Movies aren't always supposed to be a direct reflection of our reality, but there are some things they get wrong that completely destroy the suspension of disbelief. There are continuity issues and even historical inaccuracies that can ultimately ruin the audience's experience.
One of the most overlooked faults in film, though, is poor movie characters with nice clothes. It's been done on the small screen, too – sometimes TV characters wear clothes they can't afford, given their assumed income or their career. Even characters' overall lifestyles just don't sync up with their supposed financial situations.
Matching allegedly poor characters with the most expensive movie wardrobes can be seen as deliberate Hollywood fantasy, or an oversight on the part of the costume designers and other experts on set. Whether it's Penny Lane's high-end fashion sense despite her groupie lifestyle in Almost Famous, or Bridesmaids' struggling lead Annie Walker and her modest but pricey closet, there are plenty of examples of wardrobes that just don't make sense in films.
- Photo: Metro Goldwyn Meyer
The Wardrobe: John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a New York City detective with an incredible eye for fashion. Turtlenecks, knee-length leather jackets, and amazing hair complete a picture that's recreated in the 2000 Samuel L. Jackson-led remake.
The Income: Quite frankly, no NYC detective – 1970s or otherwise – could afford Shaft's wardrobe; the starting salary for a NYC detective in 2017 was $41,975. Even Ruth Carter, the costume designer for Jackson's 2000 reboot, acknowledged that the prices on Shaft's clothes were likely too high in reality for anyone wearing a badge.
"Shaft is realistic in his style, but maybe not the price points," Carter said in an interview.1910Is this wardrobe unrealistic?
- Photo: Columbia Pictures
The Wardrobe: Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) is a professional musician whose lifestyle is wholly disproportionate to her profession. For starters, she lives in a building that Calvin Klein actually lived in. Her wardrobe isn't much more realistic than her living situation, as evidenced by her signature batwing dress and cape coat. A replica of the dress goes for around $115 today ($279 at the same price point in 1984), so imagine what the real thing might've cost. A similar cape coat to the one Dana wears in the film goes for around $360 today ($876 in 1984).
The Income: Dana, who is a cellist for an orchestra, wouldn't necessarily make enough money to afford a lavish lifestyle and wardrobe, even in 1984. The average performance salary for an orchestra musician was around $60,000 per year in 2013, which wouldn't have been enough to afford high-end living at the time.2012Is this wardrobe unrealistic?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
The Wardrobe: In the romantic comedy It's Complicated, Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) boasts a fairly pricey wardrobe for someone who owns a bakery in Santa Barbara, CA, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Typical for a Nancy Meyers film, Jane's apparel consists of stylish and elegant clothing and accessories. Stylist Amanda Ross broke down one of Jane's ensembles, revealing that she wears Michael Kors pants (which sometimes go for as much as $350) and Pomellato stones (which can get extremely pricey, even at a lower price of $735).
The Income: It's extremely hard to say how much Jane makes from her bakery business, but her income probably ranges anywhere from $18,000 to $57,000 a year. Sure, she may have received a nice divorce settlement, but assuming that her business is her only income, it's unlikely she would've been able to afford her higher-end wardrobe.1511Is this wardrobe unrealistic?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
The Wardrobe: Annie (Kristin Wiig) in Bridesmaids is a struggling former business owner who somehow manages to maintain a stylish wardrobe, though it's reasonably priced. The movie's costume designer, Leesa Evans, told the New York Times' Carpetbagger blog that Annie's wardrobe consisted of "anything ranging from Urban Outfitters to Forever 21."
The Income: Though Annie shops on the inexpensive side, the truth is that Urban Outfitters alone isn't necessarily cheap and is often criticized for being overpriced. Women's clothes there start in the range of $40. For someone who works at a jewelry store and can't afford to fix her taillights, it seems unlikely that she could afford even this budget-conscious wardrobe.2120Is this wardrobe unrealistic?