10 Iconic Women’s Sunglasses In Film And How To Steal Their Looks

As a visual medium, movies often serve as a great source of fashion inspiration. That means the silver screen's most popular female characters can help you find your next favorite pair of sunnies – here's how to steal a few iconic looks.

By Chelsea Moore5 min read
20th Century Studios/The Devil Wears Prada

Sunglasses have served many purposes throughout history. They first emerged for their usefulness in sun protection, with modern sunnies now so effective they can block 99-100% of the UV rays that cause skin and eye damage. Today, though, sunglasses play a crucial role as key fashion accessories. In turn, that's helped them become more useful in movies.

A lot of effort goes into the wardrobe design we see in films, which is why movies often serve as a great source of fashion inspiration. Beyond clothes, sunglasses serve as props that can reflect a character’s personality, convey a message, and even act as plot devices – all while making a fashion statement. Iconic films like Top Gun, Men in Black, and The Matrix use shades as visual cues for audiences to pick up on.

This also holds true for women's sunglasses; many women’s sunglasses have become timeless staples thanks to the movies they were seen in. Here are some of the most iconic examples and how you can copy their looks.

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Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Paramount Pictures/Breakfast At Tiffany's/1961
Paramount Pictures/Breakfast At Tiffany's/1961

In cinema, one of the most iconic women’s sunglasses – and sunglasses in general – are the ultra-chic cat-eye sunglasses Audrey Hepburn wears throughout the movie. Her character, Holly Golightly, wasn’t just using the shades as a fashion statement but as a means to cover up most aspects of her life. The original model of these gorgeous sunnies is Oliver Goldsmith's Manhattan, which boasts subtle green lenses wrapped in classic tortoiseshell frames.

With cat-eyes and tortoiseshell patterns both being classic women's sunglasses designs, you won't have a hard time trying to replicate this timeless look. Jimmy Choo's JC373 tortoiseshell cat-eyes are almost an exact replica of the Manhattan with slightly less curved edges. You can also choose a pair that comes with a modern twist to give you more of an edge. For example, you can try Pink Ribbon's Jasmine sunnies if you want more pronounced cat-eye edges and a lighter tortoiseshell hue. Whichever frame you pick, taking a page out of Audrey Hepburn’s book can keep you elegant and classy at all times.

Jane Birkin in La Piscine

Embassy Pictures/La Piscine/1969
Embassy Pictures/La Piscine/1969

You'll find another iconic pair of sunglasses in another classic '60s film: the French flick La Piscine. More importantly, they're worn by none other than fashion icon Jane Birkin, the British-French actress who inspired the Hermès Birkin bag. You'll see her donning a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses, similar to Audrey Hepburn, but this time utilized in stylish, oversized round frames from Vuarnet. This iconic French brand is known for the durability and vintage edge its eyewear brings, and it has also been used in movies in the James Bond franchise.

In La Piscine, though, these "bug-eye" style sunnies round everything off with blue-tinted lenses, which mesh perfectly with the setting of the film itself — a swimming pool. With Thélios acquiring the brand in 2023, you can still buy an authentic pair of these Vuarnet specs yourself and steal Jane Birkin's look by using them as a statement piece. They'll complement more subdued outfits for any occasion, whether you're wearing casual jeans and t-shirts, a dress, or a summery bikini for pool or beachside escapes.

Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix Franchise

The Matrix franchise revolutionized the science-fiction genre when its first installment was released in 1999. Its cultural impact continues to reverberate through the decades, both in cinema and fashion. The sleek, all-black, leather outfits transcended the screen and onto clothing racks and the wardrobes of celebrities. Even high fashion on this side of 2020 is sometimes referred to as "The Matrix cosplay." However, the sunglasses worn in the film became especially popular for their role in the plot: They were an integral device that differentiated characters who were “awake” and those who were blind to the truth. 

Though all pairs of sunglasses featured in the movie are iconic in their own right, Carrie-Anne Moss’s character, Trinity, wore uniquely oval specs that gave off an almost alien-like look. These were created by Richard Walker’s Blinde specifically for the film. However, you won’t have to look far and wide for a similar pair due to how many top brands The Matrix has influenced. Le Specs Slinky can give you a Trinity-inspired vibe at a price point that won't break the bank. All you need to do is pair them with an all-black ensemble to complete the look!  

Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2

The Matrix isn't the only badass franchise where you'll find inspiration for edgy women's sunglasses. The Terminator series also boasts Sarah Connor, a strong character who develops from a damsel in distress to an experienced fighter in her own right. In doing so, Linda Hamilton — the first of many actresses to portray Sarah — wears a pair of artisanal metallic sunglasses with especially dark lenses. Director Tim Miller states these lenses were a deliberate fashion choice: Sarah used them to hide the fact that she lost her humanity at the beginning of this sequel film.

Linda's plot-tastic sunnies come from Matsuda Eyewear, a Japanese brand renowned for the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into the design of its metallic frames. You'll find Sarah Connor's specs among the 2809 models in its 25th anniversary Heritage Collection. Though Sarah dons a black pair, 2809s come in different colorways – meaning you can buy the sunnies of your preference and use the frames' metallic details to accent both casual and formal outfits.

