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From Grease to La La Land: the best films from every decade to watch for style inspiration

You’ve probably heard your Gran or your mum talk about how all the clothes you see on the high street right now are just recycled from the past. Off-the-shoulder tops? We had them back in my day! High-waisted trousers? I wore them at your age! Head-to-toe in sequins? Reminds me of the 70s!

And as frustrating as it can sometimes be that your Gran seems to know more about fashion than you, she’s 100% right. Everything you see around you on blogs or in shops is influenced in some way by the past.

Tumblr, Pinterest or even your family photo album can all be amazing for inspiration from the past – but personally we think there’s no better way to build your sense of style history than watching movies from different eras, about different eras, full of women wearing clothes inspired by different eras.

And the interesting thing about watching movies for style inspiration is that some of the most iconic films about particular times (let’s take Grease for its portrayal of the 50s) were made years and years later. What this means is they become a really interesting mish-mash of eras and styles. So although Grease is held up as being the ultimate 50s style guide, it was actually filmed in the 70s. It’s been made to look deliberately retro. And while you can dress up head-to-toe like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday or Amelie in Amelie, it’s also never been more acceptable to mix-and-match styles from different eras, to pick and choose what works for you.

So here’s your official film fashion cheat sheet! A parade of amazing movies from the 50s to 2017 that celebrate fashion, show how style has evolved and most importantly give you a load of inspiration for building your own lewk on the high street – or the internet – right now.

1950s: Midi skirts and pastel poodles

The 1953 classic Roman Holiday catapulted Audrey Hepburn from little-known actress to fully fledged style icon. But her relaxed princess look is really easy to replicate today too. You’ll need a white shirt – but not the boring kind your dad wears to work. Pick one that’s got something cool going on at the collar.

Short Cotton Blouse, £17.99, H&M

Hepburn’s circle skirt was a 50s staple, but there are plenty on the high street today that are the same luxurious long length, but made of less hefty material. Tuck your white shirt into it and pretend you’re meandering around Rome being… whatever Italian for chic is. And play with colours too. Opt for camel shades and pastel blues in tribute to Hepburn’s muted wardrobe in Roman Holiday.

Button Through Pleated Midi Skirt, £30, ASOS

Whenever anyone references 50s style, they mention Grease. It’s pretty much the law. Although made decades later, the film is a delicious homage to the decade’s best fashion, from pastel cardis and full skirts to Rizzo’s nipped-in dresses and pencil skirts right through to Sandy’s super bad-girl transformation at the end. They’re ALL the ones that we want.

Image: Movie Screencaps

The easiest looks to replicate are the ones from Sandy and the gang at school. Look at this scene. It makes your mouth water a bit, right? We’ve got pastel pink jackets, yellow cardigans, neck scarves and nipped-in waists for daaays.

Scarf, £8.99, H&M

Of course if you’re feeling daring, go all out and mix and match a yellow outfit, just like Sandy. But if you want to inject a little bit of Grease style into your 2017 look, find a bomber jacket in a pastel shade. Or add a small, brightly-coloured neck scarf to a simple outfit to make you look ever-so-slightly like you’re part of The Pink Ladies.

Bomber Jacket, £34.99, H&M

1960s: Shiny fabrics and flower power

Sure Barbarella is a futuristic sci-fi movie, but it was made in the 60s and if you look close enough it’s not all alien worlds and angel men – there are plenty of references to the styles of the swingin’ era that are totally easy to copy nowadays. In fact, space-inspired fabrics are having a bit of a moment right now and you don’t have to necessarily wear an all-in-one cosmic leotard like Barbarella to pull them off. We like mixing loud, shiny fabrics and sequins with simple dress-down styles. So a sequin crop top with black skinny jeans or maybe green sequin leggings with a basic grey tee. Like a 60s space lizard in the BEST possible way.

Sequined leggings, £29.99, H&M

Psst… if you’re still unconvinced of Barbarella’s timeless appeal, take a look at what Chanel has in store for its Autumn 2017 collection. It’s all shiny, sixties-inspired and will make you dream of far off galaxies.

Image Via C is For Costumes Tumblr

Still in cinemas right now, Hidden Figures is set in the early 60s and tells the true story of a group of African American women who worked at NASA. It’s a powerful tale of some of the most unsung female heroes during the space race, but it’s also packed full of lush everyday 60s style inspiration.

We particularly love the mix of floral patterns with simple fabrics, which are easy to translate into the modern day if you play them down with softer colours.

