MODA Inspiration: Top 5 Must-See Fashion Documentaries

by Molly Sitter, Contributing Writer

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about documentaries is their ability to document real life occurrences. Viewers get to experience personal interviews with entrepreneurs, innovators, and those who have created history who are willing to share their life with the world. Demonstrating this, these five fashion documentaries allow the audience to directly enter the fabulous world of fashion. Offering a first-hand view of what the fashion industry is really like, these films prove that it is not just a “passion for fashion” but rather hard work and dedication that makes for a successful career in the industry.


Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Bill Cunningham, an 80 year-old, candid photographer for the New York Times, has proven to have a large influence within the fashion industry regarding street style. However, only a few individuals outside of the fashion world have actually heard of him. The documentary Bill Cunningham New York follows Bill around the city, revealing his simple life and passion for all things beautiful.  Having worked for the New York Times for 30 years, Bill still uses very traditional methods of photography, resisting the movement to digital cameras and equipment. Acquiring a great sense of pride from his simple lifestyle, Bill discusses his easy-going life of travelling around the city by bicycle and wearing very simple clothes. Yet perhaps one of the most notable qualities about Bill is that “his greatest interests in fashion are spotting…trends before they are officially categorized as such, and documenting the interesting and unconventional especially as worn in everyday situations in movement.” Fascinated by all things that are beautiful and unique, this documentary really touches the audience’s heart as it reveals the social aspect of fashion.

 The September Issue

The September Issue (2009)

The September Issue goes behind the scenes of the world’s most prestigious fashion publication, Vogue, documenting the creation process of the magazine’s infamous September issue. Known for publishing the largest September issue on the newsstands, this particular issue documented in the film (2007), broke records at the time for being the biggest print magazine in history possessing an amazing 840 pages and weighing in at almost 5 pounds. Providing insight into the process of devising said publication, this documentary goes behind the scenes to give viewers access to many of the iconic fashion spreads featured in the issue. Additionally, the documentary also provides an exclusive interview with Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, along with several of the publication’s other well-known fashion editors including, Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, and more. One of the most famous quotes from the documentary comes from Wintour herself, as she explains that, “fashion is not about looking back, it’s always about looking forward.”

 In Vogue


In celebration of Vogue’s 120th Anniversary, HBO’s documentary In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye, interviews the magazine’s most influential fashion editors of current and past times. These famous editors include Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, Polly Allen Mellen, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, Camilla Nickerson, Phyllis Posnick and Babs Simpson. The film reveals how Vogue has developed over its history and how the magazine has become innovative in the fashion industry, detailing how it recognized the emergence of street style, celebrated the idea of dream and fantasy, and the popularized the names of supermodels and celebrities in fashion. Interestingly, this documentary not only reveals what influenced and still influences these famous editors, but it also looks back at the magazine’s most famous photographs and monumental moments as “the images found in the pages of Vogue exist as true works of art and the editors themselves are gifted, yet often unassuming, artists.”

 Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)

The documentary, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, is a biography of Vogue’s most iconic editors-in-chief including the woman known for being the “Empress of Fashion” as well as the inspiration for Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada, Diana Vreeland herself. Originally beginning her career at Harper’s Bazaar, Vreeland transferred to American Vogue where she changed how people approached fashion in the 60’s. Vreeland was very influential in the fashion industry and believed that, “style is everything, it’s a way of life, [and] without it you’re nobody.” Commenting on the boldness of Vreeland’s work, the documentary explains that “everything she did and everything she saw, everyone she talked to, every color, every vibration she felt, was eventually translated into fashion and into Vogue.” Dedicated to pushing the limits in fashion, Vreeland influenced many to take extreme measures to execute the image she envisioned. Although the film was produced many years after Vreeland’s death, the film is a collection of footage from the sixties including several clips of interviews with Diana. The film shows the audience how Vreeland’s legacy remains highlighting her accomplishments and influence in the fashion industry both past and present.

Mademoiselle C

Mademoiselle C (2011)

Carine Roitfeld ended her career as editor in chief of Vogue France in 2011 and the documentary Mademoiselle C recalls Carine’s life and influence within the industry of fashion. The film documents Carine’s withdrawal from Vogue and focuses on her new endeavor in her new magazine, CR Fashion Book. As a former model, stylist, writer, and muse, Carine is a key influencer in the fashion industry and the documentary goes behind the scenes with fashion’s biggest names including Tom Ford, Donatella Versace, and Karl Lagerfeld to emphasize this point.


All of these films can be accessed on Netflix or through retailers such as


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *