Iconic Historical Movie Costumes of the 1960s

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This is an occasional series highlighting historical movie and TV costumes that best represent the decade they were produced in. They may or may not be the most historically accurate, but we think these costumes stand out as icons of when they were made. Comment with your faves, and watch the blog for the next decade we review!

 

Song Without End – 1960

Costumes by Jean Louis

There have been several films over the last century that have dealt with the complicated love lives of Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, George Sand, and Countess Marie D’Agoult, and this is yet another one of them. This time, it focuses on Liszt’s affair with Russian princess Carolyne (played by Capucine) and all the drama and tragedy that it causes in their respective personal lives. It’s well worth watching the film for the costumes alone, which are gorgeous, even if they’re highly inflected by the late-1950s silhouette.

 

El Cid – 1961

Costumes by Veniero Colasanti and John Moore

The use of polyester stretch knit was off the charts, but there’s no denying that Sophia Loren made for a striking Doña Ximena. Charlton Heston had to compete with her bullet bra for anyone’s attention.

There is definitely some major foundational support happening under that dress.

Ah, the classic winged-eyeliner-and-beehive-hairdo of 11th-century Spain!

Sophia Loren’s brow game is legendary.

From the neck down, this is a pretty decent 11th-century gown! From the neck up, it’s allll 1960s, baby.

 

The Leopard – 1963

Costumes by Piero Tosi and Umberto Tirelli

In a word: Fabulous. The costumes are some of the best of this era to appear on film, with very little modern-day intrusion in the overall silhouette. The makeup, however, does verge on the trends at the time, but it’s at least drastically toned down so as not to be too big of a distraction.

The Leopard (1963)

 

Cleopatra – 1963

Costumes by Renie Conley, Vittorio Nino Novarese, and Irene Sharaff

This is probably THE film that people think of when they think of Liz Taylor. The costumes are off-the-charts lavish and highly influenced by the current fashion trends at the time, but whatever, it works. And Liz gets all the credit for really putting winged eyeliner on the map — after this point, you start to see dramatic cat-eye makeup pretty much everywhere in fashion and film.

 

The Unsinkable Molly Brown – 1964

Costumes by Morton Haack

Debbie Reynolds’ take on Titanic survivor Molly Brown was a tad manic for my tastes, but there’s no question that this film is a classic as far as costuming goes.

 

My Fair Lady – 1964

Costumes by Cecil Beaton

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I nearly forgot to include this film on this list. Thankfully, I saved myself from the outraged comments that would no doubt be left in my wake for neglecting to mention the masterpieces that are Cecil Beaton’s designs for Audrey Hepburn. I still think Eliza should have ditched Henry at the end of the film, but hey, at least she got a lot of fabulous dresses, right?

My Fair Lady (1964) Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" (1964).My Fair Lady (1964) Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" (1964).

 

The Sound of Music – 1965

Costumes by Dorothy Jeakins

I never was a big fan of the musical, but there’s no denying the fact that The Sound of Music brought us several iconic movie costumes. Especially anything the Baroness wears.

Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music (Julie Andrews) The Sound of Music (1965)

 

Doctor Zhivago – 1965

Costumes by Phyllis Dalton

I will admit that I’ve never watched Doctor Zhivago, since film adaptations of Russian novels tend to depress me. That said, the costumes designed by Phyllis Dalton are front-and-center in my mind when I think of the film.

 

A Man for All Seasons – 1966

Costumes by Joan Bridge and Elizabeth Haffenden

Confession Time: I’ve tried to watch A Man for all Seasons many times over the years but I just can’t seem to get all the way through. It’s dry, but Robert Shaw is pretty dreamy as Henry VIII, so I keep trying.

 

Bonnie and Clyde – 1967

Costumes by Theadora van Runkle

Not my personal favorite, but leaving Bonnie and Clyde off this list would be ignoring the cultural impact this film had on its time, particularly fashion-wise. The “1920s” fashion in the film is almost indistinguishable from the 1960s fashion you’d find in Vogue magazine. My mom admits that she based a lot of her personal style in the late-1960s after this film.

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

 

Camelot – 1967

Costumes by John Truscott

Pure fantasy, but beautiful. Like watching someone’s dream of the middle ages.

 

The Lion in Winter – 1968

Costumes by Margaret Furse

Every time I watch this movie, all I want to do is yell at the other actors to shut up, because Katharine Hepburn is the only thing I need. It’s her film and everyone else is just chewing the scenery in it. The costumes aren’t all that spectacular, but again, who cares? Katharine Hepburn, bitches.

 

Funny Girl – 1968

Costumes by Irene Sharaff

Funny Girl kicked the whole trend of period Barbara Streisand vehicles that looked nothing like the era in which they were allegedly set. That said, Barbara is stunning and wears clothes like nobody’s business, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that there’s absolutely NOTHING vaguely 19-teens about the designs.

 

Anne of the Thousand Days – 1969

Costumes by Margaret Furse

MY FAVORITE ANNE BOLEYN FILM EVER. ALL OTHER ANNE BOLEYNS ARE INFERIOR. GENEVIEVE BUJOLD 4 LYFE.

“Ha ha! Elizabeth Taylor thinks she can act!”

 

Hello Dolly – 1969

Costumes by Irene Sharraf

See: Funny Girl (above). At least this film does a better job of paying lip service to the 1890s.

 

What’s your favorite iconic historical movie costume of the 1960s? What would you add to the list?

23 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Romeo and Juliet the Zeffirelli version costumes by Danilo Donati 1968

    Reply
  2. thestoryenthusiast

    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!

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      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.

      Reply
  3. Nzie

    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.

    Reply
  4. Loren Dearborn

    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…

    Reply
  5. MoHub

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

    Reply
  6. sitfan

    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)!

    Reply
  7. Countess C

    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.

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth Mahon

    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.

    Reply
    • hsc

      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!”

      Reply
  9. Kaite

    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!

    Reply
  10. angharad

    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.

    Reply
  11. Leigh

    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.

    Reply
  12. revknits

    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.

    Reply
  13. Lynne Connolly

    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!

    Reply
  14. Charity

    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. ;)

    Reply
  15. Jill Cochran

    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!

    Reply
  16. Martina

    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).

    Reply
  17. Elisa

    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. :)

    Reply
  18. Nit-Picking Badger

    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).

    Reply
  19. Bonnie-Lynn Nadzeika

    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!”

    Reply
    • Jill Cochran

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

      Me, too! Me, too!

      Reply

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