Posts Tagged ‘fashion in film’

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in the film, Spencer. Costumes by Jacqueline Durran.

There were much more exciting things going on in 80s fashion than the things she wore. When she first started in the early 80s, she really didn’t have a handle on what her potential was in fashion, because it was all so new and she was so young. She discovered it as she grew older.

Jacqueline Durran, British costume designer.

Ms. Durran created the costumes for the 2021 film, Spencer, staring Kristen Stewart, who is up for the Best Actress Oscar, as Princess Diana.

Come on back to ODFL tomorrow for my post on the virtual talk I attended with Ms. Durran and Kevin Jones, curator at FIDM Museum.

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As the pandemic rages on, it’s time for another of my favorite go-to movies: Pretty in Pink.

Pretty in Pink is the third in what became a trilogy of teenage films written by John Hughes. First came The Breakfast Club then Sixteen Candles. Molly Ringwald was in both and the story goes that Hughes wrote Pretty in Pink for her.

Ringwald’s character, Andie, is a high school senior –  creative, smart, and poor. Her best friend Duckie, played by Jon Cryer, is hopelessly in love with Andie, but his humor and charm go unnoticed. However, cute and sensitive Blane, played by Andrew McCarthy, is very much in focus for our heroine as he crosses the tracks from his slick wealthy existence into her world, which is more interesting if rather dingy. Of course there is a villain (James Spader) and an older hip mentor (Annie Potts) and lots of teenage strife, broken hearts, and a couple of really satisfying dramatic scenes.

When this film came out my first thought was: “Ahem, pink is not pretty on redheads.” As a redhead myself, I know the two colors we cannot wear are pink and red. Perhaps deeper shades of these colors, but not the classic pink and red … no way!

This is because, in my opinion, red hair is very striking and therefore other vibrant colors clash. We need deep shades that don’t compete, such as burgundy, mauve, navy, and we all know a redhead’s best color is green. Apparently, Ringwald had a “predisposition” for pink, hence the movie’s title.

That aside, Pretty in Pink is a fun film for its 80s nostalgia, the teenage romance, and of course, the costumes! Watching Andie today it seems that her quirky sense of style is rather timeless. She would stand out in this era just as much as she did in the 80s. Costumer Marilyn Vance worked closely with Ringwald, who had much to say about her character’s clothing.

They shopped thrift stores and flea markets to create a look of vintage crossed with homemade crossed with (almost) granny. Andie sports cardigan sweaters often embellished with pins or lace. (Ringwald said in a 2006 interview that she still owns several of those sweaters.) Hats tied with a scarf. She likes layers and even did what I used to do – layer short socks over stockings. (Stockings not nylons, not tights.) Her jackets are vintage, her jewelry is antique style and at home she dons lovely Japanese kimono.

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Duckie also has a very unique style. I love his collection of bolo ties. He wears vintage jackets, vests, baggy pants and a pork pie hat. Oh, and a lot of very large rings. He gets bullied, but he’s true to his look.

Our third stylin’ character is Annie Potts as Iona. In every one of her scenes, she dons a different and extreme ensemble from a punk rubber dress and spiky hair to a preppy red blazer complete with super size shoulder pads.

As for the ordinary kids, Vance said that she shopped Kmart for their “ice cream” colored skirts, t-shirts, and sweaters. There are lot of light colored jeans and our wealthy fellas sport linen suits! One of my favorite parts of this film is Spader slithering around the high school hallways in his Italian loafers (no socks), hands stuffed in his linen trousers. We’re not supposed to like him, but I find his snotty attitude hilarious.

Beyond the costumes, I really enjoyed the very strong performances by the entire cast. No one other than Ringwald could have played this role, and surprisingly, Paramount looked at other actresses, including  Jennifer Beal. Finally the powers-that-be wised up and went with the actress for whom the part was written.

