Costume design always plays a key role in films for every decade and the 2000s were no exception. From the familiar Juicy Couture worn by The Plastics in Mean Girls, to the fantastical Qing-era robes worn in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the ’00s were a time that encouraged colorful new aesthetics that contrasted the dark, grunge-filled era of the ’90s.

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With the rise of Y2K fashion pushed forward by apps such as Depop and TikTok, as well as fashion it-girls such as Bella Hadid, lowrise jeans and UGG boots are finally returning into the fashion zeitgeist. These films helped to establish the 2000s as a unique time of fashion history, and they reflected as well as inspired the fashion trends found in the noughties.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Image via 20th Century Fox

The jukebox musical directed by film auteur Baz Luhrmann is a fabulous love letter to the real-life Parisian cabaret that existed during the fin de siècle (meaning “end of the century”) of the 1890s. The film is filled with corset-wearing can-can dancers, with petticoats large enough to smother someone and bling so bright it could blind.

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Catherine Martin, the film’s co-costume designer alongside Angus Strathie, was responsible for the film’s campy costumes and worked hard to incorporate the historical extravagance of the time period, as well as including the early 2000s style. ‘Moulin Rouge!’ remains a staple of excellent costume design in the 2000s film repertoire, and is one of Hollywood’s most theatrical and beautiful films to date.


Legally Blonde (2001)

Legally Blonde Reese Witherspoon
Image via MGM

Stepping into a moody courtroom in a bright pink ensemble is one of cinema’s most iconic entrances by one of the most beloved film characters of all time, Elle Woods. Legally Blonde follows the story of a bubbly, ambitious, blonde-haired young woman (played by the 2000s heartthrob Reese Witherspoon) working her way into Harvard’s elite law school after her boyfriend dumps her for being too ‘Marilyn’ and less ‘Jackie’.

Sophie de Rakoff was responsible for creating many of Elle’s looks, including the pink cloud sorority dress, the fluffy Playboy-inspired bunny costume, as well as her blue sequined pencil skirt and plaid tie law student garb. Nothing screams Y2K fashion more than Legally Blonde, and will forever hold a place in the esteemed pantheon of pink-wearing icons.

Dreamgirls (2006)

Jennifer Hudson With Beyonce In Dreamgirls

Moving back to the glitzy, glamorous age of the late 1960s to the early 1970s, the musical film Dreamgirls follows the rise of the Detroit girl group ‘The Dreams’, (inspired by the real-life Motown group ‘The Supremes’ led by the incomparable Diana Ross) in all their sequined, satin gloved glory.

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Inspired by the disco divas of the time such as Cher and Aretha Franklin, costume designer Sharen Davis drew on her memory of Motown singers of the past to create gorgeous mermaid-tail gowns for lead actresses Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Hudson. While not necessarily 2000s, the fashion in this film plays a clear homage to the high-glam of the past with colorful ensembles found in the contemporary trends of the film’s release.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Based on the famous Dr. Seuss story of the same name, this Christmas flick is pure festive camp. The Grinch has had many iterations, but real-life cartoon character Jim Carrey really brought him to new heights. The incredible makeup and prosthetics were provided by Kazuhiro Tsuji and Rick Baker, who helped the film win the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

The film’s costume designer, Rita Ryack, based many of the character’s clothing on 1950s aesthetics, including the ultra-glamorous Martha May Whovier played by Christine Baranski, and Cindy Lou Who, played by Taylor Momsen before her rock-star era. By doing this, Rita helped the film gain a timeless and cartoon appeal that still remains a must-watch during the Christmas season.

Mean Girls (2004)

Would 2000s fashion be anywhere without Mean Girls? Arguably the most iconic high school cliques of all time, the pink-clad fashionistas known as ‘The Plastics’ have firmly placed themselves in film and fashion history forever. Led by the terrifying yet effortlessly chic Regina George (Rachel McAdams), The Plastics include the ditzy yet well-meaning Karen Smith, (Amanda Seyfried), devoted follower Gretchen Weiners (Lacey Chabert), and outsider Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), who all wear true essentials needed in any 2000s wardrobe.

Mary Jane Fort was the costume designer for the film and used early 2000s fashion pioneers such as Paris Hilton as the main inspiration for the character’s clothes, and included graphic tees, argyle sweaters, and mini-skirts in the characters’ wardrobes. Mary did this to add a sense of realism and use the fashion and trends that high school girls were actually wearing during this time. So fetch!

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Image via 20th Century Fox

The Devil Wears Prada in an article about 2000s film fashion? Groundbreaking. Following in the footsteps of other New York City fashionistas such as the Sex and the City gang, (which costume designer Patricia Field also worked on) lead actresses Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt look stunning in head-to-toe designer clothing as they navigate their way through the brutal fashion industry.

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Patricia Field was nominated for an Oscar for her costume design in the film, and created stunning looks from the green coat worn by Anne Hathaway with leopard print applique, to Stanley Tucci‘s well-tailored, plaid three-piece suit. The awkward Andy (Hathaway) quickly transforms into a fashionable scene-stealer due to the influences of fellow assistant Emily (Blunt) and Anna Wintour-esque Miranda Priestly (Streep) and soon learns how to place her boots into the fashion world. And yes, they’re Chanel.

In The Mood For Love (2000)

Image via Block 2 Pictures

If clothes could speak, humans wouldn’t be needed in Wong Kar-wei‘s ultra-saturated romantic drama masterpiece, In the Mood for Love. Set in British Hong Kong in the 1960s, the story follows two neighbors (played by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung) as they grow closer due to both their partners being unfaithful. The clothing worn by Su Li-zhen (Cheung) is especially impactful, as the bright and dark cheongsam dresses she wears simultaneously stand out and blend into the atmospheric backgrounds she surrounds herself in, emphasizing her isolation and loneliness from the other people in her apartment building.

William Chang worked with Wong Kar-wei to create the costumes in the film, and used them to help express the unspoken desires and emotions felt by the characters. The growing relationship between the protagonists is reflected in the clothes they wear and is a must-watch for any lover of mid-century East-Asian fashion.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Image via Columbia Pictures

Bringing the most infamous fashion it-girl in history to the silver screen is no easy feat, and being responsible for her extensive wardrobe is even more difficult. Led by film auteur Sofia Coppola, the film ties in the unabashed opulence of pre-revolution France with the bubblegum-pop soundtrack of the 2000s, just a year shy of the global financial crisis.

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Costume designer Milena Canonero had the almost impossible task of dressing the doomed queen of France, played by Kristen Dunst, and helped her win her third Oscar for costume design. She incorporated the styles and silhouettes found in 1700s France, as well as contemporary sensibilities such as the use of hot pink, a popular color found in the sweatsuits of fashion powerhouse Juicy Couture. The cake-loving queen’s fashion is put on full display in this flick and is a masterclass of costume design in film.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Michelle Yeoh Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

A love letter to traditional Chinese martial arts, Ang Lee‘s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon features some of the most beautiful shots in film as well as some of the most thrilling aerial fight scenes in cinema history. Inspired by classic Chinese opera costumes and aesthetics, Tim Yip incorporated the fashion silhouettes worn during the Qing dynasty but chose to use the colors found in the earlier Tang dynasty in order to include softer, more elegant designs.

The flowing robes worn by the characters in the film help to emphasize the beauty of martial arts, as they look as though they fly through the air when fighting their opponents. ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ is yet another film that fully utilizes its costumes and design to create a world of pure magnificence and elegance.

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