11 of the Most Expensive Costumes Made for a Hollywood Film
August 8, 2017
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953)
Bright pink gown created by William Travilla, $310,000
One of three gowns worn by blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe appear on this list. The first being the bright pink gown with an oversized ribbon the actress wore during the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953. The dress has raised in value not only because of its part in creating an icon, but because of the scene it participated in: Monroe singing her signature tune Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend. From an expected value price of $150,000, the dresses eventually sold at 310,00 in auction. Playing the lighthearted, dim Lorelei Lee in the film adaption of the Broadway musical, Gentleman was the first film that truly captured audiences hearts for the screen legend. She was an overnight sensation, easily stealing the spotlight from her screen partner, seasoned actress Jane Russell. What the general public were unaware of was Marilyn’s perfectionism. The strapless, satin gown was even lined with felt so that it would remain stiff for the numerous shots Marilyn required.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
Judy Garland’s Dorothy Costume and Ruby Slippers, designed by costume designer Gilbert Adrian, approximately $1,522,000 with an undisclosed amount for the remaining three Ruby Slippers
As discussed in our previous post on expensive film jewelry, the iconic ruby slippers (made out of mere sequin…and a lot of film magic) from the Wizard of Oz is as rare and expensive as actual jewelry. Designed by MGM’s Chief Costume Designer Gilbert Adrian for the 1939 picture, it is rumored that at least seven slippers exist. So far, only four have been accounted for. The first was found in a dusty MGM storage facility by a Kent Warner. He sold it to actress Debbie Reynolds who at the time was prepping to open a museum with memorbillia from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Reynolds eventually sold it at auction in 1979 to a collector for $15,000, who donated it to the Smithsonian Museum. Over the years, the price of the elusive ruby slippers only rose in value. Lady Gaga is said to own a pair, after it was gifted to her on her 25th birthday. In 2012, Leonardo DiCaprio purchased the most important of the known four ruby slipper pairs (rumored to have cost $612,000). The pair he bought was inscribed with “#7 Judy Garland AKA Witch’s Shoe,” which is said to be the one Judy Garland wore in the movie. He returned it to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (which is popularly known by the public as the awards giving body that hands out Oscars every year). They are set to be displayed in their upcoming museum which will open in 2018. The most popular ruby slipper story is that of collector Michael Shaw, who loaned his pair to a Minnesota Museum. It was eventually stolen, which caused a media frenzy. Today, there is still a search for the missing pair, with an anonymous party putting out a $1 million reward to anybody who can bring the slippers safety back to its owner.
The blue and white checkered cotton dress that gave Garland her Kansas-farm-girl look was sold for a whopping $910,000. It is said that a small tag is sewn onto the back with the movie stars name written on it.
LE MANS (1971)
Steve McQueen’s Racing costume, $984,000
Actor Steve McQueen was known as “one of the coolest guys in the world” during the height of his film career. By the late 60s, he developed a persona for sleek, car-loving gentlemen ready for life on the fast lane. He appeared in Le Mans, the racing movie that is now a certified cult classic. The 1971 picture spawned the interest of every car and cinema lover. His racing jumpsuit, made by Hinchman in Indianapolis has Michael Delaney (his character’s name) embroidered on its pockets. Other logos embroidered on the suit include the American Flag, and the logos of Hueuer, Firestone, and Gulf. Eventually, the costume became one of the most sought after sports and film memorabilia from its time. It sold at auction for almost a million dollars.
MY FAIR LADY (1964)
Ascot costume designed by costume designer Cecil Beaton, $3.7 Million
Costume and production designer Cecil Beaton reached his magnum opus with his Academy Award winning work on the 1964 film My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. In a long line of iconic costumes worn by the actress in the classic movie musical, the grandest was Eliza Doolittle’s black and white Ascot costume with matching hat. Based on the Greek myth Pygmalion, Henry Higgins (Harrison) tries to pass off a penniless flower girl as a duchess (Hepburn). This gown was worn by Hepburn’s Eliza in the scene at the Ascott races, her first brush with London’s high society. Beaton, who did all the design related work on the film, cleverly married the entire Ascott scene theme to match Hepburn’s gown. It resulted to a remarkable scene and one of the most remembered in the film. The dress was also selected to appear in every promotional still photograph and sketch for the Best Picture winner. By the time it was auctioned off, a collector bid $3.7 and won!
SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955)
White dress by William Travilla, $4.6 Million
The second Marilyn Monroe dress on the list is the white cocktail dress she wore in the 1955 sex comedy The Seven-Year Itch. The scene of Monroe walking over a subway grate in New York City while William Travilla dress is blown up is now one of the most famous images in pop culture. Directed by Oscar winning director Billy Wilder for 20th Century Fox, the scene was set to shoot at New York City’s Trans-Loux station on September 1954. With Marilyn’s presence, crowds gathered to watch, causing Wilder to cancel production without getting the perfect shot. He re-created the scene in a studio lot back in Hollywood. Marilyn’s husband at the time, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, was said to have hated the white cocktail dress with a plunging neckline. That didn’t stop one collector for spending a record breaking $4.6 for it in auction, the most expensive ever paid for a Hollywood film costume.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
Maria von Trapp’s Novice dress worn by Julie Andrews by costume designer Dorothy Jeakens, $1.56 Million
The Sound of Music is instilled in most movie goers memories as the essential family movie of the century. The popularity of the story of Maria von Trapp, the Captain and his seven children is known world wide, and it has become one of the highest grossing films of all time. Julia Andrews plays a real life figure named Maria, a mischievous nun who is sent from her convent to take care of the children of the cold Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). As Maria teaches the childhood music, the Captain begins to fall for her. The Rogers and Hammerstein musical is still so popular today that many tourist flock to Austria every year just to catch a glimpse of the film’s shooting locations. This has provided the European country with much financial resources. Another thing in the film that made big bank was Julie Andrews’ Novice dress in which she sang the title tune in on the Austrian mountain slopes. It was sold at auction for just over $1.5 million.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953)
Red-sequined gown worn by Marilyn Monroe by costume designer William Travilla, $1.2 Million
The second gown by costumer William Travilla and the last gown worn by Marilyn Monroe on our list. Playing showgirl Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Marilyn performs the song Little Rock with co-star Jane Russell at the opening of the picture. The song sums up the entire musical comedy’s vibe and energy, introducing Monroe’s character as a small town girl from Little Rock with an affinity for BIG ROCKS (diamonds). The red sequin gown is body tight to show off Marilyn’s hourglass figure and features a long slit for her left leg. It sold in auction for $1.2 million.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961)
Black satin gown by Hubert de Givenchy, $900,00
The Hubert de Givenchy gown made for Audrey Hepburn for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s became truly iconic when the film first premiered in 1961. Till this day, style lovers have cited the dress as a turning point in modern women’s fashion. Sleek and made out of satin, the tight black gown was to be playgirl Holly Golightly’s signature piece in the Truman Capote film adaption. If you have a sharp eye, you will notice that the dress is worn four times throughout the picture, although matched with different accessories to give it a whole new look. When Hepburn died in 1993, the fashion designer donated it to the City of Joy Aid charity, to pay tribute to her efforts for helping disadvantaged children. The fashion world went abuzz, and the gown was sold to the highest bidder at Christie’s for approximately $900,00.
Red chiffon dress by costumer Deborah Lynn Scott, $330,000
The clock has struck six at the dining hall of the RMS Titanic, and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) admires Rose Dewitt Bukator (Kate Winslet) walk down the staircase in a beaded chiffon gown. It was one moment in film history that captured not only forbidden romance, but iconic fashion. The Academy Award winning costume designs by Deborah Lynn Scott was as breathtaking and epic as the 1997 disaster-romance flick Titanic. Apart from the iconic Heart of the Ocean necklace worn by Winslet in the film (it is valued at $4), the ball dress worn by her character while welcoming Jack into the world of high society sold at a price of $330,000 at the Profiles in History auction in 2012.
TRUE GRIT (1969)
John Wayne’s costume, $167, 300
In a film career of popular roles, Johyn Warne finally won his Academy Award for Leading Actor for his performance as the ruthless Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s True Grit. Wearing only one costume for the duration of the entire motion picture, the image of him wearing the custom made cowboy hat, long blue cotton shirt, brown vest, waistcoat, red handkerchief and eye patch became synonyms to the image of the Western genre’s ultimate leading man. When he passed a decade later at the age of 72, his costume was expected to pull in $164,000 in total. However, it succeeded expectations when the eye patch was sold for $47,800 alone, while the cowboy hat was bought at $119,500.
THE GREEN BERETS (1968)
John Wayne’s Costume Hat, $179,250
The second John Wayne items to appear on this list is the beret he wore in the 1968 film The Green Berets. Though panned by critics, his performance as Mike Kirby was embraced by fans worldwide. Made to combat any ant-war atmosphere during the United States participation in the Vietnam War, President Johnson granted Wayne and the filmmakers full cooperation to get the film done. After Wayne’s death from stomach cancer, the beret was sold at auction for $179,250. Proceeds went to research for the treatment of cancer by the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
Text by Chino R. Hernandez
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