Wardrobe remix: the movie
January 22, 2014 4:00 PM   Subscribe

This morning I was thinking about how in the movie Housesitter, Goldie Hawn's character wears a very limited number of pieces of clothing combined in a variety of different ways. My mom pointed this out to me at a very impressionable age, and noted how this was much more realistic than infinite wardrobes. I'm wondering what other other movies have an obviously finite wardrobe for a lead female character?
posted by Nimmie Amee to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Blue Jasmine, actually. Which makes sense, since she's a disgraced former socialite who is desperately trying to maintain that air of class with the few designer pieces she was able to keep.
posted by Madamina at 4:06 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Not a movie but I've noticed (and always appreciated the relative realism in) the fact that Peggy Olson on Mad Men has worn dresses and outfits across multiple episodes (and even seasons). Pretty sure other characters do too but she was always the one I noticed for some reason (maybe because she was just starting out as a career gal for the first few seasons and probably had less money to buy lots of clothes).
posted by lovableiago at 4:08 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is TV and not films, but both Mad Men and Downton Abbey come to mind.

For Mad Men, this is especially true if you look at the working women at Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce Whatever We'Re Calling It Now Because I Forget). All of the secretaries, including Peggy and Joan, wear the same outfits over and over. This has changed a little in recent seasons, after Joan became a partner and Peggy moved up in the creative world, and as the world of the show expands and times change. But for the first few seasons, it's definitely true.

For Downton Abbey, watch the second season and notice that each of the female characters wears the same few outfits over and over for the duration of World War I. Sybil continues to wear her more formal pre-war outfits after she elopes with Branson but before her pregnancy starts to show, as well. In show time, that's something like 8 years for Sybil's eveningwear, spanning the ages of 16 to 24 for the character. After the war, wardrobes repeat more often than you'd think for a show about a bunch of extremely rich people where half the fun is the gorgeous costumes. And the servants always wear the same clothes. Daisy got a new dress around the time she got a promotion. Mrs. Hughes has been alternating the same two dresses for I think the entire run of the show.
posted by Sara C. at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2014

In Man of Marble, which is one of my all time favorite films, the awesome filmmaker heroine basically has one outfit for her entire filmic quest. I think she wears something else at one point in the movie, but that's it. (The sequel? Super disappointing and sexist, even though it should have been great because it's about the Solidarity shipyard strikes).
posted by Frowner at 4:11 PM on January 22, 2014

Oh, and for a movie, I have to mention Star Wars. Princess Leia gets one, maybe two, maximum three, outfits per film.

Science Fiction, in general, tends to minimize the number of costume changes, since everything has to be completely brainstormed from scratch and, unless it's a huge franchise like Star Trek, there's no back stock of appropriate costumes for minor characters and background actors.
posted by Sara C. at 4:14 PM on January 22, 2014

Breakfast at Tiffany's fits the bill; black dress, black cigarette pants, sweater, accessories, styled in endless variation. You might also enjoy looking for more examples in the excellent Clothes on Film.
posted by stellaluna at 4:15 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Sweet Charity. Shirley MacLaine wears the same simple black dress in several scenes (sometimes with a blouse underneath, or belted, or with a cardigan over it).
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:44 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also a TV show, sorry
Angela's wardrobe in My So Called life was like this - maybe 10 different components combined in various (very 90s) outfits. I thought this was especially unique for a teenage female character.
posted by twoporedomain at 4:48 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: TV shows are totally okay! Also, these are awesome answers.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2014

Lucille Ball said that she made it a point for Lucy Ricardo to repeat outfits, because that's what practically every woman does.
posted by jgirl at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

The computer game Phantasmagoria consists entirely of live action filmed sequences. The protagonist is a woman and she wears the same clothes all the way through, over the course of several days.

