5 films | well-heeled hookers
From Holly Golightly to Vivian Ward, cinematic streetwalkers always seem to have the best clothes. But there’s more to stylish trick-turning than just Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Pretty Woman.
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
Synopsis: Thymian (Louise Brooks) is a young girl living a posh life as a pharmacist’s daughter until she is banished from her home after becoming pregnant (from a rape, no less). Sent to a dank reformatory as punishment, she eventually runs away from her hard-knock life only to end up living and working at a high-class brothel.
The Clothes: Brooks’ costumes in this film reflect the changing of the guard in fashion as the 1920s came to a close. There are the body-skimming shifts and cloche chapeaus indicative of the decade’s racy flapper fashion, but hemlines were dropping and waistlines were on the rise — many in the film sit at the natural waist. Frilly ruffles and feminine trims were also becoming more prominent after a decade of boyish, straight-lined shapes. Brooks famous bob, however, remains intact.
Belle de Jour (1967)
Synopsis: Catherine Deneuve plays Séverine, a disaffected housewife who loves her husband but can’t bring herself to become intimate with him. Instead, she spends her lonely afternoons turning tricks in an attempt to fill the sexual void with eroticism and adventure.
The Clothes: Belle de Jour marked the beginning of a 30-year friendship for Deneuve and master couturier, Yves Saint Laurent, who dressed her in the film. With black patent shoes by Roger Vivier, Séverine’s masterfully minimalist double-breasted jackets with military flourishes and prim, button-neck shifts and sweaters, reflect the rigidity of her self-imposed sexual repression.
Synopsis: When businessman Tom Gruneman disappears, his wife enlists family friend and cop John Klute (Donald Sutherland) as their private detective. While on the case, he becomes entangled with potential witness Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), an aspiring actress who makes a living as a call girl in New York City.
The Clothes: Bree’s wardrobe is the early 70’s wardrobe we always dreamed of: the midi skirts, turtlenecks, fringe handbags, velvet blazers. In fact, everything costume designer Ann Roth created for Fonda can be worn today. However, Roth says she’s not much of a fashion person, once telling Harper’s Bazaar, ‘I’ve never been near a runway…I don’t dress movie stars, I dress actors who are playing characters.’
Foxy Brown (1974)
Synopsis: Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) is a whole lotta woman, one that is hellbent on revenge. When her boyfriend is gunned down by members of drug ring, she’s goes undercover as a prostitute to snuff out the culprits.
The Clothes: Foxy isn’t a hooker, though she dresses the part with endless flair. Provocative palazzo jumpsuits with low-cut and keyhole necklines (better to show off the side-boob, inner-boob, and under-boob), bare midriffs, and ruffle trim gowns slit up-to-there. Director Jack Hill originally feared the wardrobe to be too trendy (potentially making the film look dated once the clothes went out of style) but would later admit it helped to make Foxy Brown iconic.
American Gigolo (1980)
Synopsis: As a hot fox escort to wealthy older women of Beverly Hills, Julian Kay (Richard Gere) seems to be living the dream, driving a speedy little Mercedes while draped in Armani. But when he falls in love with a politician’s wife (Lauren Hutton) and gets pinned for the murder of a client, his world simultaneously begins to fall apart and come together.
The Clothes: American Gigolo is widely credited with exposing the movie-watching masses to the magic of Giorgio Armani, and ushering in the era of slouchy tailoring in menswear, a style that also went on to define the look of ‘Miami Vice’. Gere almost exclusively wears Armani throughout the film, in one famous scene even inhaling a line a coke while meticulously asssembling his designer outfits.