the 5 most iconic wim wenders fashion moments

The pink fuzzy sweater in ‘Paris, Texas,’ a documentary about Yohji Yamamoto — director Wim Wenders’ interest in fashion runs unexpectedly deep.

Mar 2 2015, 6:30pm

Wim Wenders' films can be about many things — music, sweeping landscapes and alienation included. But fashion? In the introduction to Notebook on Cities and Clothes, his documentary about Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, the director muses, "The world of fashion. I'm interested in the world, not in fashion! But, maybe I was too quick to put down fashion. Why not look at it without prejudice?"

In all of Wenders' films, he looks at fashion without prejudice — using it as a way to convey character, dreamlike visions and movement. It comes naturally to him. In honor of the Wim Wenders film retrospective opening today at MoMA, here are five of the best sartorial moments in Wenders' films.

Alice in the Cities (1974): Philip's sunglasses
In the early Alice in the Cities, Philip (Rudiger Vogler) wears a pair of rounded sunglasses that convey the easy insouciance of Wenders' slightly dark, cerebral world. The film is set up as a road trip, centered on Philip, an alienated journalist, who must take care of a young girl, Alice, when her mother takes off. Somehow it's all less weird than it sounds, but Philip travels across Europe with Alice, searching for her home. Philip wears his sunglasses on and off throughout the film, solidifying his image as the effortless cool guy who couldn't care less.

Paris, Texas (1984): Jane's pink fuzzy sweater
Paris, Texas is a film about strange characters. In one memorable scene, Jane (Nastassja Kinski) talks through a one-way mirror to her ex-husband while wearing a fuzzy boatneck sweater the color of a cupid's heart. The plot follows Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), who, after four mysterious years, emerges from the Texas desert and tries to revive his relationship with his brother, child and former wife. The image of Jane in the pink sweater has helped make Paris, Texas iconic, perhaps because it occurs in one of the most important scenes, in which Travis finally tracks down Jane at the strip club where she works.

Wings of Desire (1987): Marion's sequined trapeze outfit
In the dreamlike Wings of Desire two angels wander the streets of Berlin, unseen and unheard by everyday Berliners. They observe the obscure and the ordinary, until one of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), falls in love with the lost and lonely Marion (Solveig Dommartin) from afar. Marion is a trapeze artist who lives and performs alone, roaming the city streets. Her sequined costume, complete with a tiara, matching sequined elbow-length gloves and facial jewels — and sometimes fake fluffy angel wings — mirrors classic beauty pageant fashion and epitomizes the beauty of Wings of Desire. With her angelic dress, Marion strives to be ethereal and closer to Heaven, while Damiel, the wandering angel, longs to be more human, like Marion.

Notebooks on Cities and Clothes (1989): Yohji Yamamoto's uniform
In Notebook on Cities and Clothes, Wenders explores the relationship between fashion and identity. The director talks with Yamamoto about his process, inspiration and identity as a designer. In the introduction, he explains that he was inspired to make the film when he purchased a piece of Yamamoto's clothing: "I bought a shirt and jacket. Though they were new, it felt as if I had been wearing them for years." But the best part of Notebooks on Cities and Clothes might be Yamamoto's own daily look: a head-to-toe uniform of all black.

Pina (2011): The black dress
Wenders' love letter to contemporary dance icon Pina Bausch is a tribute to life and expression through movement. And the kind of movement showcased in this documentary wouldn't be nearly as dramatic without the dancers' clothing. Wenders injects sweeping vistas of the German countryside throughout the film, while dancers jump, twist, and fall in full suits, slacks and silk slip dresses. Most memorable is the black dress worn in the performance of Vollmond (full moon) near the end of the film. The dancer kicks and spins while buckets of water are thrown onto the stage. Her spinning dress mirrors the splashing water and becomes as essential as the choreography.

The Wim Wenders retrospective runs from March 2 through March 17 at MoMA.


Text Kristen Bateman
Photography Still from Paris, Texas