The Lion in Winter, and Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet. However, I think the costumes for Bonnie and Clyde are supposed to be early 1930’s, not 1920’s, since Bonnie and Clyde did all their robbing during the Depression.

    1. I saw a documentary once where Theadora van Runkle spoke of running into Edith Head while fabric shopping for “Bonnie and Clyde”.

      Head asked what she was doing, and van Runkle replied, “A period piece set in the Thirties,” and Head went into raptures and gushed, “Ah, yes, the Thirties… Chiffon, chiffon, chiffon!”

  9. Check out the red I-guess-its-supposed-to-be-a-palla that Taylor is wearing. I think that a early example of the use of sari fabric has been uncovered!

  10. I’d add “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (1967), starring Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, and James Fox. It has a LOT of cringingly racist moments (white women being kidnapped and sold into sex slavery in China is a major plot point), but the costumes are 1920s-influenced and very fun.

  11. My two daughters are named in large part after Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter (her and the character). Because she is just that brilliant.

    But the only costume moment I can think of is the suggestion of wearing a necklace at the nipples. But not because it would scare the children.

  12. Well, you included two of mine: Cleopatra and Anne of a Thousand Days. It’s a reminder that the costumes in a historical sense really improved in this decade. Of course, Barry Lyndon really changed the game in 1970s.

  13. Oh yes, Anne of The Thousand Days! She’s my Anne Boleyn, too. I loved the French accent, and I thought they’d done their research, but Bujold is French Canadian.
    And the Zefferelli Romeo and Juliet. There was a dress Streisand wore in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, a red redingote and a hat she wore for her trial that was a knockout. Not very Regency, but very Barbra! I think it was 1970, but it must have been made in the 60s.
    Oh, and who can forget the other Barbara! Barbara Windsor, who played Anne Boleyn as a blonde, fun-loving tart. The “Carry On” movies used the sets and costumes left over from big budget productions. So one doublet was worn by Richard Burton in Anne of The Thousand Days, and by Sid James in “Carry on Henry.” And after they abandoned the sets and costumes for Cleopatra and moved to Rome, the Carry On team moved in. In my book, Amanda Barrie is a much better Cleopatra than Liz Taylor!

  14. I love Anne of the Thousand Days too. Bujold was fabulous — feisty, spirited, passionate, no nonsense. And I love the kick-ass pro-Elizabeth speech at the end. ;)

  15. My Fair Lady, for me, has the most spectacularly iconic costume scene in all of movie history — the black and white costumes at Ascot. Every time I watch it, I find another amazing dress or hat.

    As for A Man For All Seasons, I used to admire the strength and faith of Thomas More. Then I did a bit more reading and watched Wolf Hall. I’ve come to believe that More had great faith, but absolutely no ability to allow others to have their own and different beliefs. But the costumes were awesome!

    And Katharine Hepburn. . . A Lion In Winter. . . I have no words. The woman is the goddess of acting. And I worship at her temple. I want to be Kate, if I ever grow up!

  16. I worked at a theatre in Boston one summer and My Fair Lady and Camelot were two of the big productions. Camelot was good, but oohhhh, those Cecil Beaton costumes for My Fair Lady. Even Henry Higgins’ clothes were gorgeous (and Rex Harrison wore them with such elan…and was really nice too).

  17. Eliza do ditch Henry- in the original play. She marries Freddie and they start a flower shop together and becomes very happy. It annoys me no end that My Fair Lady change the ending- and so do the otherwise nice adaption of Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Dame Wendy Hiller.

    romei and Juliet- yes! And the Taming of the Shrew too, IMO. :)

  18. Ah, in El Cid you missed the best female role of the rather worthy film: Geraldine Page (seen above in “Song Without End” which I must find) as the fabulously bitchy Princess Ulrica. Her facial expressions throughout are a model for all: https://goo.gl/images/b6QCu9
    The Leopard is wonderful, although fabulous costumes are a bit of a given in Viscount Films (see Senso, Ludwig, etc).
    Not ‘My Fair Lady’ fan (‘Enry ‘Iggins just needs to be dumped stat, Eliza!) but there’s no denying the beauty of Beaton’s designs. Glad to see love for the Baroness in the Sound of Music and her great gowns.
    Apart from the care taken in the costumes, Man for All Seasons was one of the first films to really have a care for period music and instruments.
    Anne of a Thousand Days, what I say but to echo how wonderful Genevieve Bujold is in this? (#BestAnneBolynEver). I remember wearing out the VHS tape as a teenager, due to watching this so often. And the costumes…sigh…I wanted all of her dresses (although now can scowl gently at the French hood headband).

  19. I always enjoy the snark, but I LOVED this post. While they may not be accurate, these are the types of movies that make people interested in history. And please, I want a t-shirt that says “Katherine Hepburn, bitches!”

    1. Bonnie-Lynn Nadzeika wrote: ‘And please, I want a t-shirt that says “Katherine Hepburn, bitches!”’

      Me, too! Me, too!

  20. If you think Eliza should’ve ditched Henry at the end of MFL…well, from what I’ve read, you’ll like the new revival staging.

  21. My favorite costume film of the 1960s is “Tom Jones” by Richardson. It’s just such a witty film about the novel although the film ignores many aspects of the novel. The hunting scene is just breathtaking. The film especially the camera deserved the academy Awards. It’s sad, that Richardson didn’t continue and became totaly crazy when he made “Joseph Andrews”. The costumes in “Tom Jones” are OK, if you compare them with costumes of many contemporary films about the 18th century. Most actors were good and some great (like drunken, foolish Squire Western – Hugh Griffith) – some were looking like fallen out from a Hogarth-painting.

  22. A shout-out to Phyllis Dalton’s work on Doctor Zhivago. She’s truly an under-rated costumer. For all its anachronisms, Doctor Zhivago has some truly stand-out costumes. Rita Tushingham’s work clothes, Julie Christie’s “Hot Librarian” attire complete with trench coat and sable hat, Geraldine Chaplin’s ball gown and of course Julie Christie’s black fur ensemble.

    Phyllis Dalton also did the costumes for both Princess Bride and Oliver! The costumes in the latter are quite thematic. The colour of red in Nancy’s dress (not too dissimilar to the red dress Lara wears in Zhivago) tells you a lot about her character (though its subverted by her actions) Fagin’s boots curl up like fairy boots and The Artful Dodger is dressed like a gent so he’s neither artful or dodgy as he sticks out within a crowd in those colours.

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