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The 2000s in fashion – iconic movie costumes of the 2000s

July 28, 2023

The 2000s in fashion were influenced by several iconic movies. Sometimes it was a particular scene which caught the eye, sometimes the whole movie was an inspiration from start to finish. There were several opulent period movies of the 2000s that had us swooning, and though we couldn’t imitate the look head to toe we tried out the footwear or the colours to get the mood.

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge (2001) may well have kicked off, or at least highly contributed to, the 2000s fashion for burlesque. Who wouldn’t want to wear a glittery corset and fluffy knickers just like Nicole Kidman as the beautifully dying courtesan and nightclub star Satine?


Actually, I truly believe it was the accompanying music video that sent the whole thing stratospheric. Lil Kim, Pink, Mya and Christina Aguilera gleefully donned ringmaster’s coats and nylon ruffles, along with masses of bling to sing a catchy tune that had us hooked on whole concept.


Key fashion scene: Satine getting changed in the middle of the club. Shielded by a wall of multi-coloured ra-ra skirts held up by fellow dancers, she goes from a twinkling black-and-silver corset to a crystal encrusted white dress with long white gloves, whilst singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”.

The 2000s in fashion – Mean Girls

Mean Girls (2004) centres around Lindsay Lohan as the odd one out, struggling to fit into high school. A bunch of titular Mean Girls try to stop her. Of course, the mean girls have some very specific fashion looks that they are very proud of. They include Juicy Couture tracksuits.


Key fashion scene: “On Wednesdays We Wear Pink”. This phrase has slipped into the vernacular: watch the film to find out what that means.

Legally Blonde

2000s in fashion - Legally Blonde - The Musical

Legally Blonde – The Musical

Speaking of pink, there is nothing more iconic of 2000s cinema or fashion than Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) in her pink dress in a sombrely-dressed courtroom  in Legally Blonde (2001). The character was criticised by her boyfriend for being too ‘Marilyn’ and not ‘Jackie’ enough. So she is determined to prove herself as a lawyer. She never stops her bubbly character shining out, nor changes her long blonde hair or vivacious outfits.


Key fashion scene: Elle sports masses of fun outfits throughout the film. One of the best is perhaps when she get serious as she enters Harvard Law School and wears a sensible pencil skirt. Except this one is in blue sequins.

The 2000s in fashion – Dreamgirls

2000s in fashion - Dreamgirls Premiere

Dreamgirls Premiere – Jennifer Hudson – 21 January 2007 S Pakhrin from DC, USA, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Dreamgirls (2006) played homage to girl groups of the early 1970s, specifically The Supremes. Those outfits are really something special, with each band member dressed in matching, but often not identical, dresses, perfectly accessorised. This film brought back a vogue for vintage.


Key fashion scene: there is an unending stream of great outfits in this film, but the slinky silver gowns of the finale are not to be missed.

The Devil Wears Prada

The 2000s in fashion - iconic movie costumes of the 2000s

The devil wears Prada
Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep
25 September, 2006
spaceodissey, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia CommonS

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) obviously can’t be left off this list. It’s based on a book of the same name by Lauren Weisberger. This smash hit tells the story of a naive young woman, Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, who joins a fashion magazine and, of course, makes several severe fashion faux pas before becoming an elegant swan. The icy magazine editor, Miranda Priestly, played with relish by Meryl Streep, was supposedly based on Vogue editor Anna Wintour.


Key fashion scene: everything! Look out for Andy’s green, leopard-print coat and Stanley Tucci’s suits. Costume designer Patricia Field was nominated for an Oscar for her work on the film.

The 2000s in fashion – Marie Antoinette

Oh wow. Marie Antoinette (2006) is not historically accurate and barely has any story at all. But it is so dreamily beautiful and has such a great soundtrack that it hardly seems the point. Just see it as an extended music video and you’ll be fine. It is the prettiest of films, and concentrates greatly on cake-eating and shoe trying-on, so that we all immediately wanted pastel coloured satin kitten heels, and thought that if the price of them was a beheading it seemed rather reasonable.


Key fashion scene: again, all of it. But there is a particularly great sequence when Marie Antoinette and her ladies-in-waiting, prettily dimpled and powdered and squashed on satin sofas together view fabric, shoes and dresses whilst scoffing dainties and champagne that is ravishing.

The 2000s in fashion – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

HKDI TKL Tiu Keng Leng exhibition Yip Tim Blue mode & Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon clothing exhibition

HKDI TKL Tiu Keng Leng exhibition Yip Tim Blue mode & Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon clothing exhibition
Guang Lreonmiag, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2006) is a deliberately stylised homage to classic Chinese Opera. The stagey, and very slow, fight scenes can be a bit bewildering, but they make sense if you know the source inspiration. It is meant to look poetic.


More easy to interpret, perhaps, are the ravishing costumes. Tim Yip, who designed the costumes and set, won an Oscar for best costume design that year, as well as a host of other awards. He described how he had combined the clothing of different time periods to get his effect. “The silhouette of the Qing dynasty costumes is accurate, but the cut is softer and more romantic. I used the colours from the earlier Tang dynasty, which are less harsh and contrasted, more elegant and harmonious.”


Key fashion scene: there are richer and more striking outfits than this throughout the film, but I always loved the clothes that Jen wears at the end of the film, as she *spoiler* jumps to her death. Clad in simple grey and white, as she soars through the air each delicate layer is revealed, gently fluttering.


The movie was an unexpected hit, and many other Chinese films in a similar style quickly followed it. It also brought interest in Chinese traditional fashion to 2000s audiences.

Of course, there were many other types of fashion trends in the early 2000s. Tank tops, crop tops, juicy couture tracksuits, halter tops, skinny jeans low rise jeans, Alexander McQueen leather jackets, studded belts, flip flops and cargo pants, were some. Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton, wore popular accessories on the red carpet.