Hi everyone! To celebrate the holiday season, I wanted to talk about my favorite fashion moments from classic Christmas movies. From cozy and chic ensembles to extravagant, show-stopping coats, I find so much sewing inspiration in the holiday season. Here are some of the movies I rewatch when I’m in need of some winter fashion inspiration, or just want something to cuddle up and drink hot chocolate to!
The Bishop’s Wife
I couldn’t help but start with the iconic The Bishop’s Wife. While every movie on my list is dripping with fashion inspiration, I love that this one sees fashion as central to the plot. The film sees the protagonist, Julia, peer into a store window enraptured by an extravagant hat, then encouraged by angel Cary Grant to treat herself. (My one beef with this movie is that not nearly enough handsome men approach me and then encourage me to go shopping!)
In many ways, the hat is emblematic of the movie’s central themes; to live life to the fullest, and find joy in the little things. It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart, maybe a little too well. I don’t have to be begged to buy any hats around here!
I would like to officially nominate … every single outfit in this movie! How could I possibly choose? With the legendary Edith Head at the helm of costume design, each garment is a work of art. The sheer range is breathtaking and impeccably thought-out; each wardrobe says something about the character’s motivations and development.
That said, I have a special place in my heart for Judy’s engagement outfit—so much that I couldn’t help but create my own take on the design! (You can find the pattern on my Patreon). Each time I watch this scene I make a mental note to make about a thousand double circle skirts, and buy about a thousand more yards of houndstooth.
Then there’s Betty’s dazzling velvet dress. The silhouette is striking, with a gorgeous cinched waist and a full, luscious skirt. The decolletage adds a soft sweetness—a dress just as complex and full of contradictions as Betty herself.
Then of course, this iconic set! The tulle is lush and abundant, and that lace? Someone remind me to recreate this dress, stat! I think Hattie and I would pull off a fabulous dance number, don’t you?
Christmas in Connecticut
I love a good comedy of errors! The film follows food writer Elizabeth Lane (played by the inimitable Barbara Stanwyck) whose made-up persona catches up to her when asked to host a Christmas dinner for a returning war hero. The problem? Elizabeth is, let’s say, culinarily challenged (making this movie a little too relatable!). At risk of losing her job, she scrambles to put on an act, but as with every good Christmas movie, true love triumphs over all.
One of my favorite scenes involves poor Elizabeth trying—and failing—to make flapjacks in what has to be one of the world’s cutest pinafores. (As you may know, I love a good pinafore moment!) Here again we see Edith Head at the helm, and you can see her brilliant subtlety at work: the contrast between Elizabeth’s saccharine pinafore and her, well, attempts at domesticity are a visual treat.
We’ve all been there!
It’s a Wonderful Life
I will forever love this film for the sole reason of giving us this line:
Gloria Grahame plays the flirtatious Violet Bick in a performance that’s so charming I almost can’t stand it. She steals the show in every scene she’s in (to be fair, that’s not hard in a hat like this!)
But the true star of the show is Mary Hatch (played by the lovely Donna Reed) in this breathtaking embroidered gown. The details ooze charm, from her delightful puff sleeves to the sweeping full skirt. This wardrobe epitomizes so much of what I love about good costume design—we see so much of her character in this dress. (And that suit? I’m not mad at that suit, either!).
Can we talk about this Beret Moment? Too late! We’re talking about it.
I’m going to level with you: the movie? Not that memorable. The beret? HAUNTING. MY. DREAMS.
Meet Me in St. Louis
This film is a technicolor delight! With costume design by Irene Sharaff, we see young heroine Esther Smith come into herself through a series of wardrobe changes. We first see her in a sweet striped juvenile number as she bemoans being invisible to her love interest. (We all need a good outfit to bemoan life in sometimes).
We later see her in a beautiful fringe number, which retains the playfulness of youth but in an ever-so-slightly more fitted form. I only agonized a LITTLE bit about how little fringe is in my wardrobe!
Then, the great reveal: Esther steals the show in a plush red ball gown (allegedly so bright that a film consultant objected, stating it would draw too much attention from the rest of the cast). Thank the fashion gods, Sharaff won out, and we have this breathtaking number:
There were so many to pick from, but these are the films I turn to when I’m in need of some holiday fashion inspiration. What are yours? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!