Laura Dern’s Greatest Fashion Moments on Film

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Laura Dern Jurassic Park Wild at Heart Marriage Story Baftas
Wild at Heart, 1990(Film still)

From Lula Fortune’s asphalt-hot attire to Dr Ellie Sattler’s distinct brand of safari chic, we chart the actor and AnOther Magazine cover star’s most memorable on-screen ensembles

Laura Dern is one of the most versatile performers of our age, embodying every kind of character – from wholesome high schoolers to strung-out paint sniffers, from violet-haired space admirals to doting 19th-century mothers – with equal aplomb, aided by an unforgettable array of costumes. Here, in celebration of the Oscar-nominated actress’ chameleonic powers and her latest appearance as AnOther Magazine’s S/S20 cover star, we present six of her greatest fashion moments on film, spanning her turn as a teen punk rocker through her fierce, Academy-approved performance in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

1. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982)

A major influence on the riot grrrl movement, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains from record-producer-cum-director Lou Adler is a music industry satire like no other. The cult film charts the rise and fall of a brazen girl band called The Stains, headed up by a 15-year-old Diane Lane as the outspoken Corinne Burns. The band – comprising Corinne, her sister Tracy (Marin Kanter) and their cousin Jessica (Dern, who celebrated her 13th birthday while filming on a cramped tour bus with two Sex Pistols, Paul Simonon of The Clash and Ray Winstone, her co-stars in the film) – sport skunk-striped hair, Ziggy Stardust-style eye make-up, short skirts and loud colours, offering up a masterclass in punk power dressing.

2. Blue Velvet (1986)

AKA the film that launched Dern to fame, sparking her ongoing creative collaboration with David Lynch. At first glance, Dern’s Sandy is a model of squeaky clean suburban sweetness, with her predilection for pale pink and pretty floral dresses, but she’s also got a penchant for mystery solving, inherited from her detective father. “I know [Lynch] was looking for someone he believed was really pure,” Dern reveals in AnOther Magazine S/S20. “Not in a physical way, like, ‘She looks like a girl next door,’ but pure of heart, maybe... I can be dramatic or emotional or scared, but he needed Sandy, at her root, to be such a believer, so hopeful, such an optimist, and that really is my nature.” When Kyle MacLachlan’s similarly pristeen college student Jeffrey Beaumont returns home for the summer and discovers a severed ear lying in the grass, the pair join forces to discover its origins, unveiling a deranged criminal conspiracy along the way. Being a pastel-parading goody two shoes has never looked badder.

3. Wild at Heart (1990)

For his madcap caper about a couple on the run, Lynch offered Dern the chance to adopt an entirely new persona – with a very different wardrobe. The Bonnie to her ex-con beau Sailor’s Clyde, Lula Fortune is “hotter than Georgia asphalt”. She’s a woman of inner-strength and outer style, her outfits ranging from a plunging polka-dot dress, memorably paired with red patent heels and a complementary crimson lipstick, to an assortment of figure-hugging mini dresses and a bold black bra/leopard-print leotard combo. Nicolas Cage’s costumes for Wild at Heart have similarly gone down in cinematic history, and Dern herself still has the infamous snakeskin jacket he wears throughout the movie. 

4. Jurassic Park (1993)

Dern’s role as tenacious paleobotanist Dr Ellie Sattler in Steven Spielberg’s dino-drama is one of her most seminal, and – she recently told the LA Times – her own personal favourite. Sattler, to quote Dern, is that rare thing – “a feminist, iconic badass amid the big boys in a big action movie”. As such, she stole the hearts of viewers across the globe, spawning innumerable Halloween tributes in the process thanks to her safari chic ensemble of khaki shorts, sky blue tank top and salmon pink shirt, tied at the waist, complete with brown hiking boots and a matching leather belt.

5. Citizen Ruth (1996)

The directorial debut of Alexander Payne (of Election and The Descendents fame), Citizen Ruth is darkly comic political satire that fearlessly takes on both sides of the abortion debate. Dern is brilliant as the titular protagonist Ruth Stoops, a ditzy, unemployed thirty-something addicted to inhaling household chemicals, who accidentally falls pregnant and finds herself an unwitting pawn in the abortion rights battle. Clamoured over by pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike, Ruth finally takes matters into her own hands, proving herself the “wonder girl” that her signature pink slogan tee proclaims her.

6. Marriage Story (2019)

“Sorry I look so schleppy,” are the words that introduce Nora, Dern’s tough-as-nails (and just as fiercely dressed) divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s heart-wrenching tale of a couple navigating their separation. Scarlett Johansson – mid-divorce, wearing a crumpled shirt, scruffy jeans and no make-up – looks dazedly down at herself and up at Dern’s pristine presence. With perfectly tousled curls, immaculate make-up, bright red stilettos and an elegant floral jacket, Nora is about as schleppy as she is soft. Her distinct femininity – in both demeanour and dress – belies her cut-throat nature, proving the perfect weapon for a woman making waves in a male-dominated world.

Head here to read Laura Dern’s AnOther Magazine S/S20 cover interview in full.