Zoé Cassavetes: Celluloid Glamour

The Broken English Director Awards the Most Fashionable Leading Ladies in Film History

Zoé Cassavetes’s cinephilia was instilled in her from an early age—her father, the late John Cassavetes, was one of the most innovative American filmmakers of the latter 20th century (breaking with all convention in his semi-improvised, bebop-infused debut Shadows in 1959), while her mother, Gena Rowlands, is an Emmy Award-winning actress. The filmmaker and photographer also has a very fashionable circle of friends, from APC founder Jean Touitou to Marc Jacobs, and has shot promotional videos for Anna Sui and Louis Vuitton (she’s a front-row regular of the house’s shows, alongside best friend Sofia Coppola). Here she highlights her favorite fashion moments from cinematic history. 

1. King Kong (1976)

Jessica Lange was so gorgeous in that white low-cut, floaty dress that King washes her in under the water. She also looks amazing on the boat at the beginning of the film, when she’s given some men’s clothes, and at the end of the film, in that sequined, backless dress when they re-enact the sacrifice scene in New York. 

2. Bathing Beauty (1944)

I was obsessed with Esther Williams’s movies when I was young—the bathing caps, the choreography, the way these women disrobed into colorful swimsuits that were still incredibly haute couture. They had the best clothes in the 30s and 40s.

3. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Faye Dunaway couldn’t be more beautiful—her face, her attitude, her style. A beret never looked so good. She also had the best hair in that movie. Even though they were always on the run, she still wore the chicest blouse/skirt combos. 

4. Klute (1971)

I’m always more into fall/winter fashion. When I was younger I thought, “I’m going to dress like Jane Fonda in Klute,” not even fully grasping that she was playing a prostitute. I especially remember her rocking the trench coat and that shag haircut. I got a shag once, maybe in honor, but it wasn’t exactly the same thing on me.

5. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

I watched this again when I decided to become a photographer. Crazy gauchos, tall boots, sweaters, good accessories—and the notion that Laura Mars [Faye Dunaway] was never going to let one of the models out-dress her. I don’t think she owned a pair of jeans.

6. Lolita (1962)

Sue Lyons in a paisley bikini with those glasses on? Not sure who can pull that off—Evan Rachel Wood? And my goddaughter, who’s like one and half! But it’s a pretty indelible image. 

7. La Notte (1961)

The most stylish film ever. Monica Vitti, Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni are three of my all-time favorite actors. Marcello in those black suits with sunglasses, and Jeanne Moureau and Monica Vitti in perfect cocktail dresses and great shoes. Antonioni is one of my favorite directors. This is a movie about relationships at their most honest, surrounded by a backdrop of decadence. That moment in Italian cinema was amazing, in content and style. 

8. The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

It’s always painful to see a favorite book turned into a movie. But this was surprisingly well-cast, and the locations were amazing. Gwyneth [Paltrow] got to wear some rock‘n’roll shit that was exactly what you’d want to wear on holiday in Italy—or anywhere. I remember a stunning leopard coat and some silvery satin pajamas (I heart pajamas) and even just a plain but perfect white button-down over those bikinis. The guys had great style too, except for maybe Matt Damon in a big white turtleneck… 

9. La Piscine (1969)

Who could be more soulful and beautiful than Romy Schneider? I love everything she’s in, and this film is no exception. She could make a bathrobe look sexy. She’s perfectly tanned, with those luminous eyes, lying out by the pool. The movie also stars the hot-hot-hot Alain Delon, and they were really in love. It’s a great thriller. I’m glad they never tried to remake it. 

10. Gloria (1980)

Gena Rowlands (my mom) as the hottest, toughest gangster’s moll you’ll ever see. Her clothes were made especially for her by Emanuel Ungaro—feminine but versatile enough to run through the streets of New York City, shooting tough guys and protecting an innocent young boy. I remember how impressed I was by her running in heels, and how I fell in love with open-toed sling-backs because she looked so great in them. She has the best legs, and Ungaro knew how to make these silk skirt suits with just enough slit to always catch a good glimpse of them.

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