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Romantic Looks from Millennium Actress

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Is there a dress code for the hopeless romantic? When I think of incurably romantic heroines on film, I think of girls dressed in soft hues, vintage prints and flowing silhouettes, waiting for a love that is never requited. I think of Chiyoko from Satoshi Kon’s cult 2001 anime Millennium Actress.

Weaving together past and present, reality and fantasy, Millennium Actress is a story about Japanese history as reflected through the movie industry. But it is also, at heart, a decades-spanning story about a hopeless romantic – an actress-turned-recluse who spends her whole life chasing an impossible love while wearing winsome styles that could inspire the romantic in all of us.

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The Actress Through the Ages

We follow Chiyoko through different stages of her life from a teenager to an old woman, as she embarks on a movie career that never detracts from her original goal: to reunite with her first love. In earlier scenes, she appears in a distinctive schoolgirl’s uniform of brown hat, red scarf and long brown coat, which lends an air of sophistication to her sweet, doe-eyed persona.

As she morphs into a movie star, her schoolgirl ensemble gives way to glorious costumes, including kimonos, 19th century Western frocks and even a spacesuit. What remains constant throughout the transformation is subtlety. Even in her more extravagant costumes, she is never over the top. Patterns are colorful but never gaudy. Meanwhile, her everyday wear is presented in a palette of muted hues – dusty pink against teal, plum against pale rose – as befitting a persona that is wholesome till the very end. Except for a key worn as a pendant, she seems to possess no extra jewelry. In fact, this key is the movie’s most important prop, with its loss and recovery driving the plot forward.

In the world of Millennium Actress, colors pop but don’t clash, cuts are loose and flowing, and midi skirts are all the rage. This may have to do with the vintage setting, but even so, Chiyoko’s wardrobe provides lessons on how to dress interestingly but not showily, especially when treading the fine line between classy and flashy.

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Stills taken from Millennium Actress

How to Make Her Style Your Own

(I) An Ensemble Fit for First Love

Stills taken from Millennium Actress

In one of the most important early scenes of the film, Chiyoko bumps into the love of her life: a revolutionary running from the law. Take inspiration from the winter school uniform she’s wearing and put together your own girlish look befitting all romantics at heart.

This plaid dress would fit a schoolgirl’s wardrobe while still being distinctive enough for a future movie star. Its sailor collar, front bow and button detailing give it both kawaii and vintage appeal, while its pleated, A-line construction allows ease of movement – important when you’re dashing about trying to save your first love! To guard against the winter chill, throw on a long, loose-fit winter coat in chocolate brown , and push your hands deep inside its welt pockets. For a feminine twist on a pair of hardy boots, nothing’s better than these black ankle boots with a hidden wedge and alluring lace trim. Complete your look with a jaunty leopard-print beret, a funky alternative to Chiyoko’s red-trimmed brown felt hat! The animal print offsets the sweetness of the ensemble while still complementing the overall palette.

(II) A Fantasy Mix and Match

Image taken from the poster of Millennium Actress

Chiyoko, who stars in a string of Japanese period dramas throughout the movie, appears in a number of intricately designed kimonos that range from the pastel to the vibrantly colored. We can take inspiration from her on-screen personas to construct an outfit that goes beyond the everyday but is still distinctly wearable.


Anchor your outfit with a vivid kimono top, which you can wear with a snug-fit tee underneath, preferably in a darker shade.

Pair with a clingy, straight-fit skirt in wine red that shows off your figure while keeping the spotlight firmly on the billowy cut of the top. If you’re feeling in the mood for a haircut, you could go for Chiyoko’s signature short, breezy bob. Spice things up with a large statement hair clip in funky red fleece! For jewelry, opt for a key pendant necklace in a homage to Chiyoko’s most treasured possession. Finally, temper the drama with a low-key pair of black faux suede sandals.

A Final Word…

Chiyoko says at the movie’s heartbreaking end that “the search for the man was what she loved most.” She never found what she was looking for, but in her hoping and dreaming, she manages to become a movie star – and an anime style icon.

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