Ringwald is solid as Andie, able to be confident as the underdog, yet vulnerable when she’s let down. Anger is not a problem and even a little bitchy comes out from time to time. But the real star here, if you ask me, is Jon Cryer, who clearly put all he had into Duckie. Passion, vulnerability, humor, even some dance moves. His character is over-the-top and Cryer is able to successfully deliver that without putting off the audience. Plus, who could resist that winning smile?

Well, apparently Ringwald could. She had a lot of input on casting the film and although she admitted that Cryer was a strong contender, she also liked Robert Downey Jr. for the role. She thought he was cute and could see herself (Andie) falling for him. She did not feel the same for Cryer. How it was that he was cast and not Downey is a part of the story not shared. But there is something else.

The ending we see in the film is not the original ending. SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the movie (or don’t recall) and don’t want to know the ending, stop reading and go watch. Originally, after Blane disappoints Andie, she realizes the true love of Duckie is what she wants and they end up together at the prom. The whole script was written to follow this direction. They filmed the ending as written, despite Ringwald’s insistence that it was all wrong. Then they showed a test audience and … the audience booed. The young women wanted Andie to have “the cute boy.” So, Hughes quickly rewrote the ending (the quickly part shows) and six months after the first wrap they re-shoot the ending and Andie goes off with Blane, who has awkwardly redeemed himself.

The decision to change the ending remains controversial and even some very young audiences watching the film today think Duckie was the right guy for Andie. Still, the movie was a hit at the time and has since become a cult favorite.

I could write so much more, but I’ve gone on long enough. Pretty in Pink is a great escape from today’s social media, cell phones, bad news, pandemic. Turn it all off and go back to a time when we still bought records. Speaking of that, the soundtrack was a big hit too.

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Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls.

OverDressedforLife is starting something new – to mix it up a bit, once in awhile Fashionable Quote will be replaced with Fashionable Word.

Our very first fashionable word is … composed. As in, “She is very composed.”

The definition of composed in the Webster’s New World Dictionary is: calm; tranquil; self-possessed.

I’ve been thinking about this word since I recently heard it used to describe Anne Welles, a character in Valley of the Dolls.

Valley of the Dolls is a 1967 film based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Jacqueline Susann. Starring Sharon Tate, Patty Duke, and Barbara Parkins, it’s the story of three young women in NYC and Hollywood living the roller-coaster life of showbiz and prescription drug addiction. At the time, the film and story were taken very seriously, but its melodramatics have since turned it into a campy cult classic.

I watched Valley of the Dolls a few weeks ago and was surprised by the strength of the cast, which also included Susan Hayword and Lee Grant. I enjoyed the very specific 1960s production values and the costumes by William Travilla, who is best known for designing the white halter dress Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch.


Barbara Parkins in Valley of the Dolls.

There’s a lot to say about Dolls, but let’s get back to our word. The character Anne Welles, played by Barbara Parkins, is a college educated ingenue from New England. She carries with her a certain reserve, or composure, that gives her an attractive mystique. Up against the other characters, particularly Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke) who is quite over-the-top with rage, Welles always remains calm, keeping her emotions in check. She is composed.

I heard that Travilla designed Welles’ costumes to reflect her reserve and that Parkins didn’t care for the “buttoned-up” look. Really? I did!




Barbara Parkins and Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls.

I like her stylish yet simple costumes, her fluffy, backcombed hair … and her composed demeanor.

In today’s world dominated by social media, we are all overexposed. Too many loud voices. Too many opinion shared. Too many pics posted. I find a little composure refreshing.

Since style is just as much about behavior as it is about clothing, being composed might make a great new trend.



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Costume designer Adrian and Greta Garbo on the set of The Single Standard. 

I first realized Costume Design was an occupation while watching Greta Garbo in the 1920s film, A Single Standard. Adrian’s costumes succinctly captured a free-thinking, strong-willed character through her louche, striped pajamas. The casual, masculine silhouettes with a nautical flair were antithetical to women of the time, a radical rethinking of the uniform women were expected to wear. I was mesmerized. 

