A renowned aviation pioneer, business magnate, film director and self-made billionaire, Howard Hughes epitomised the post-war pursuit of the American Dream. He was brilliant, determined and reckless – a larger-than-life figure who experienced monumental highs and epic lows, often simultaneously. Such a life of tumult was the focus of Martin Scorsese’s 2004 blockbuster biopic The Aviator, with Leonardo DiCaprio stealing the show in the titular role.
As well as expounding the riveting biographical details of Hughes’ life, the film is a carefully executed visual feast that offers plenty in the way of sartorial inspiration. Costume designer Sandy Powell took out an Academy Award for her meticulous reproduction of the era’s unrestrained opulence, with styling that wonderfully encapsulates the glittery sheen of Tinseltown from the 1920s to 1940s. Hollywood actresses Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Jean Harlow (played respectively by Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale and Gwen Stefani) all appear in the film as the glamorously clad starlets they were, but their elegant dresses and furs are peripheral to the attire of Hughes, whose ensembles are as bold as he. No matter the tribulations he faces, he remains polished and dapper, as if the control he has over his wardrobe could possibly extend to the rest of his life.