Lights, Camera, Costumes

Costume design can make or break a film, having the power to whisk you away to any era of time. Backstage Tales takes a look at a few films that sartorially smashed it and how certain character’s costumes are representative of their inward personality.

The Favourite
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Eighteenth century fashion has been explored in many films such as Belle and Marie Antoinette, but a stand-out example of fashion in film for this time period has to be The Favourite. Each garment is not only magically designed to fit the film’s era, but the clothing also says something about each and every character. The outfits champion a gender role reversal with male characters possessing exaggerated feminine traits and trends. Powell used flamboyant ruffled collars and sleeves, huge wigs and over-the-top makeup to portray Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult) and Masham (Joe Alwyn). On the flip side, horse-back riding Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) wears sporting clothes such as trousers, boots and britches in the film. The freedom of movement in her clothes and subtlety of her makeup eludes to her strong character and self-confidence.

The Great Gatsby
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin

Fast forward two hundred years and the end of World War One was marked with a decade long wave of euphoria. With flapper dresses dripping in diamantes, slick tailored suits and gorgeous head dresses, “The Roaring Twenties” are easily my favourite era of fashion. When Baz Luhrmann turned F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby into a film, he enlisted his go-to designer Catherine Martin to create the costumes. With the help of Miuccia Prada, Martin was able to highlight the monumental turning point of female fashion that took place in the 1920s. Long gone were the impractical corsets, long skirts and Rapunzel hair, and instead shorter, more shapeless dresses allowed women to move more freely. Daisy Buchanan, played by Carey Mulligan, sports a redux of a crystal adorned dress from Prada’s SS10 runway. The silky fluidity and free-moving motion of the garment allows her to dance throughout the night to endless jazz, but the lack of restriction from the garment also reflects her willingness to escape the restraints of her life with her husband Tom. The jewels created by Tiffany & Co of course mirror her wealth and the frivolous lavishness of the life she leads.

Blade Runner 2049
Costume Designer: Renée April

With fashion continuously changing, it is becoming harder to predict what styles will come about next season, let alone in thirty years from now. Despite this, Blade Runner 2049’s costume designer Renée April created an exciting and believable futuristic wardrobe that was a far cry from the usual silver space-age garments of sci-fi thriller films. Unfortunately for fashion lovers like me, April made it clear that despite the significant role fashion plays in the film, life in the mid-21st century will revolve around survival. In the opening scene, Captain K (Ryan Gosling) appears in a dishevelled shearling jacket that endures the entirety of the film. The jacket is practical and durable, and its bleak colour and damaged exterior mirrors the films portrayal of the harsh, unforgiving world in 2049. However, a ray of hope comes from K’s companion, Joi. Not only does her name literally bring “joy” into the film, but she sports an array of stylish colourful clothes that saturate the film with pops of colour. Her most notable costumes are her yellow PVC coat and her traditional cheongsam dress, and these examples display how her wardrobe dips in and out of different decades and global fashions. Her clothes act as a physical manifestation of her adaptability, as her life as a hologram girlfriend means she can transform into anything K desires. Additionally, fringes are somewhat popular with the female characters in Blade Runner 2049, so better book in your hair appointment before 2049.

So, which film has your favourite costumes? Tell us in the comments below.


Text: Sylvie Marilyn Keen

Photos: Wired, Vogue, Pinterest, Refinery 29



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