Anna Wyckoff, editor-in-chief, The Costume Designer: The Official Magazine of the Costume Designers Guild.

Adrian (1903-1959) designed costumes for over 250 films from the 1920s through 1941. He’s known for such iconic films as The Women (1939), Camille (1936), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). Adrian worked with many a film superstar including Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Katharine Hepburn.

Despite Adrian’s popularity and success in Hollywood, he was never nominated for an Oscar.

Speaking of the Oscars – they are fast approaching. Sunday, March 4th.

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Day-Lewis sports his own look for the W interview photo shoot. Navy blue suits him. 

In the case of Phantom Thread, when we started I had no curiosity about the fashion world. I didn’t want to be drawn into it. Even now, fashion itself doesn’t really interest me. In the beginning, we didn’t know what profession the protagonist would have. We chose fashion and then realized, What the hell have we let ourselves into? And then the fashion world got its hooks in me. 

Daniel Day-Lewis, British actor, starring in the film Phantom Thread.

This quote is from an interview with reporter Lynn Hirschberg for W.

To prepare for playing the part of couturier Reynolds Woodcock (a fictional character) Day-Lewis, like all good actors, did extensive research. He watched 1940s and 50s fashion show archival footage and spent many months apprenticing with Marc Happel, head of the NYC Ballet costume department. He learned to sew and even … get this –  made a Balenciaga dress.


Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread. 

He found a photo of what he thought was a simple Balenciaga dress and decided to make it. Turns out it was not so simple but undaunted he sketched the design and went about draping gray flannel fabric on his wife, Rebecca Miller, who stepped in as a fit model. He says the hardest part was figuring out “a very particular gusset in the armpit.” By trial and error (always the way in sewing) he figured it out and lined the dress in what became Woodcock’s signature color, a pinkish lilac.

Very impressive!

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Whatever you do, do it carefully. 

Alma – fictional character (played by Vicky Krieps) in the new film, Phantom Thread. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Excellent advice going into the new year. This will be my 2018 mantra.

Speaking of Phantom Thread, I am looking forward to this film. Of course for the fashions, but I hear that really the film is less about that and more about a dark character obsessed with creativity (Day-Lewis). The fashion industry is just his context. The script was a collaboration between Day-Lewis and Anderson – they started with the fictional character, Reynolds Woodcock, and placed him in the world of fashion.

Day-Lewis stated in a recent interview with W, that he has had a hard time shaking off this particular character. Apparently it’s not uncommon for the serious actor to fully immerse himself in his characters, but Woodcock is different somehow and Day-Lewis was left with such sadness that he has announced his retirement from acting. The unusual formal announcement made it binding. He says he doesn’t want to get “sucked back into another project.” I wonder if somewhere in his mind was Alma’s advice – Whatever you do, do it carefully.

In the meantime, Day-Lewis has been nominated for a Golden Globe and we shall soon hear what Oscar has to say.

General release is set for January 19th, 2018.



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Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Costumes by Edith Head.

I recently needed a break from all the holiday hoopla and decided on a night in with a classic non-holiday movie – Sunset Boulevard.

What a great film of “glamorous” Hollywood, which stays on the comfortable side of creepy but adds a pinch of noir. Directed by Billy Wilder in 1950 and starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond and William Holden as Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard tells the story of an unstable middle-aged actress who is living in denial. She’s striving for a Hollywood comeback or rather a throwback to her youth as a big star in silent films thirty years earlier. Writer and debt-ridden Holden comes along and gets snared into her time warp.

Swanson received an academy award nomination for her work in this film but she was not the fist choice for the part. She accepted it after actresses such as Mary Pickford and Mae West turned it down for the story-line hitting a little too close to home.