They considered putting in a scene where she opened her closet and it was full of duplicates of the same outfit, as a sight gag, but decided not to.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:31 PM on January 22, 2014

One of the things that really makes the atmosphere of Battlestar Galactica, in my opinion, is the fact that everyone really seems to only have a handful of outfits, which makes sense, as the entire series takes place with the characters stranded in space with basically only what they had in their luggage as possessions. I'm pretty sure President Roslin gets some more clothes after the first or second season, but she does spend a significant amount of time rotating 3 outfits.
posted by NoraReed at 5:50 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kind of a silly example, but the first thing that comes to mind is the Simpsons episode where they join the country club and Marge keeps altering the one designer dress she got at the discount store to try to trick the socialites into thinking she has many different pieces.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:14 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty sure the ladies on The Golden Girls had repeat outfits.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:31 PM on January 22, 2014

The ghost, Annie, in Being Human (UK) series. As the series goes on and her powers increase, there are some wardrobe changes I think, but at the beginning she's only supposed to have the clothes she died in, so it's a very layered outfit that could be changed around a lot. (Same goes for ghost Sally in the American remake.)

The UK seasons are very short, and up on Netflix streaming if you're curious. (I loved the first 3 seasons, but the final 2 are pretty awful, be forewarned)
posted by oh yeah! at 6:49 PM on January 22, 2014

Desperately Seeking Susan does this in a fun way - Rosanna Arquette lives out of a small suitcase of Madonna's clothes - so you're actually seeing both lead actresses in some of the same clothes throughout.

Also Daria, though that probably doesn't count.
posted by Mchelly at 8:21 PM on January 22, 2014

I believe the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility did pretty well with this.
posted by bq at 8:34 PM on January 22, 2014

I rember noticing this phenemon in Six Days and Seven Nights. Ann Heche is stranded on an island with Harrison Ford. She keeps changing her look through layering and mixing things up.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:43 PM on January 22, 2014

Lillie (1978), based on the story of Lillie Langtry, at one point had one black gown which she wore with various trimmings went she went out into society. There was a story line that involved a woman borrowing her "famous" black dress and ruining it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:43 PM on January 22, 2014

Meg Ryan in French Kiss
posted by sconbie at 2:19 AM on January 23, 2014

Hitchcock's The Birds. I noticed as a kid that Tippi Hedren wears the same mint green suit throughout the film. It grows shabbier, of course, but she never changes clothes.
posted by workerant at 4:59 AM on January 23, 2014

Two recent examples out of France are Haute Cuisine and The Returned, both of which are fantastic.
posted by amelioration at 6:42 AM on January 23, 2014

oh yeah!'s ghost example reminded me that in The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis' outfits are just combinations of the clothes he was wearing when he died.
posted by LolaGeek at 7:25 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not female, but Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything repeated outfits, and Ben in Parks and Rec often wears the same Letters To Cleo shirt.
posted by mippy at 7:58 AM on January 23, 2014

The Good Life (UK)/Good Neighbors (US) had an interesting version of this. The neighbors, Jerry and Margo, had an infinite (or very large finite) wardrobe. The main characters, Tom and Barbara, who living off the land in their front and back yards, had a much smaller wardrobe. They changed clothes every show, but you would see the same outfits three or four shows later. When they made changes to their clothing, like Barbara sewing a big orange patch onto some pants, those changes would remain. Every four shows or so that orange patch would show up.
posted by lharmon at 9:07 AM on January 23, 2014

The cast of Merlin tends to have a pretty limited wardrobe; Merlin himself almost always wears the same style of scarf, of which he seems to have 3 or 4. Gwen also tends to wear the same dresses over and over, though I think Morgana gets a bit more clothes variety. They also reuse armor and stuff, which makes sense to me. I think the way it comes together comes off in a way that makes sense for the setting-- they wouldn't have huge amounts of redundant clothes-- but it also makes them feel a bit more like cartoon or comic characters, since their clothes are both repeated and tend to be variations on a single theme.
posted by NoraReed at 1:37 PM on January 24, 2014

This is tangential/meta, but I found it fascinating: Recycled Movie Costumes.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:40 PM on January 24, 2014

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