With the advent of moving pictures came the need for an entire industry of people to help fulfill the demand for new films – lighting, set design, and of course, costumers.  The book Hollywood and History: Costume Design and Film by Edward Maeder has some interesting information about the first ever costume dramas, where some costumes for films originated, and how the first costume houses for film came into existence. He writes:

The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), both directed by D.W. Giffith are among the first films that specifically used costumes to create the illusion of an earlier time. Prior to these films, suggesting period dress was not considered. Actors frequently wore clothing from their personal wardrobes regardless of its accuracy for the period or their characters…Costumes played an important part in these pictures, but they were still primarily the responsibility of the director and actors. It was not until the 1920s, with the formation of large studios in Hollywood, that costume design became a specialized task. Studios began to maintain large costume departments with skilled staff that worked exclusively on costume pictures.

This dress is not only one of the earliest documented reuses of film costumes, but it also originated in the silent era.  It was worn both times on the actress Madge Shelton, first in the 1922 silent production of Lorna Doone, where she played the title character.  Ten years later in 1932 she wore it in the film White Zombie (considered the first full length Zombie film) as the character Madeline Short Parker.

Costume Credit:  The Dreamstress , Shrewsbury Lasses

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This pretty purple gown was first seen in 1994 on Julia Sawalha as Mercy Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit.  It was used again in the 2001 Victoria and Albert on Victoria Hamilton as Queen Victoria.

Costume Credit: Shrewsbury Lasses

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Occasionally movie costumes show up in places other than television or film.  Over the past few years a great many costumes that were originally designed for the screen were used in various photo shoots which then went on to grace the covers of historical fiction novels. This beautifully detailed green gown with woven sleeves originated in the 1984 Dutch film Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), where it was worn on Linda van Dyck as Anna of Saxony. It was seen again fourteen years later on an extra in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love.  It was used on another extra in the 2007 Hot Fuzz, and was finally utilized for the cover of the 2008 Alison Weir novel The Lady Elizabeth.

Costume Credit: Katie S., Shrewsbury Lasses, Sofia

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This elegant blue Regency era gown was first spotted in the 2007 film Becoming Jane, where it was worn on Anna Maxwell Martin as Cassandra Austen.  It was seen again that very same year on ITV’s Jane Austen Season, where it was worn by Catherine Walker as Eleanor Tilney in Northanger Abbey.

Costume Credit: Alessia

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The 1970s saw a slew of excellent BBC costume dramas, including the 1974 mini-series The Pallisers, based on several novels by Anthony Trollope.  Raymond Hughes, who worked on projects such as Doctor Who and Return to Oz, helped to design the hundreds of costumes required for The Pallisers, which spanned many years and the ever changing silhouette of the Victorian era.  The costumes for The Pallisers have since gone on to be used in numerous productions over the years, including The Paradise, The Buccaneers and the Onedin Line.

This beautiful embroidered gown, which appeared in The Pallisers on Susan Hampshire as Glencora Palliser, Duchess of Omnium was used again in 2006 in The Prestige, where it was worn on Scarlett Johansson as Olivia. The gown was eventually put on display several years ago as a part of Cosprop’s Cinematic Couture exhibit.  Photos of the exhibit allow one to better see the incredible amount of detail that went into every aspect of the costume.

Costume Credit: James

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This Elizabethan doublet was first designed for the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love, where it was worn on Gregor Truter as James Hemmings. It was seen again in 2001 on an extra in The Life and Adventures of Nicolas Nickleby, and then again in 2010 on an extra in the episode of Doctor Who entitled Vampires of Venice.

Costume Credit: Anna, Katie S. Shrewsbury Lasses

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Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe is still a household name more than fifty years after her death. Her films are still loved by millions, and a couple of the many iconic costumes that she wore over the years have sold for seven figure sums. 

The majority of Marilyn’s gowns were designed by William Travilla, and while we associate them with Marilyn and the roles she played, it is easy to forget that her wardrobe was the property of 20th Century Fox, the studio to which she was under contract.  Most of her costumes eventually found a second life on other actresses, either in film or in promotional images for the studio.

This orange gown, accented with sequins and beads appeared on Marilyn in the 1953 film Gentleman Prefer Blondes, where she played the character of Lorelei Lee.  Several years later in 1956, the dress was used again on Abbey Lincoln playing herself in The Girl Can’t Help It, where she performed a number entitled “Spread the Word”, which can be seen here.

Costume Credit: Lelia

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This beautiful diamond and pearl tiara first originated in a 1986 made for TV movie entitled Harem, where it was worn on Ava Gardner as Kadin.  It was seen again in 2009 in the third season of The Tudors on Annabelle Wallis as Queen Jane Seymour.

The tiara is quite similar to a piece called the “Grand Duchess Vladimir”, which you can learn more about the at The Royal Collection.

Costume Credit: Ricardo

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While costumes in films are extremely important in helping to define a character, it is not often that a costume is actually a direct part of the story or plot.  This green bonnet plays an important role in a scene from Gone with the Wind. In both the film and the novel, it is the piece of clothing that Rhett Butler uses to tempt Scarlett O’hara out of mourning far earlier than appropriate. Mitchell writes of the bonnet:

It was of dark-green taffeta, lined with water silk of a pale-jade color. The ribbons that tied under the chin were as wide as her hand and they, too, were pale green. And, curled about the brim of this confection was the perkiest of green ostrich plumes.

The hat was re-created by designer Walter Plunkett for the 1939 production of Gone with the Wind, where it was worn on Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara.  The piece would be used again in 1941 in Go West Young Lady on Penny Singleton as Belinda Pendergast.  In 1942 it was worn without the ribbons on Helen Parrish as Ellen Sanford in the film In Old California.

Costume Credit: Nikki at The Scarlett Rose Garden, Tina

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Science fiction films have a long history of reuse with costumes, sets, sound design, and even the occasional video footage.   It has been rumored that when Stanley Kubrick finished his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey that he chose to destroy most of the blueprints, props and models, as he did not want to have them appear again in future science fiction films like so many others before his.

Whether or not this rumor is true, a few rare props and costumes managed to escape destruction to either go up for auction or be used in other films.  This blue space suit is one of three created for the film.  While its yellow and red counterparts were worn in the film itself, the blue suit was only used as a prop.   The blue suit was seen again in 1994 in the television show Babylon 5, in the episode entitled Babylon Squared, where it was worn on Michael O’Hare as  Jeffrey Sinclair.  It has been altered in some minor ways, but ultimately is easily identifiable as the same piece due to the shape of the helmet and the placement of the various patches.

Costume Credit: dire-canisdirus

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