Best Fashion Documentaries, Ranked

It seems HBO Max’s The Gilded Age was an appropriate 2022 release in the streaming world. With the 2022 Met Gala now over, its theme of Gilded Glamor relives through memes and social media posts. Historically, fashion has always played a pivotal role in distinguishing members of society and, as seen more recently, as a medium of self-expression. Through magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, a particular pace and tone have set about how fashion should and should not be viewed. Naturally, this has extended into the world of film as well — how a character dresses can reveal specific details about their story arc or personalities.

It is documentaries, however, that offer critical insight into the well-oiled machine of the fashion world. While breaking into the world of Vogue, Condé Nast, and the Met Gala is unlikely for the average person, these tiny tidbits pick up the viewer and place them amid the action, allowing them the chance into this exclusive world. Other documentaries may provide insight into a beloved designer’s inspirations and process. These are the best fashion documentaries released so far.

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7 The September Issue

The September Issue takes viewers back to 2007 as Vogue Magazine prepare its upcoming issue. Each year, the Vogue issue released in September is said to be one of the most important of the year — in 2021, the issue was titled “Fashion’s New Beginnings.” This documentary pits Dame Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine, against Grace Coddington, now the magazine’s former creative director. If one is looking for a documentary that focuses on Wintour’s work, this is not the documentary for them, but it does offer insight into the world of fashion journalism.

6 Dior and I

In 2012, Raf Simons, who previously worked for his eponymous brand, and Jill Sander, was named the newest creative director for the legacy brand Christian Dior. The documentary tracks his opening days at the company in Paris, where he is in the beginning stages of planning the season’s couture. Dior and I brings the camera into the Dior workshops, where workers painstakingly sew and bead the dresses to be shown on the runway. It is unafraid to look away from workplace spats, providing an intimate perspective on fashion design.

5 McQueen

Eight years after Alexander McQueen’s death, the documentary McQueen dropped, telling the illustrious story of his life and work. McQueen was a rebel in the making when he started his fashion design degree at Central Saint Martins, and while his early days were ridden with financial struggles, he eventually overcame the difficulties that came with being an artist. McQueen follows his trailblazing path as a young graduate from fashion school to the controversial owner of his brand.

4 Iris

Fashionista Iris Apfel may now be 100 years old, but she has not lost any bit of her eccentric fashion sense over the years. Apfel was in the textile business for decades, which lends itself to her history in the fashion industry, but she made waves when she was signed as an IMG model at 97. The 2014 documentary about this wonderful figure in the industry was directed by Albert Maysles . Iris would be his final documentary before his death in 2015. Apfel was 93 when he was filmed, but his wisdom gained from a childhood experiencing New York City during the Great Depression is for the history books.

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3 The First Day in May

While the May 2022 Met Gala may have been upended by American politics, it remains one of the biggest and most coveted fashion events in the world. The First Monday in Maytitled after the day the Met Gala traditionally occurs each year, documents the process of making the 2015 theme: China: Through the Looking Glass. The documentary explores certain themes that arise with perceiving fashion in art, as well as the fact Orientalism heavily bleeds into the current theme of that year, but it also is backstage access to what it takes to put together the exhibition and Met Gala.

2 The Gospel According to André

2017’s The Gospel According to André is a portrait of Vogue Magazine’s most important Editor-at-Large: André Leon Talley. Talley, who grew up in the American South during the Jim Crowe era, would become Vogue Magazine’s first Black male Creative Director, then Editor-at-Large. He was well-known for his advocacy for smaller designers and increasing equitable opportunities in an industry suffering from a diversity problem, making him a major player outside his position. The documentary preserves some parts of Talley’s genius for future generations, especially as he was one of the last witnesses of the great couture era in contemporary fashion history.

1 The True Cost

Now a staple in fashion schools, The True Cost shows the deadly and devastating implications of the fashion industry on human life. As wealthier countries, such as the United States, increasingly outsource their apparel production to developing countries, workers in the factories are experiencing horrible conditions and a lack of fair wages. The documentary shifts its focus from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and the United States to show two sides of the same coin: consumption and production.


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