Friday, 16 March 2012

Summer lovin' in (500) Days of Summer

With the swell of sunshine so nearly upon us for another year, what better film to entice us into the season fully than the glorious (500) Days of Summer? Starring the bashfully handsome Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen, he is clothed in beautifully geeky skinny ties and buttoned up cardigans. However, it is his office object of desire, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) who really takes the proverbial fashion biscuit. Summer, witty and charming with a penchant for The Smiths, is a young woman who doesn't really believe in love. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, and that is that she believes in fashion.
The immediate thing to note about the costume ensembles of (500) Days of Summer is their timelessness. The pieces are stylish and fashion-forward without screaming ‘my name is (insert try-hard fashion victim’s name here) and I’m a try-hard fashion victim’. Summer especially is clad very cleverly. She wears a simple sun-inspired menagerie of cottons, denim and embroidery, with flatteringly feminine A-line shapes and full skirted designs. She undoubtedly enjoys dressing and knows what suits her, the feel of her outfits unmistakeably soft and romantic. With modest hemlines and a relaxed fit, Summer exudes effortless beauty without the need for revealing more. Her unawareness of the impact of her beauty only adds to her appeal. Here is a girl who is not afraid to be her own person, her controversially casual attitude to life and love going hand-in-hand with her self-possessed style.

In another nod to her vivacious fashion poise, Summer is dressed almost exclusively in blue for the entirety of the film. Hued in everything from duck egg to midnight navy, it becomes her signature trademark. The all-blue palette rebrands the term of the LBD (little black dress), lending an idiosyncratic twist to create Summer’s own ‘little blue dress’. Softer than the classic black version and a quirky alternative, it is again a reflection of Summer’s eccentric and unabashedly individual manner.

The morning following Tom and Summer’s first night together, a surreal dance sequence takes place in the street, employing a plethora of seemingly arbitrary dancers and background actors. It is the only scene in the entire film where blue is worn by anyone other than Summer. Costume designer Hope Hanafin confirms that the idea behind this was to show that, in the morning-after glow of his night with Summer, Tom’s whole world is a reflection of his all-consuming lust for her. Now that’s some signature dressing.

So if you want to rock a little bit of carefree charm this summer, do it the Deschanel way in a beautiful blue and you’ll feel anything but melancholy. 

2009, USA
Director: Marc Webb
Costume design: Hope Hanafin

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Powder pastels in Marie Antoinette

With the hint of Spring just around the corner, the soft and sumptuous palette of Marie Antoinette has never been so appealing.

A biopic on Marie Antoinette could easily have fallen into obscurity alongside countless other historically based costume dramas. However, with Sofia Coppola at the realm, this was never going to happen. You may recognise Coppola from her other work such as the soft focus and dewy paletted The Virgin Suicides and here again, her direction does not disappoint. With attention to beautiful cinematography and design, Coppola places a clever and heavily deliberate importance on costume as a stylised character unto itself. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the elaborate ensembles of Marie Antoinette, submerging us in a world of 18th century decadence and excess, using modern influence to really set itself apart from the costume drama crowd.

With the fragile beauty of Kirsten Dunst as the canvas for the role of Marie Antoinette, the tone of the film is one of delicate innocence thrown into a lavish and opulent world. Marie was fourteen when she was married off to the French heir to the throne and thrust flagrantly into the public eye, developing child-in-a-sweet-shop syndrome; a naive and porcelain beauty given anything she desired. This is reflected in the colour palette of Marie’s decadent gowns, all pastel soft and gauzy lace. Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero recalls Coppola handing her a box of pastel-coloured macaroons from the Laduree pastry house at the start of pre-production, with the words 'These are the colours I love'.  Their influence is unmistakable in the beautiful silks, taffeta, and satin. These were days in which draping one’s self in lavish lace and jewels was a signifier of wealth, Marie Antoinette the most indulgently wealthy of all.

The footwear is the work of Manolo Blahnik, shoeing our teen queen in an opulent collection of candy-coloured heels generously embellished with ribbon, embroidery and beads. The shoes themselves are of a height and shape that would be impossible to attain by real period techniques, yet the fantasy element of this is characteristic of the luxury of French royalty at the time. This is the theme of the whole film, with the mixing of modern-day pop songs clashing gloriously against the period settings. Above all, this is a peaches-and-cream look at a young Queen whose rose-tinted innocence and naivety was to be her eventual downfall.

Let them wear cake!

(That one was too hard to resist...)

USA/France, 2006
Director: Sofia Coppola
Costume Design: Milena Canonero 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Clueless & 90s prep chic

‘Do you prefer “fashion victim” or “ensemble-y challenged”?’

When Clueless burst onto our screens in the mid-90s, it left us with a bucketful of sarcastic put downs to try out in the school hallways and a penchant for plaid we never knew we had. Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz became an overnight sensation. Girls identified with her heartbreak and social worries, simultaneously envying her revolving wardrobe and online outfit chooser. Loosely based on the plot of Jane Austen’s Emma, this is a High School film at its finest. Set in sunny Beverly Hills with a free rein of Daddy’s credit card, the fashion is of utmost importance and social acceptance. The overriding sense of the film is that these are girls on the precipice of adulthood, their levels of sophistication undeveloped and gaudy. Inwardly, they are desperate to be taken seriously and their garishly matched designer uniforms are their outward attempts at this.

Cher’s style is rich girl prep’ and her signature patterned mini-skirts, knee high socks and platform Mary Jane shoes became emulated by girls the world over. The look is all about tasteless colour and texture, with Crayola brights adorning the pleats and pinstripe patterns. When more is more, accessories are bountiful; the tackier the better. The girls are drowning in faux-fur handbags, feather-trimmed coats and velvet headbands, with Cher’s best friend Dionne exhibiting a penchant for freakishly flamboyant hats. This is a world where berets appear to be not only socially acceptable, but actually fashion forward.

When new girl Tai, a then relatively unknown Brittany Murphy, arrives on the scene she is quickly shunned for her Nirvana-grunge appearance, probably the most realistic portrayal of how teens dressed at the time. The contrast is so extreme that it is Tai who looks wrong and costumed, while the other clownishly dressed students are the ones that appear acceptable. It is up to Cher and Dionne to transform her, cladding her in preppy shift dresses and oxford collars until she becomes another Beverly Hills clone.

The west coast preppy flair of the film delves us into a world of pure fantasy, far removed from the sloppy grunge style of its 1995 release. As a result, Clueless provided a fashion revelation, with girls everywhere longing to shop on Rodeo Drive. In the words of Cher, they would strive for “courageous fashion efforts” and work to makeover their wardrobes. Hopefully, like Cher, they were also inspired to make over their souls in the process.

1995, USA
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Costume Design: Mona May