The relationship between movie costumes and pop culture is always interesting to explore. Fashion in films is not just about surface level feelings and in great movies the costuming is just as remembered as plot. Movie goers can really understand the atmosphere of a character, defining characteristics of a character and the theme and message of the movie through clothes It is no wonder why many films have big budgets dedicated to costuming. We like films that have lasting and impactful fashion statements. So far we have talked about films that are overt in their use of fashion, for example The Devil Wears Prada. This week’s blog we dip our toes in the sci-fi genre. Luc Besson is well known in the film industry and his most recent work, Valerian, although a blockbuster fail is anything but visually stunning. On the surface, Valerians costuming seems simple, not as elaborate as Besson’s other films. It would be a mistake though, to say that there wasn’t a meticulous crew working to match the easy going tone the movie has. Fashion is such a vital part of films and Besson films utilize fashion to help define characters and move the plot along. Besson has worked with many stylists and fashion condissours, and today we will exam his relationship with fashion after Jean Paul Gaultier through their collaboration on The Fifth Element. This was a big budget film and, at the time the biggest budget film not made in the U.S. at the time. The film has a cult following and there is no denying that the costuming is a main element in the show. It is said that Gaultier designed roughly one thousand costumes for this movie (can you imagine the amount of sketches?). The costuming of the Fifth Element encompasses Gaultier’s past works, takes inspiration from 80s sci-fi and punk scenes respectively and many of the outfits are seemingly leaning into BDSM culture and lingerie wear. This amalgamation of fashion has creating some of the most interesting costuming. Gaultier specifically chose materials that he seen as futuristic such as rubber for costuming to help hone in on the sci-fi aspect. Let’s look at some iconic outfits from the film.
If there is one outfit that the film is famous for, its Mila Jovich’s character Leeloo’s skimpy bandage garment. Funny story, Gaultier stated in an interview with Vogue, the piece was really a one off last minute creation, yet for all that it is the most iconic. You’re bound to see a few cosplayers every year flaunting their best LeeLoo impression. If your unfamiliar, Mila’s character has just broke out of a government facility that recreated her using biotech. Afraid and unfamiliar with the territory she jumps off the building (think Blade Runner city vibes) and into a taxi where she meets the leading man, Bruce Willis character Korben Dallas. Mila was excited and slightly embarrassed at the characters revealing outfit, and rightfully so considering she did so many of her stunts and ended up bruised due to the nature of the costume. She admitted in an interview with Dazed magazine that the machismo of the set was also not great.
If Leeloo’s character stole the show, there is no question whose iconic outfit comes next. If Chris Tucker as the effeminate Rudy Rhod doesn’t make you want to simultaneously cringe and fangirl, something’s wrong. Its hard to believe that this guy wearing a leopard print dress with a queen Elizabeth style collar is a babe among woman. His character really blurs the line between gender and if any character has any cultural impact in fashion and other areas it’s Rhod.
Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg is seriously a hot mess character whose evil, yet dim witted nature is perfectly portrayed in his costuming. The combo of a pinstripe suit over what looks like an asian warrior suit (apparently Triad warlords served as inspiration) helps define the character. Our favorite piece of his wardrobe has to be the pinstripe element which takes us back to gangster culture of the 1900s. It makes us think of Zootsuiters for sure. If the Hitler influence A.K.A the dimwitted-ness of Zorg isn’t apparent by the weird facial hair and the glaring army suit pants and boot combo didn’t clue you in, no worries we got you.
For all the main character costuming, what is truly remarkable is the attention to detail for the extras. I love the use of color in this film. Bright orange was a bold choice for costuming because it gave the characters a simple feel was modern and fresh compared to other films in the genre who use gloomy or mute colors. Alexander MaQueen, Machino Scott and many other designers have had shows all clearly influenced to Gaultier and his work on the fifth Element. Today, sci-fi is a huge section in the entertainment industry and you can see many outfits inspired by The Fifth Element. If you have anything to add to this blog, let us know in the comments!