Quentin Tarantino may not be someone comes to mind when you think of well dressed, powerful heroines — but he should be.
Known for his boundary pushing films, the cult director will turn 55 this March 27. The list of amazing actresses he’s worked with is as impressive as the number of powerful protagonists he’s created for them to play in his stylized flicks. To mark his birthday, relive a few of the many iconic fashion moments that we have his films to thank for.
A true chameleon, Uma Thurman has been a Tarantino favorite over the years, starring in multiple roles. Glancing from one movie to another, she’s almost unrecognizable. Just take Mia Wallace’s blunt black bob in Pulp Fiction versus Beatrix Kiddo aka The Bride’s flowing blonde tresses in Kill Bill. The two characters are night and day in comparison to each other, and equally iconic.
Mia’s oversized white shirt and loose black pants reinvented the way women interpret menswear. With the hems of the trousers cropped to reveal gold Chanel slippers, her outfit put a retro spin on monochrome and was perfectly suited to doing the twist with John Travolta. Today, the look still stands up as the epitome of classy cool.
And while many a celeb has taken a leaf out of Kill Bill‘s book with form fitting jumpsuits, few dare to don the shattering shade of canary yellow that Uma Thurman rocks in the anime-influenced film. In fact, her ensemble was inspired by the outfit worn by Bruce Lee in his final film, Game of Death — a stylish tip of the hat on Tarantino’s part.
Kill Bill has not one but many formidably fashionable characters and they include the memorable O-Ren Ishii, played by Lucy Liu. A sword (or two) is of course the perfect, lethal accessory to the traditional Japanese kimonos that make up her wardrobe.
Not all of Tarantino’s heroines are weapon-wielding expert killers. Kerry Washington’s character in Django Unchained makes a much more subtle (though no less stylish) statement for feminism. Appearing in period garb and at one point a lovely, simple dress of royal purple, Brunhilda is a not-so-typical “Princess in the Tower” in the sense that she’s a slave in dire need of rescuing in pre-Civil War America. The role put a whole new, history making stamp on the familiar fairytale archetype. Opposite Jamie Foxx, Kerry makes sure that Brunhilda radiates strength and determination.
Though she is not as well known as some of her peers in the Tarantino universe, Melanie Laurent delivers an astounding performance as Shosanna Dreyfus in Inglourious Basterds. If you’re not impressed by the crucial role fashion plays in the World War II era flick, re-watch the pivotal scene before Shosanna takes her long-awaited revenge, appropriating red lipstick as warpaint while the soundtrack blares David Bowie’s “Putting Out Fire with Gasoline.” Chilling, suspenseful, and as unforgettable as the Parisian chic baker boy cap Melanie dons earlier in the film.
In the same movie, Diane Kruger also gives a solid, thoroughly amusing portrait of her character, Bridget von Hammersmark. The glamour of her solid black evening gown complete with white fur boa is punctuated, in true Tarantino form, with a clunky high heel shaped cast. Less comedic and more casual, her solid brown skirt suit topped off by a fedora right out of Casablanca is probably what most people picture when they think of this character of Tarantino’s. — jas