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

One final action flick offers timeless fashion advice for your next pair of sunglasses. In the Quentin Tarantino-directed cult favorite Kill Bill, Uma Thurman's character – The Bride – dons Ray-Ban's iconic Aviators upon leaving the hospital at the beginning of the movie. Thanks to a reputation for badassery previously established by films like Top Gun and action stars like Tom Cruise, these popular sunglass frames give The Bride an air of mystery, serving to draw viewers in and motivate them to continue discovering who she is as the movie progresses.

The fact that Thurman wears Aviators means it'll be exceptionally easy to steal her look. These frames are endlessly versatile and are now offered not just by Ray-Ban, but countless other brands like Persol, Oakley, and Maui Jim. That means you can easily shop for the pair that goes best with your current wardrobe and use these timeless sunnies to match outfits regardless of whatever is trendy to wear today and in the future.

Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive

Soda Pictures/Pandora Film/Only Lovers Left Alive/2013
Soda Pictures/Pandora Film/Only Lovers Left Alive/2013

Tilda Swinton has range. That's evident in Only Lovers Left Alive, a comedic drama that beautifully contrasts the fantasy and historical genres her filmography usually sees her dabble in. Here, she and Tom Hiddleston play a pair of centuries-old vampiric lovers. That's where the sunglasses come in – fans speculate they're only worn at night to hide the appearance of their vampire eyes from humans.

Swinton's character, Eve, is shown to prefer rectangular D-frame sunglasses. Such models boast frames with equal width and height and rounded outer corners to create that "D" shape. They're perfect if you have a round face and want to add an edge to whatever you're wearing. If you'd prefer a pair with more glam, try Linda Farrow's take on these versatile women's sunglasses frames

Emma Stone in Easy A

Easy A is an age-old story of a teenage girl wanting to be more popular as she goes through high school — and, as Emma Stone's character Olive Penderghast learns, what can happen when she uses the wrong methods to make that happen. In an effort to look more impressive, Olive dons an accessory that's commonly associated with coolness: sunglasses. And, as we established with Kill Bill, the best brand of sunnies to do that with is Ray-Ban.

That's probably why you'll see Emma Stone wearing a pair of Ray-Ban's classic Wayfarers throughout the film. Sleek, black frames that come with a unique horn-rimmed design and forward-tilting lenses make for an incredibly fashionable look that's perfect to steal for everyday wear. If you want to take it a step further, opt for the more futuristic sunglasses design offered by the Wayfarer Reverse.

Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada

Who better to get sunnies inspiration from than high fashion editor Miranda Priestly? The sunglasses worn by arguably the most popular character in The Devil Wears Prada establish her authority and confidence from the moment she steps into the offices of Runway Magazine, effectively demonstrating this character's cutthroat reputation in the film.

And, of course, the gold, rounded cat-eyes from Versace she wears are simply stylish, further highlighting the inspiration the movie took from Vogue's Anna Wintour for Meryl Streep's portrayal. That's probably why Meryl kept the sunglasses after filming — you'll spot her wearing them in Mamma Mia!, too! For a similar pair of specs to go with your editorial-worthy outfits, you can try the oval cat eye sunglasses from Prada.

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde

We can't make a list of iconic women film characters without including the fabulous Elle Woods! She's got more than just awe-inspiring legal skills up her sleeve; when it comes to sunglasses inspiration, she doesn't disappoint. Given how the character develops throughout Legally Blonde, it's no surprise she wears pink eyewear at the beginning of the film. There's more to these sunglasses complementing her fully pink driving suit: The specs show how she starts her journey by literally seeing the world through rose-tinted lenses, contrasting how she grows after the experiences the plot then throws her way.

However, there's no denying that her sunnies offer a look that's still worth stealing. As a multi-hued, feminine color, pink goes well with pretty much anything, so all you need to do is pick a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses that best suit your style. Michael Kors' pink Aviators are great for everyday looks, and if you want to make a bigger splash, Chloé Eyewear's heart-shaped pink sunnies can be the perfect pink accessory.

Margot Robbie in Barbie

Though only released in 2023, Greta Gerwig's Barbie has already established a few iconic looks inspired by the equally iconic dolls of the same name. Barbie changed how young girls played with dolls the moment she was introduced, as the movie explains in the 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired opening sequence. Yet her debut also marked the beginning of her influence in fashion: Margot Robbie is spotted wearing white cat-eyes at the beginning of the film, a nod to the pair of vintage women's sunglasses worn by the first-ever Barbie doll in 1959. 

There are many white cat-eye shades from brands like Chanel, which is likely what Robbie, a Chanel ambassador, wears in the film: its white 5481H model is incredibly similar to what you'll see on screen. But if you want something slightly different than the chunky frames, you can take inspiration from some of the actress’s Barbie-inspired looks from her press tour. She wore white oval sunglasses at an event in Bondi Beach, also paying tribute to the original Barbie, but using a pair with much smaller and sleeker frames for a subtle chicness, similar to these by Linda Farrow.

Closing Thoughts

Sunglasses can be glamorous, cool, or playful accessories that so clearly enhance female film characters. With new eyewear styles constantly emerging, it’s exciting to see how these pieces will translate for women in cinema.

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