We’ve gone on the record over the years about the reason we so rarely cover any war films from World War I to the Vietnam War. Mainly, it’s because there’s not a lot of costume content there that is 1) interesting (as in, not a lot of pretty dresses), and 2) we aren’t remotely experts on military uniforms and despite attempting to get people who do know a thing or two to write us something on the topic, we’ve had no takers.
That doesn’t mean the films themselves aren’t good or worth watching nor does it mean that there aren’t occasionally interesting women’s costumes popping up. So, here’s a brief list of films set that have one or two costumes worth discussing, but not enough to devote an entire post to.
SAS Rogue Heroes (2022-)
I’m thoroughly enjoying this miniseries about the formation of the Special Air Services in World War II, but there’s not a lot of costume content to discuss. There is (so far) only one female character who is a glamorous Algerian spy working on behalf of France, and a commanding officer who likes to cross-dress, and other than that, not a whole lot in the show that isn’t sweaty khaki. That said, I heartily recommend watching it. It’s so good!
Band of Brothers (2001)
Contrast the above with Band of Brothers, which everyone agrees is pretty much the most perfect World War II series ever filmed (at least according to the two people I polled here in my household. The cats abstained). That said, there are almost no female characters in the show, which of course isn’t surprising considering it’s entirely focused on the exploits of Easy Company. Of the two women in the cast that I was able to find images of, both are very, very minor characters and not exactly dressing glamorously due to, well, having a lot things on their plate at the time.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Now, to be fair, there is actually a decent amount of interesting female costumes in this film, so maybe I’m being a bit disingenuous when I include it on this list. The reality is, however, that the women are all secondary characters and spend most of the film in uniform with only a few scenes of them wearing civilian clothing.
JoJo Rabbit (2019)
This film is one of my favorites, but there’s not a whole lot of womenswear in it. What little there is, however, is actually really good. Scarlett Johansson has some of the best cardigans I’ve seen on film! (Ed note: The cardigan is recycled from 1981’s Brideshead Revisited.)
Schindler’s List (1993)
It’s been almost 30 years since I watched this film, so forgive me if my memory is really hazy … But this is definitely one of those films that most of us can go through once, and that’s good enough. It’s devastatingly powerful, filmed in black and white, and while the overall costuming is meticulous, there’s just not a lot of civilian clothing to comment on (for obvious reasons). The iconic shot of the little girl in the red coat is seared into my brain.
Do you have a WWII film you’d like to recommend because it has that one really good costume? Share it with us in the comments!