These Iconic Movie Costumes Have Weird, Surprising Backstories

This is major: Dorothy's shoes were almost silver. 

There are some movie costumes that jump off the screen and into our collective imaginations. Maybe it's from a film steeped in history, or a movie we've seen a million times that's burned in our brain. Like Carrie Bradshaw's SATC tutu, it's hard to imagine these iconic costumes any other way, but there's always a "what might've been" backstory. The Lookbook tracked down the fascinating history of 10 classic movie looks we thought we knew—and the stories span divorce, back injuries, and just plain controversy.

Photo: IMDB

William Travilla, the designer of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch never thought much of the floaty number—he referred to it as “that silly little dress.” The world thought differently. The white dress is one of the most recognizable of all time, and reportedly sold at auction for $5.6 million in 2011.

Marilyn’s costume caused a sensation even before it became world famous. According to The Guardian, the dress may have been a factor in Marilyn’s divorce to Joe DiMaggio, who stormed off the set during the taping of the subway grate scene. That led to a huge fight between the couple and Marilyn soon after filed for divorce from DiMaggio, citing “mental cruelty.” Even though DiMaggio thought the scene was “exhibitionist,” Marilyn’s blown-up dress moment was actually quite modest: she reportedly wore two pairs of underwear, just in case.

Photo: IMDB

It’s one of the most famous little black dresses ever, but Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly look in Breakfast at Tiffany’s needed a makeover before it made it to celluloid. According to New York magazine, Givenchy’s original dress had a slit up the side and the studio said it was too revealing, so a new version had to be designed.

Everyone knows Judy Garland’s sequined slippers in the The Wizard of Oz are ruby red. But, the most famous shoes in history could’ve been just plain silver: that’s the color they are in the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. MGM changed the color to red for the movie, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has it, so the slippers would show up better against the Technicolor hues of the yellow-brick road. The shoes are so beloved that the Smithsonian raised over $300,000 from the public in a Kickstarter campaign to help conserve them for future generations.

Photo: IMDB

One of the most famous red dresses ever — the off-the-shoulder number Julia Roberts wears in Pretty Woman—might not have been red, either. Pretty Woman costume designer Marilyn Vance told Elle in 2010 that the studio wanted black for the dress, but she insisted on red.

Julia’s red dress has its super fans too. Vance told Elle: “What's so funny about that dress is that every year since its release, Western Costumes (the manufacturer that cut the pattern for the dress) gets multiple requests from men who send in their significant other's measurements to have it recreated. They want to recreate the entire scenario!”

Photo: IMDB

Women everywhere ended up copying Diane Keaton’s menswear look in Annie Hall, but the costume designer for the movie initially hated it. Diane showed up in her khaki pants, vest, and tie, and according to Woody Allen, costume designer Ruth Morley said: “Tell her not to wear that. She can't wear that. It's so crazy.” Allen replied: “Leave her. She's a genius. Let's just leave her alone, let her wear what she wants.”

Photo: IMDB

By the time Olivia Newton-John shimmied into the famous black leather pants she wore in the final scene of Grease, the pants were already vintage. "They were made in the '50s and we made the movie in the late '70s so they were already 25 years old when I wore them and the zipper broke so they had to sew me into them,” she told Yahoo! Whenever Olivia took a bathroom break during the filming of that scene, costume designers had to undo the stitching.

Photo: IMDB

Gone With The Wind’s costume designer went all out to make Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress looks like it was actually made from curtains. According to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, “it is believed that Plunkett deliberately treated or exposed the fabric to sunlight to achieve a faded appearance." The exact shade of green of the dress was also designed to suit the color of Vivien Leigh's eyes and to match Technicolor specifications. The university worked to preserve the dress, which wasn’t built to last beyond that famous scene, and was falling apart due to the weight of the velvet.

Photo: IMDB

Clueless’s Cher and Dionne were two of the most stylish high school girls ever, so of course Cher’s little yellow plaid outfit was Dolce & Gabbana. Clueless costume designer Mona May told Vanity Fair that she made Dionne’s coordinating black-and-white suit herself, due to budget constraints. Here’s a bit of trivia from Mona to watch for next time you stream the movie: “Dionne’s skirts were always a little shorter because she was the sassy one and she wasn’t a virgin.”

Photo: IMDB

Sharon Stone’s costumes in Casino are beyond over the top. There’s that chinchilla fur coat, which the film’s costume designer Rita Ryack says was made by Liberace’s furrier. “It almost hurt your hand, it was so soft,” she told Vice. But it was the gold-and-white beaded dress that really put Sharon Stone through the wringer: IMDB has it that the gown weighed 45 pounds and aggravated Sharon’s previous back injury.

Photo: IMDB

Uma Thurman made cropped black pants look so chic in Pulp Fiction, but she wore them in the film for a very specific reason. “We had very little budget and I couldn’t really find pants that were long enough for Uma. So because we had this '50s diner theme, I said ‘Let’s just cut them off!' She said, 'That’s great, let’s do it!'” Pulp Fiction’s costume designer Betsy Heimann told Dazed. PS: if you really love Uma’s beauty look too, Urban Decay sells a lipstick called Mrs. Mia Wallace in a deep blood red.

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