It’s no news that cinema and fashion hold hands. It’s impossible to deduct which one started influencing the other: in the same way in which cinema affects catwalks (and sidewalks), high fashion and subcultural style affect the big screen, working as a constant source of inspiration.
Fashion has the habit to take from the past, with the same immediacy in which a film can take us back to another era. This discourse gains particular worth within today’s context, in which every new thing we are proposed with seems to be a futuristic reinterpretation of the past. The best movies of 2018 also look back at the past but they could be a starting point for the trends of the new year.
Here are the ones we appreciated the most:
The favorite is the last film by Yorgos Lanthimos, set in 18th century England. The drama-comedy unfolding through the notes of the absurd, in authentic Lanthimos style, was dressed by acclaimed costume designer Sandy Powell, Oscar winner for Shakespeare in Love, Carol and Gangs of New York.
This time, instead of going for pompous gowns and pastel-colored frills characteristic of 1700s, Powell established a black and white palette, creating a “punk rock” version of the Royal Court, that goes well with the humor of the film. The costume designer spoke to Vulture about the self challenge of moving away from the use of color (characteristic of her work until now), experimenting with different textures in order to let the costumes stand out on camera.
Other then being an undiscussed music icon, Freddie Mercury was also and undiscussed style icon. Always careful about his image on stage, he once said “it’s not a concert you are seeing, it’s a fashion show”. We can only imagine how demanding it was for British costume designer Julian Day to give honor to each of his sartorial moments. To go safe, Day played home court (in London). After an accurate research among the Queen’s archive, between costumes and clippings, the costume designer found some vintage pieces from London’s vintage boutique Biba, where Mercury’s female love interest worked when they met. The white leather jacket Rami Malek is wearing while the band signs its first contract with a record label, is said to be found in Jimi Hendrix’s apartment when he died, which would make it a tribute to the influence Hendrix had on Freddie Mercury. Other than the famous top with batwings (reproduced from original author Zandra Rhodes) and the spandex jumpsuits (like the iconic harlequin jumpsuit sold for a good 29,000 $) that allowed him to jump and interact on stage, the most difficult look to recreate was the one in denim and tank top worn at the Wembley stadium in 1985. Day contacted Wrangler and adidas to reproduce the exact models of the garments originally worn and he had to make about 30 tank tops to make sure he got the neckline right.
The Black Panther
The Black Panther is the last superhero movie signed by Marvel, with a cast made entirely of African and Afro-American actors, set in the imaginary region of Wakanda, whose safety is under threat. The costume designer for the film is Ruth E Carter, with already two Oscars under her belt for Amistad and Malcom X. Her source of inspiration was the culture of ancient Africa, that she brought to the screen in a way we had never seen before. “I selected things from indigenous tribes and implemented them in a futuristic model”, declares to British Vogue, “Because the culture that [director] Ryan Coogler created is unique, I could combine elements of many African tribes – including the colour red, the triangle shape, neck rings and beadwork – without worrying about cultural appropriation”. The costume designer’s aim was to give a “real context” to South Africa, and a sense of hope in a gender-imbalanced society. Carter worked with a team of over 100 members coming from all over the world in order to re-create a look worthy of its history. Now, is predictions are right, her name will be among the Oscar nominations of 2019, and she could be the first woman to bring home the reward for best costumes for a superhero movie.
After Call Me By Your Name’s success, Luca Guadagnino decides to chance upon the remake of Dario Argento’s masterpiece: Suspiria. Film critiques bring out mixed feelings but one of the first elements appreciated, both from critics and public, is costumes. Giulia Piersanti, costume designer for the film, declared Vogue to have made some costumes out of human hair extensions, that have been hand-draped onto a cage-like structure to keep the body free for movement and emphasize its bareness. Her inspiration source for the costumes of Helena Markos Dance Academy executives were the Madame Gres-esque draped vests (think of the dramatic and impotent kaftans worn by Tilda Swinton) that conferred them with a solemn aura, keeping away from the witchy look that is characteristic of horror films. Researching on old copies of German fashion magazine Sibylle, which she found on eBay, Piersanti adapted to the soft palette made by Guadagnino, on the tones of muted grey, brown, beidge and rust. Red, characteristic of the original version by Dario Argento, still has a primary role through costume: from the leotard the main character wears to class, to the Madame Blanc’s kimono, red appears like an omen of imminent horror.
We’ve been long hearing about Mid90s, Jonah Hill’s director debut. Its reputation precedes it, and same goes for its costume designer: Heidi Bivens. We knew her already for her mix of bikinis and balaclavas in Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine and for 2016 film for KENZO World fragrance by Spike Jonze, to meet her again at Beach Bum (she is the one who put Matthew McConaughey in that pink robe with feathers on the film’s posters).
This time, she was challenged by the director to faithfully recreate the skateboarders style of mid 90s L.A, an era the director is affectionate to because symbolic of his childhood. “To the average person who doesn’t know the references of the time, it all just looks like jeans and t-shirts. The ArcLight in Hollywood is displaying the costumes, and I’ve always wanted my costumes at ArcLight, but it kinda made me laugh, because they’re jeans and t-shirts”, she tells Dazed. But the film costumes are not just any jeans and t-shirt, they are The jeans and The t-shirts with baggy silhouettes and specific prints of those times. Many are the brands, some of which are forgotten today, the costume designer managed to involve, among which are Kools and Menace. While some garments have been found on eBay or Etsy, others have been reproduced asking brands for the original artworks and graphics.
Text by Enrica Miller