This Birthday Girl’s On-Screen Style Still Inspires Fashion Today

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Julia Roberts Pretty Woman white shirt
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

That red gown, that lilac bridesmaid’s dress, that beret, all paired with that laugh – Julia Roberts’ on-screen style is as iconic as her movie roles. And because she is today’s birthday girl, we’re celebrating the wardrobe, the attitude, and the moments that made Roberts a star. At the age of 51, she is an enduring Hollywood icon, known for romantic comedy classics like Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, and My Best Friend’s Wedding.

However, she’s also shown her serious side, earning an Oscar for her portrayal of environmental whistleblower Erin Brockovich, and a Golden Globe nomination for her depiction of real-life socialite Joanne Herring in Charlie Wilson’s War. For each of these roles, Roberts’ outfits and style have earned a notable place in the fashion canon, with designers still paying homage to some of her most potent looks. In honor of our favorite romcom queen, we’re taking a trip back through the costumes and films that made her an icon.

1

Pretty Woman

From a down-and-out girl to a refined socialite, Roberts gets the ultimate fashion makeover thanks to the attention of her newfound beau, played by Richard Gere. Ask any fashion girl what her favorite scene in any movie is, and it’s highly likely that she’ll refer to the moment that Roberts walked into a boutique on Rodeo Drive, asked the shop girl (who had snubbed her days earlier) if she worked on commission, and then walked out triumphantly with the line, “Big mistake. Huge.”

2

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Despite the rather problematic plot of My Best Friend’s Wedding – stealing a friend away from his betrothed – Roberts shines as a food reviewer with a romantic hang-up. After agreeing to wed her best friend if the two found themselves single at 30, she is thunderstruck by the revelation that she was losing him to another woman. At the start, Roberts is styled as a manic pixie tomboy – the kind of sports-watching, foul-mouthed gal that any guy would want to hang with – but by the end, she is full-on berserk in a lilac bridesmaid’s dress confessing her plot to a bewildered Dylan McDermott.

3

Notting Hill

It’s hard to watch Notting Hill in the present day and not instantly flash on the wardrobes favored by today’s “It” girls like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. With Roberts’ tiny sunglasses, black berets, and cropped tops, this 1999 film proves that late 90s style has had a huge impact on fashion trends in 2018 – even her tailored menswear looks are being echoed everywhere from the streets to the red carpet.

4

Erin Brockovich

If we didn’t know better, we’d think Roberts’ wardrobe in Erin Brockovich came straight from a Saint Laurent collection. Leopard-print tops, miniskirts, and leather looks add up to party girl style that’s still popular in the present day.

5

Mona Lisa Smile

In Mona Lisa Smile, Roberts plays a progressive graduate student who takes a teaching job at an all-girls college called Wellesley. Tasked with overseeing students whose only goal in life is to get married and have children, Roberts urges her young flock to look beyond social norms for a more fulfilling life. Wearing a period costume that reflects the fashion of the early 1950s, Roberts dons both ladylike and bohemian pieces.

6

Mirror Mirror

We’re not often treated to films in which Roberts wears a fantasy wardrobe. However, the magnificent and extravagantly detailed gowns in Mirror Mirror more than make up for this void of over-the-top costumes. As an evil sorceress named Clementianna, Roberts’ looks are so good that the film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Costume Design category.

7

Charlie Wilson’s War

Some would describe Texas socialite Joanne Herring as a “battleaxe” because she is the type of strong-willed woman who always gets her way. In the fantastic Charlie Wilson’s War, Roberts plays Joanne Herring with spine-straight candor, sporting costumes that are tinged with glamour.

8

Mother's Day

If it’s snakeskin, leopard print, or just plain loud, chances are Roberts wore it in Mother’s Day. In this ensemble holiday film, she stands out among a sea of other fantastic actresses, playing the role of a self-made Joy Mangano type who sells her costume jewelry on the equivalent of QVC. Although the severe wig she wore in the film sparked something of a backlash, we can’t help but think it suits her character perfectly.

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