Costume designers are human like the rest of us, and 99 percent of the time they know exactly what they're doing. When George Lucas came up with the idea of Indiana Jones, he had the iconic silhouette of Indy's fedora, jacket, bag and whip all in mind from both a character and a filmmaking functionality standpoint. That's a perfect example of what can happen when everything goes to plan.
Then again, there are moments when some people just didn't read the memo right and turned in something completely different. When I do that, an editor threatens me with a gun, but in at least four cases the minds behind some of the most iconic images in the world said, "Meh. It'll do." Today we spotlight those great moments of wardrobe happenstance.
There may be more badass men than Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, but no one has ever lived to tell if there are. The assassin and errand boy for gangster Marsellus Wallace never lets a man die without thoroughly ruining his soul beforehand with a Sonny Chiba quote. The image of him in all his black-suited and Jheri-curled glory is the perfect dance between blaxplotation and modern antihero.
That image might've been ruined forever had Tarantino gotten what he asked for...a gigantic afro for Jackson. Tarantino is not much for subtlety, you see? Contrary to popular belief, not all afros are created equal, so a crew member was sent off to fetch a box of afros for Tarantino and Jackson to dig through in hopes of finding the one that would make an audience take Winnfield as seriously as a Boney M comeback.
Luckily, in said crewmember's haste to fill a box with afros, he mistakenly added a Jheri curl wig, and both Tarantino and Jackson realized that maybe a balding Italian guy should not necessarily be the final say on hairstyle ideas. And thus was born Jules Winnfield, BMF, instead of Undercover Brother.
Before David Tennant walked in in red converse and owned every inch of the revived series, when people thought of Doctor Who they thought of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. Baker took over the role from Jon Pertwee in 1974, and for seven years completely redefined the character with his offbeat wit and penchant for offering jelly bellies to everyone. He remains one of the most popular Doctors ever, and usually sits second place behind Tennant.
Like all Doctors, Baker had his own special costume. Rather than the refined looks sported by his predecessors, the Fourth Doctor wore a battered, wide-brimmed hat, a dusty, long coat full of bizarre odds and ends, and an improbably long scarf. The Doctor claimed it was a gift from Nostradamus's wife, and it was four times as long as the imposingly tall Baker. It remains his character's most iconic accessory.
Costume designer James Acheson wanted a knitted scarf for Baker's Doctor, but didn't really know anything about knitting. So he gathered up a bunch of different samples of wool and delivered it to a friend who did named Begonia Pope, telling her to use it. And she did. All of it. Every single piece of fabric Acheson delivered made it into one ridiculously long scarf, and Baker loved it. It was a handy tool for the Doctor, who used it as a rope, a bandage, a tripwire, a leash and a measuring stick throughout his run.
There are two images of Marilyn Monroe that you likely have in your head. One is her from The Seven Year Itch trying to hold down her dress when the breeze from a passing subway train blows it up through a sidewalk grate. That's a good image, hell, it's one of the most defining images of the 20th century period. There's even a statue of the scene at the Women's Museum in Dallas.
But there's another image of Monroe that has stood the test of time, the above photo shot by Milton Greene. It's part of what's called the Ballerina Series, though that wasn't what they were going for. Green's photos depict Marilyn in a series of sweet, engaging shots that are both seductive and helpless. She appears somewhat childish, and yet at the same time mature. It's an unbelievably human portrayal.
Part of the appeal of that is the fact that Marilyn always appears to be trying to cover herself, as if she's afraid of revealing too much. That actually is what's going on. The Anne Klein dress that was provided for the shoot was two sizes too small for her and couldn't be zipped. Rather than postpone the shoot, Green told her to just hold it up, and boom, history.
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Darth Vader needs no introduction. No character in modern cinema can be compared to him. He's the worst of Hitler, the best of Jesus and every inch of him was memorable from head to toe.
The costume defines that. Vader hides his shattered body underneath a black suit and respirator that turns handicaps into a vision of terror. His distinctive breathing and the cold abyss of his eye sockets made him virtually impossible to stand face to face with, and you can't imagine him without them.
Yet, in the beginning all he wore was a black silk scarf. He was basically Cobra Commander. Vader only gained the helmet because Ralph McQuarrie realized that Vader would need a space suit to transfer from his Star Destroyer to Princess Leia's ship in the opening of the first movie. The look was so awesome he kept it on.