Costume test photos are a necessity for filmmakers and designers in order to get a clear picture of how colors, fabrics, and styles (and usually hair and makeup) will appear on the big screen. Inadvertently, the snapshots sometimes reveal a different, carefree side of the star in costume. The photos often become works of art themselves. After spotting a set of delightful Marilyn Monroe wardrobe test photos, featured past the break, we searched for others from all our favorite films.
Marilyn Monroe’s character Vicky in There’s No Business Like Show Business (a famous box office bomb, featuring a messy Marilyn performance), in which she played a hat-check girl who catches the eye of the son of a successful vaudeville family. See more photos at Retronaut.
There were several different pinafores costume designers explored using in The Wizard of Oz before settling on the famous gingham dress worn by Judy Garland. They also tried out various wigs (including a blonde one), makeup styles (one very baby-doll-esque), and shoes (one pair Arabian in style). Judy’s stand-in also had her own dress — a sepia-rinsed version for the scene when Dorothy opens up the farmhouse door and the movie switches to Technicolor.
Here’s Ray Bolger as the humble Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Also pictured is actress Gale Sondergaard who was set to play an early, glamorous version of the Wicked Witch of the West. Once filmmakers decided to go with an ugly version of the makeup, Sondergaard ditched the role fearing it would ruin her career. Joining them is Beverly Hillbillies star Buddy Ebsen, who was originally cast as the Tin Man. He had to leave the production after being hospitalized due to an allergic reaction from the aluminum dust in the Tin Man makeup.
Before the looks for the Star Wars characters were settled upon, the original concepts designed by Ralph McQuarrie were given a test shoot. This version of C-3PO perhaps more closely resembles the android in Metropolis than the final character. The test shots of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia are hot stuff.
A few famous Hitchcock ladies went before the camera for their costume tests, including Grace Kelly for Dial M for Murder (pictured at top), Tippi Hedren for Marnie (middle), and Psycho actress Vera Miles for Vertigo (bottom). Miles was set to play the part of Madeleine, which went to Kim Novak, but she became pregnant and had to withdraw from the role. This interview with Novak shares her thoughts on the costume, including why she chose not to wear a bra with the outfit.
The biblical beefcake of The Ten Commandments testing out a few costumes. Over 50 Paramount studio designers worked on the film (including the famous Edith Head), using true-to-life fabrics and styles.
Audrey Hepburn’s costume test shots for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Two for the Road, and Sabrina would be right at home on Instagram.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Maggie the Cat setting all the hot tin roofs ablaze.
The hair, the eyeliner, the 65 costume changes Elizabeth Taylor underwent for the extravagant Cleopatra — which set the Guinness World Record for most wardrobe changes in a movie.
There is nothing funny about the fierceness of this Barbra Streisand costume for Funny Girl.
A defiant-looking James Dean in Giant. The actor stayed in character throughout filming and hardly ever changed from his costume.
Planet of the Apes was nominated for a Best Costume Design Academy Award. During filming, the actors had to eat lunch in their costumes in front of a mirror to watch for any changes in their makeup (a laborious undertaking).
Edith Head and Charles Le Maire won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in a Black-and-White Film for All About Eve. Pictured here is star Bette Davis as aging Broadway star Margot Channing.
Marlon Brando’s slobby couture in A Streetcar Named Desire caused a national upsurge in undershirt sales
A haughty Vivien Leigh as brat belle Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
Ann-Margret in head-to-toe pink, befitting of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical film State Fair.
Sharon Tate as Jennifer North in Valley of the Dolls.
Actor Bolaji Badejo who played the menacing alien in Ridley Scott’s Alien was seven feet tall. A special swing was built so the lanky star could sit down during filming while suited up. A regular chair couldn’t contain his massive costume.
Jack Nicholson as the Joker in 1989’s Batman.
Bette Davis for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
Lauren Bacall’s hair tests for To Have and Have Not. The card says “Betty Bacall” as Bacall’s born name was Betty Joan Perske.
Robert De Niro looking wrecked for Raging Bull.
Sean Young hair and makeup Polaroids for Blade Runner.
Costume designer William Travilla dressed Marilyn Monroe for eight of her films, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Anne Francis in futuristic fashion for Forbidden Planet.