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Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson fashion
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)via popsugar.com

What’s Wes Anderson’s most fashionable film?

Rushmore’s school uniforms or Moonrise Kingdom’s scout outfits? We determine which of the director’s features has the best on-screen style

Wes Anderson. Love him, hate him the king of twee is impossible to ignore – there’s even a new generation of filmmakers getting inspired by his aesthetic. His pastel-hued perfectionism, penchant for symmetry and band of brilliantly outfitted (if, sadly, not very diverse) misfits have infiltrated not just film but fashion, spawning hoards of runway rip-offs and fancy dress imitations. But which of his live action features reigns supreme in the style stakes? We find out. 

THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007)

The Darjeeling Limited: the story of three grey suited brothers going to India, land of exotic possibility, to fix their relationship (or find their mother in a Himalayan monastery). The clothing changes with the plot in this film – as the trio journey across the country, suits get accessorised with floral wreaths before being ditched all together for pyjama style shirts. The highlight in terms of wardrobe has got to be Jason Schwartzman’s bright yellow dressing gown, although Adrien Brody’s retro shades also deserve a mention.  

RATING: 5 OUT OF 10 FLORAL GARLANDS

Eh. Characters’ clothes are best when they are memorable – besides the dressing gown, glasses and Owen Wilson’s bandages, there’s not that much that sticks in your mind.

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004)

Between the metallic wetsuits, Z-emblazoned sweaters and pale blue shirts, The Life Aquatic’s sartorial highlight has got to be those orange beanie hats, complete, in Willem Dafoe’s case, with a precisely placed pompom. This tale of shark-themed revenge, fatherhood, a love rivalry and underwater adventures isn’t seen as Anderson’s best – and in terms of the wardrobe there’s not much room for outfit changes on board a submarine. Also, why is one of the few female characters topless most of the time?

RATING: 4 OUT OF 10 BLUE WETSUITS

Unfortunately, when it comes to style, not even eternal goddess Anjelica Huston can liven up this one. 

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

Bellboys are in. Just look at Chanel’s Salzburg film, starring none other than Pharrell in a Lagerfeld designed uniform. Uniform is probably the key word for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which snapped up an Oscar for its costume design. We see the hotel’s imperial purple numbers, the baby blue coats of Mendl’s bakery, the fastidious outfits of the Zig Zag division and even the prison stripes that chief concierge Monsieur Gustave H. is forced to assume post-arrest. 

RATING: 7 OUT OF 10 BOY WITH APPLE PAINTINGS

Everything is spotlessly put together in this film, but its admittedly brilliant costumes could do with just a dash less...uniformity.

RUSHMORE (1998)

Rushmore is probably Anderson’s most underrated flick, and that goes for the style, too. After bonding with the director over New Balances in his first audition, Jason Schwartzman made his screen debut as Max Fischer in the Rushmore Academy uniform, looking the part of the perfect schoolboy (with excellent beret game) before taking a turn as a hotel waiter out for revenge in a white dinner suit. Co-star (and rival) Bill Murray also looks slick, wearing a sharp black suit, dark aviators and even co-ordinating his shirt and tie with the wire cutters he uses to free Max’s bike, before running over it in his Bentley. Those midlife crisis Budweiser pool shorts deserve a shout out too.

RANKING: 9 OUT OF 10 RED BERETS

The fashion in this film doesn’t hit you around the face the way a purple uniform or fluoro orange beret does, and that’s what makes it so quietly brilliant. 

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)

Admittedly, runaway pre-teen Suzy has excellent 60s pilgrim-style mini dresses (pristine white collars matching her socks, naturally), a great cape and some very chic Audrey Horne saddle shoes, but the majority of this film is, yes, more uniforms. This time it’s boyscouts – specifically, The Camp Ivanhoe Scouts, with youngster Sam Shakusky our Davy-Crockett-hatted hero. Naturally, every detail is perfect (see the “reptile patrol” and “woodmaster” patches on their outfits), and it has to be said – Bruce Willis looked pretty good as a small town cop.

RATING: 6 OUT OF 10 PAIRS OF VINTAGE BINOCULARS

Although there are some excellent bird costumes, the film doesn’t offer much opportunity for wardrobe experimentation.

BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)

Leather gloves with sportswear make the perfect house-robbing outfits in this commercial flop from 1996, which sees the Wilson brothers (and Anderson) making their cinematic debut. The clothes in this are straight out of middle America (or an old episode of Friends) – polo shirts, chunky watches and cargo pants. The yellow jumpsuits and matching nose plasters worn by the main characters for a couple of heists do show Anderson dabbling with matching his characters’ outfits, something that would become a signature.

RATING: 3 OUT OF 10 STOLEN EARRINGS

It’s pretty dated, and not quite as put together as Anderson’s later efforts. But Owen Wilson’s hair does help its cause.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)

Last, but not least – The Royal Tenenbaums. This tale of family disfunction is as famously stylish: there’s business genius Chas (Ben Stiller), who goes from child-size suits to pristine adidas tracksuits; tennis champ Richie (Luke Wilson) who rocks his whites with a retro headband before growing into a suit (but keeping the headband); and of course Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) complete with cigarette, pristine bob, hair clip, striped Lacoste dresses, vintage fur coats, and a Hermès Birkin bag. There’s a reason there has been a Tenenbaum wandering around every fancy dress party you have ever been to in the last fourteen years.

RATING: 10 OUT OF 10 VINTAGE FUR COATS

As much as I want to give this to Rushmore, it has to be said. The characterisation of every single cast member via their wardrobe is basically perfect in this film. Good job Wes, and good job costume designer Karen Patch.