Neon bird skirt, £48, Oasis

1970s: Silky wrap dresses and faux fur 

For a more recent look at 70s style, look to the award-winning costume design of American Hustle – it’s all slinky jersey, bling jewellery and big, big, big hair. We particularly love this jewel-coloured wrap dress, which is a nod to 70s fashion in a way that isn’t all orange and brown flowers like your Nan’s bathroom curtains.

Wrap dress, £18, Boohoo

Or if slinky dresses aren’t your thing, 70s-up your outfit by adding a faux fur collar. Of course you can get a coat that has one already attached, or buy one separately to add a bit of glam to whatever you’re wearing.

Faux fur collar, £5, ASOS

1980s: Pretty collars and preppy jackets 

Classic teen flick Pretty in Pink is a brilliant example of why the 80s was such a killer time for fashion, with shoulder pads, ruffles, giant Granny glasses, bold prints on top of bold prints and so much more going on.

Doily jumper, £17, ASOS

Main character Andie is a vintage fiend who wears countless brilliant outfits, including a sickly pink prom dress that takes on a life of its own. But we love her doily collar the most, which you can find attached to a lot of dresses and jumpers on the high street right now.

Although you may not think of Goonies as a particularly fashiony movie, Andy’s white tennis skirt, white tee and big yellow varsity jacket combo just screams 80s high school chic.

Varsity Jacket, £30, ASOS

1990s: Mini kilts and massive Doc Martins

No movie screams “NINETIES! NINETIES!” quite like Empire Records. Not only is it packed full of actors that went on to become big stars (hey there young Renée Zellweger], it crams in all kinds of storylines about what it’s like to be a teen – even if it does make life look WAY cooler than the average British adolescent’s actually is.

To get the true Empire Records look you don’t have to look far. The 90s are having a huge moment on the high street rn, with chokers, dark lips and checked shirts as far as the eye can see. This means you have SO much to choose from.

But we’re a huge fan of Liv Tyler’s pastel blue cropped jumper and little kilt combo.

Crop top, £5, Boohoo

Paired with:

Kilt, £12, Boohoo

…and finish the look off with a classic pair of DMs. They basically never go out of style.

Dr Martens, £105, Schuh

2000s: Mean minis and pink, pink, pink  kilts

Mean Girls fashion might be a little over the top, but no movie quite nails the cute and peppy US high school look quite like Regina George and her crew. Their mini skirts and little cardigans are like an updated noughties version of Sandy and The Pink Ladies, with strapless dresses and bodycon for partying.

You could go the full Cady will army pants and flip-flops… but we’d stick with a tartan mini, which helpfully ticks the 90s Clueless box too. Check!

Arianna check, £12, Boohoo

And of course you can’t really pay homage to The Plastics unless you’re wearing pink. But only on Wednesdays.

Je suis sweatshirt, £29, Topshop

If dressing up like Regina and her girl gang feels a little too sickly sweet for you, take inspiration from a quirkier source. The Royal Tenenbaums was a cult hit back in 2001 and Gwyneth Paltrow played Margot, a character oozing with style inspired by the late 60s and early 70s. She’s best known for her huge fur coat, but as we’re heading into summer, copy her sporty striped dress instead.

Cass striped jumper dress, £32, French Connection  

Or take a cue from 2001 French classic Amelie. Audrey Tatou’s character effortlessly nails that kooky French chic that we’re always so desperate to try and copy here in boring Britain.

Although there are dozens of Amelie looks we’d love to wander around Montmarte in, a long, relaxed maxi skirt paired with a simple, scoop neck tee is one of our favourites. How does she make it look so damn good?

Maxi skirt, £12, Boohoo

2010s: Colourful swing dresses (that are as cheap as chips)

Maybe in years to come we’ll look back on the last seven years and a clear style will shine through, like the full skirts of the 50s or the checked shirts of the 90s. But right now we’re in the middle of it and it’s hard to pick out a distinct style. Instead, we’ll have to make some guesses about what defines the look of right now.

Image Via Marie Claire

A great place to start is La La Land. Love it or hate it, the movie is a real treat for those who love fashion – particularly dresses. Because boy, are there loads of them.

Like the film, many of the frocks Emma Stone wears are inspired by eras gone by. But the simple, un-fancy fabrics look like they could have been snapped up at H&M, which makes us think the La La Land look will be big this coming summer.

As long as it’s colourful, a simple V-neck dress will have you looking the part in no time – on a budget.

Or go all-out sunshine with your own version of *that* yellow dress – a future icon if there ever was one.

Off the shoulder mini, £15, ASOS


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