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Fashion
December 21, 2018

2018 Rewind: The Films With The Most Desirable Costumes

Text by Shubham Ladha

These films are a treat for sore eyes, in more ways than one

If clothes make the man, then the costumes make the actor. 2018 brought forth some excellent costumery; some which gloriously reinvented the past while others that took us to a whole new world:

Bohemian Rhapsody, Julian Day

Queen’s Freddie Mercury had once said about his musical persona, “It’s not a concert you are seeing, it’s a fashion show.” And we couldn’t agree more. Mercury, since childhood was fascinated with clothing, since he went to art school and owned a clothing stall in Kensington market. Thus, it became more important to bring his wild-child androgynous style, which inspired an entire rock ‘n roll generation through the ‘70s and ‘80s in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Costume designer Julian Day scoured London’s vintage stores and boutiques, such as Biba, Carlo Manzi and designer Zandra Rhodes. Day had the film’s protagonist, Rami Malek through multiple fittings, tracing the evolution of his style from leather jackets, velvet bell bottoms and spandex jumpsuits to tank tops, jeans and a simple pair of Reebok’s. One leather jacket used in the film was also rumoured to have been traced to Jimi Hendrix, which was serendipity since the latter inspired the former a lot.

Crazy Rich Asians, Mary E. Vogt

Kevin Kwan’s 2003 novel of the same name was adapted for the big screen this year, telling the story of Rachel Chu, a young NYU professor who’s invited by her boyfriend, Nick Young, to attend his cousin’s wedding and meet his family in Singapore, the wealthy (unbeknown to Chu) Youngs. Nick’s family has been described as coming from ‘old money’, used to having and using it understatedly. Through the film, we’re also introduced the Lin Gohs, which is ‘new money’, and thus, the Gohs enjoy it explicitly. Thus, costume designer Mary E. Vogt’s aim was to craft the characters as per their backgrounds; the Youngs in simple elegance and sophistication, the Gohs in loud, lavish and over-the-top and Rachel Chu, whose modest and unassuming sense of fashion transforms to a more feminine and romantic style, with florals and ruffles on display. As is with any lead actor in a rom-com, this indicates how vulnerable she’s grown through the film as she’s put to test by Nick’s mother, who thinks Chu will never be good enough for her son.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, Colleen Atwood

After Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) won the academy award for Best Costume Design in 2017, Atwood jumped on board once again to style the film for its sequel. While the prequel was set in the early ‘20s in London, the sequel took place in the second half of the same decade, but in Paris, letting Atwood bind the characters in costumes inspired by the era’s cutting-edge fashion and the city’s gritty vibes. The aesthetic is darker, sharper, dramatic, and very streamlined with the atmosphere of the film, instilling that je ne sais quois Parisian chicness that was up and coming in the city then. The period clothes stand out due to the extra flair Atwood incorporated into them, such as Madelaine Vionnet’s bias cut technique, but using it unconventionally, in a more curved cut. A young Dumbledore — played by Jude Law — cleans up cosily in a corduroy three-piece, establishing his warmth and hope, whereas the aurors, such as Tina Goldstein is statuesque in a beautiful, heavy, menswear-inspired leather coat for her more serious demeanour; the details for each character have been rendered impeccably.

First Man, Mary Zophres

One would assume that in a film which earnestly portrays one of the most significant moments in the scientific history of Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon, that costumes don’t really matter. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? The costumes are supposed to be so concise that they subliminally become an integral part of the immersive experience of watching the film. And that’s what Zophres has managed to do. Having worked with the film’s director Damien Chazelle on La La Land (2016), Zophres returned to have fashion and style play the underdog of the documentary-style film, for the film’s titular characters, Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) and his wife, Janet (Played by Claire Foy). While the ‘60s were all about bright colours, Zophres relied more so on the NASA archives as well as Armstrongs’ family pictures to create a more unsaturated palette of colours. Gosling’s costumes consisted of several short-sleeved checked shirts, ‘60s cut trousers, muted tracks and single-breasted suits, establishing the character traits as very serious and severe. The space suits — the most integral part of the story — had to have NASA’s approval. Foy’s costumes, on the other hand goes through the evolution of the trends, which happened in the decade; A-line skirts with raised hemlines to sleeveless shift dresses in floral prints and pencil skirts.

Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell

Carrying on the song that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke began in 1964, Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns paid a nostalgic homage to the Hollywood fairytale classic with a stunning makeover in costumes, a fairly important part of any such storyline. Reflective of the ‘30s British depression era, all of Sandy Powell’s 448 original looks for the characters are on-point, except in dazzlingly bright hues, ‘like in a children’s picture book’, she said. London is down in the cold dumps, but the tweeds and woolens are around to help keep warm. Using fabrics such as tweeds and wools, Powell dressed almost all of the Banks’ family in the same, earthy colours, while for Poppins (played by Emily Blunt) she played into the character’s vanity and eccentricity — such as with polka-dotted bows and tone-on-tone stripes. Keep an eye out for Poppin’s boho-chic cousin Topsy (played by Meryl Streep), in her fringed kimono and harem trousers with kaleidoscopic prints. To really hark back to the old-fashioned and hand-drawn beauty of the old days, and especially to be able to integrate the clothes with the 2D animation, Powell hand-painted costumes on canvas or calico; true pieces of art.

Mary Queen Of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

History is replete with stories of cousin queens Mary and Elizabeth I, but Josie Rourke’s Film contemporises it. Originally, the queens never met, but more so, the plot depicts how these two women held power in a world of predatory men. Without the pressure of historical accuracy, Byrne took an unconventional route by not placing both the characters, (Mary, played by Soairse Ronan and Elizabeth, played by Margot Robbie) in frothy and frilly frocks. Elizabethans had a very elaborate form of dressage, so Byrne, taking inspiration from art and literature, sought to look at the attire from a fresh perspective and incorporated denim tactfully, to weather dirt and rain and appear more relatable. For Elizabeth I, Byrne looked at the character’s boldness and navigation of power to dress Robbie, whereas for Mary — who arrived to a poor Scotland as a widow — the costumes were kept vulnerable and low key, even decorated with mud.

Ocean’s 8, Sarah Edwards

The all-female addition to the ‘Ocean’s’ heist-thriller franchise, Ocean’s 8 (2018), had a blockbuster and diverse cast of actors, such as Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and even Rihanna to name a few. Each had their own character trait that defined their styles, from clean silhouettes and lines for Bullock to portray her as slick con-woman, to Rihanna’s Carribean roots with dreadlocks. For a film depicting a heist from the annual Met Gala, Edwards had no trouble getting clothes from top designers as well such Givenchy, Valentino, Alberta Ferretti and more. The pièce de résistance of the film though, was when Parisian jeweller Cartier jumped in and not only lent out its beautiful baubles for the characters to use, but also created the whopping Jeanne Toussaint necklace as the film’s pivotal element. It’s perhaps since The Devil Wears Prada (2006), one of the few instances where the audiences were able to see a melange of designer clothing being adopted as film costumes.

Padmaavat, Rimple and Harpreet Narula

This year’ period blockbuster from Bollywood came from Sanjay Leela Bhansali, based on the historic story of queen Padmini’s self-immolating sacrifice in the face of love. For Delhi-based designer-duo, Rimple and Harpreet Narula, this was their debut into the business as costumers. Since the characters are based on Rajput aristocracy, the designers borrowed influence from the sect’s cultures and traditions. Bright colours such as red, saffron and yellow have always inspired the Rajputs. Traditional techniques of gota-pati, hand-block printing and embroideries layered the clothes to add more depth and dimension. While Padmavati (played by Deepika Padukone), wore mostly lehengas and odhnaas, her husband Maharwal Ratan Singh (played by Shahid Kapoor) was decked in classic dhotis, angrakkhas, turbans and patkas. And who could forget Ranveer Singh’s feisty antagonist, Alaudin Khilji, many inspirations were taken from the character Afghani, Turkish and Ottoman backgrounds, which borrow heavily from geometric patterns.

Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter

From the Marvel-verse, The Black Panther was a groundbreaking film that brought African culture to the forefront. Carter wanted to represent this world without any influence of the colonisers from other countries, and thus, relied on the tribes and their traditions, as well mixing into it the future that the 3D printer opened up. Authentic African styles, such as the stacked necklaces and Zulu hats were incorporated in a very afro-futuristic style. The titular characters, T’Challa/Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) is dressed in black, his warrior general Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) is dressed in vibrant red armors and his spy, Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is dressed in shades of green. The tricolor combination represents the pan-African flag as well. Many of the accessories were 3D printed for a futuristic look.

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