It must have for Swanson as well. She had been a star in the 1920s but at age 50 she had long since faded into Hollywood history. Still, being a bit of a health nut, particularly about food, Swanson looked great and Wilder made the choice not to turn her into an old scary hag for the role of Norma Desmond.

Although she is stuck in her heyday era, Norma Desmond still looks chic thanks to costumer extraordinaire Edith Head.

In her biography Head discusses Wilder’s vision:

Billy explained to me that he wanted Gloria to convey a feeling of the past, but he didn’t want her to re-create it. He didn’t want anything ridiculous or laughable … Norma Desmond tried to be as contemporary as possible by wearing fashionable styles … To accomplish this I added a touch of the bizarre to each costume to remind audiences that she was living in a dream world of the past.

I think Head did a fabulous job creating a look for Norma that is unique and timeless.

Escape the holidays for an evening and visit Sunset Boulevard.

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Fashion designer b Michael had the honor of dressing Whitney Houston in the upcoming film Sparkle.

A remake of the 1976 film starring Irene Cara, Sparkle takes place in the 1960s and tells the story of an up-and-coming sister singing group in Harlem. Ms. Houston plays the girls’ mother.

Mr. Michael has always been about style. As a youngster he’d redesign his grandmother’s hats. After an early and brief career on Wall Street he shifted into fashion and worked as a milliner for Oscar de la Renta. In 1980 Nolan Miller invited Mr. Michael to design hats for the hit television show, Dynasty. In 1989 he created his own line of hats and ten years later in 1999 he crossed over into women’s wear showing his label b Michael for the first time.

Last fall Mr. Michael was asked to work with Sparkle’s costume designer Ruth Carter in creating nine pieces for Ms. Houston. “Whitney was excited about working on the film,” Mr. Michael recently said in an interview with WWD. “I was excited to work with her. It was a once-in-a- lifetime moment.”

He told WWD that Ms. Houston frowned on the sleeveless dress he designed for a church scene. She pointed out to him that she needed dramatic sleeves for when she raised her arms up high while singing.

Mr. Michael listened to the feedback and designed a champagne-color silk and wool suit with exaggerated trumpet sleeves (pictured above). It’s lovely, but unfortunately the suit includes mink fur around the collar. Assuming it’s real, that’s disappointing. The use of real fur in fashion is unnecessary and inhumane. Still, the suit is a beautiful color and I love those sleeves.

We can see this suit and all the other b Michael originals for Ms. Houston when Sparkle is released in August.

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Brooks Brothers costumes for The Great Gatsby.

There have been five film versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best known novel, The Great Gatsby and come December we will have another. Those of us with a fondness of 1920s  fashions are certainly looking forward to the visual feast.

A feast it will be! WWD recently reported that Brooks Brothers supplied all the costumes for the male actors and extras. Working with the film’s costume designer Catherine Martin, Brooks Brothers provided re-creations of 1920s wardrobes including suits, tuxedos, and leisure wear. All the clothing was made in the company’s factories located in Massachusetts and North Carolina. (U.S. Made – I like that!)

Founded in 1818 in New York City, Brooks Brothers was the first shop in America to offer ready-to-wear men’s clothing. The company quickly became known for its classic collegiate style. Indeed, Fitzgerald himself was a Brooks Brothers man.

Ralph Lauren’s Jay Gatsby costume in 1974.

Ralph Lauren provided the men’s fashions for the 1974 film dressing Robert Redford, Sam Waterston, and Bruce Dern. What a coup for the upcoming designer with a brand new business. Although the film itself was a flop, costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge won an Oscar that year and Bloomingdale’s sold an adapted clothing line inspired by the film.

For now the production company is mum on who has designed the women’s costumes but Tiffany & Co. provided the jewelry.

We have to be patient and wait until December 25th for the film, but in the meantime we can recreate our own 1920s party with The Gatsby Summer Afternoon coming up on September 9th.  The Art Deco Society of California is furiously working on what has become THE costume event of the year. You betcha I’ll be there, Old Sport.

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