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History Inspired Fashions from the Silver Screen

Whether you're hoping to reinvent your look or trying to update your wardrobe, consider borrowing a few time-tested fashion elements from the past. At Eras of Elegance, we like to look to a few of our favorite period films for inspiration!

As of late, lace has come back in style in full force. From haute couture runways to department store displays, we see lace blouses with a vintage flair everywhere! Calista Flockhart donned a beautiful Victorian high-necked blouse in Fox's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999). A blouse like hers can be worn under a sweater cardigan or a fitted princess-seam vest for casual, understated elegance. Accessories should be minimal, however, so as not to detract from intricate lace detailing around the neck. Add a single cameo brooch or a strand of pearls for a truly historical look. For subtle elegance in the office, try pairing a lacy, vintage style blouse with a simple straight skirt to dress up your career style.

A fitted Victorian jacket is the perfect, versatile piece for going outdoors. In "Moulin Rouge" (2001), Nicole Kidman's Satine wore an elegant brown jacket, paired with a long full skirt, during the "Come What May" and "The Show Must Go On" musical sequences. And in "The House of Mirth" (2000), Gillian Anderson wore a number of these types of jackets in blue, grey and black tones. A form fitting jacket trimmed in velvet and flaring out at the hips makes for great outerwear before the weather turns too cold. It can also double as a blazer for the office. Try pairing this piece with straight, wool pants and lace-up leather ankle boots. A turtleneck or high-collar blouse with simple detailing is perfect to wear underneath.

One of our favorite pieces for the cooler months is the full, bustled walking skirt from the late Victorian and early Edwardian period. A five-gore skirt in a subtle plaid or striped pattern (like the one worn by Cate Blanchett in "An Ideal Husband" (1999)) is perfect to match crisp white blouse trimmed in lace. This style was popular during the 1890s and early 1900s, when women began taking on activities such as sports and office work, and found that they needed a more casual and practical wardrobe. The full walking skirt, which allowed plenty of movement and yet also flattered the figure when paired with a fitted jacket or leg-o-mutton blouse, was just what modern women needed at the time. If you're not sure the bustle will work at school or in the office, try a dark wool skirt with a few pleats (or even buttons) in the back, a look that closely resembles a Victorian walking skirt. Finish off the look with lace-up pointed toe shoes with a slight heel, or leather boots.

The wonderful "Wives and Daughters" (1999) miniseries from the BBC deserves praise and recognition, not only for its engaging plot and fine performances but its elegant Victorian costumes! This 1999 miniseries is a delightful adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's unfinished novel of the same name, directed and produced by Andrew Davies and Sue Birtwistle of "Pride and Prejudice" fame. The beautifully filmed "Wives and Daughters" features a cheerful blend of Regency-style empire dresses and matching bonnets, and gorgeous Victorian ball gowns! Molly's dresses are simple yet elegant, usually a high-waisted cotton dress, almost reminiscent of the Regency period. Her dresses are often made from delicate flower prints of pastel colors. She is also fond of wearing jumper dresses paired with simple, lace-trimmed white blouses. The one exception seems to be Molly's brightly colored silk plaid dress that she wears during her first visit to Hamley Hall. She wears the unusual gown on the evening when she first meets Roger Hamley, whom she suspects of having been ungracious to his older brother, Osbourne. Upon observing the dress, Mrs. Hamley asks Molly whether the plaid is the tartan of her father's clan. Somewhat embarassed, Molly laughts and responds that the lady that sold her the gown promised that it was very fashionable last season in London. On the other hand, the worldly Cynthia's costumes are brighter and more extravagant, and the character wears rich colored gowns with puffed sleeves and large hats with bold flowers. Fashion is very important to Cynthia, and she relishes in wearing the latest trends. When Cynthia returns from a trip to London, she remarks at the many extravagant gowns that her uncle has purchased for her. One in particular is made from deep green silk, and she is truly the belle of the ball when she sways on the dance floor in it. Both girls are also fond of wearing white lace collars, as well as adorning their upswept hairstyles with colorful satin ribbons or dainty flowers. For example, Claire excitedly pulls apart a beautiful tussie mussie sent from Hamley Hall for her, and instead uses the flowers to embellish Molly's hair. Finally, Claire Gibson's costumes are lavish and almost gawdy by today's standards, but quite typical of the wealthy older woman of her day. For example, Claire wears large wide-brimmed hats and headpieces throughout the movie. At one ball, her hair is upswept and embellished by feathers, flowers and ribbons that sit several inches off her head! In addition, it is obvious that Claire, like her daughter, enjoys following the trends of the day. She is impressed and takes cues from London society, and such interest seems to reflect the character's overall tendency toward superficiality.

With a keen eye, one can find vintage fashion elements in the most unexpected places! For example, in the 2002 blockbuster, "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones", a science fiction fantasy set in a faraway galaxy long, long ago, the heroine Padme Amidala (played by Natalie Portman) dons a host of fabulous costumes, each borrowing elements from the elaborate gowns of the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and even Victorian eras! Because Amidala lives in a fictional galaxy during an undisclosed time, the character's wardrobe can blend the best of historical fashions in her own unique style without appearing anachronistic. Her costumes are lavish, cut from luxurious fabrics layered one upon another, with intricate detailing and embroidery. In the beginning of the movie, Amidala is dressed in formal, regal attire fit for her new role as Senator. Her royal blue gown is reminiscent of the elaborate gowns worn by Renaissance royalty. As the movie progresses, her costumes become more "modern," so to speak. In the now famous scene of the film where Amidala and Anakin share a romantic afternoon together in a lush field, she dons a flowing off-the-shoulder dress trimmed with rosettes reminiscent of a Baroque or perhaps Georgian gown. And finally, in the final frames of the film, Amidala takes her vows to Anakin in a cream colored, lace-trimmed wedding dress inspired by the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.