Style Icon: Leeloo in 'The Fifth Element'

inspired by jean paul gaultier

Midnight on Feather Reef | Costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier | Photo: Sven Darmer

Midnight on Feather Reef |
Costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier | Photo: Sven Darmer

I was 20 when I spent my first summer in New York. A small town girl, I had flown there to party with a friend who was doing an internship at DKNY and we were both totally taken with all the city had to offer, overwhelmed by all the charms of its nightlife … yet a year too young to enjoy most of it, thanks to the strict drinking age laws. We spent most of that summer “underground” and took our style inspiration from the cult flick of the year: “The Fifth Element.”

Milla Jovovich may not have worn much throughout the movie -- her body wrapped in what seemed to be a swimsuit made of white bandages -- but her orange hair was all the rage at raves in 1997 -- as were the circular laser cutouts in leather accessories, and crop tops with suspenders. It wasn’t my greatest fashion moment, but it did make me appreciate just how much work Jean Paul Gaultier put into costumes for the movie; it’s hard to look good in a futuristic world filled with aliens and yet his costumes fit every character and every scene perfectly. From Chris Tucker’s rose-filled scoopneck to the brilliant blue uniforms of the spaceship flight attendants, every detail was well considered and just funky enough to make a statement.

While I may have grown out of the orange hair, Gaultier’s trademark style has not grown old. Inspired by the underground scene in Berlin that’s not unlike what I lived through in New York, the designer opened, “The One,” a revue at the city’s Friedrichstadt-Palast that is heavy on the intricately designed costumes to set the atmosphere. The shows, a song-dance-acrobat affair, are sold out for months but the costumes are well worth trying to get your hands on a ticket next time you're in Berlin. They’re no match for those bandages worn by Leeloo the alien-killing, judo-fighting, strange-speaking robot-brought-to-life of “The Fifth Element” but they are inspirational in their own right. ct