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Cole Porter movie costumes

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Chatter - Anything and everything' started by Patentleathershoes, Jun 25, 2004.

  1. I didn't know if anyone else saw this.....thought it might be of interest.

    Chris

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    That '30s Look and Now? It's Like Night and Day

    By Robin Givhan

    Back in the days when it was socially important to keep up appearances -- of a happy marriage, a happy home, being happy-go-lucky -- everyone, it seemed, looked smashing. Before the now common public confessional, one's peccadilloes were swept under the rug and unorthodox behavior was engaged in discreetly. People worked hard to present a perfect veneer. Fashion was complicit in constructing that facade.

    In the new movie "De-Lovely," about the life of composer Cole Porter and his wife, Linda, clothes serve as an apt metaphor for impossibly perfect glamour hiding complicated, troubled souls. In the film, which opens July 2, the Porters cut dashing figures on the social circuit. Yet their smooth, glib surface camouflages a private life that is painful and rocky. Cole Porter is gay, but he nevertheless marries Linda and creates -- for a time -- a happy home that holds the promise of children. Linda understands that Cole is gay, but the marriage satisfies them both in ways that are not sexual. Marriage offers them companionship, support, love and purpose.

    Any cinematic tale needs drama, however, and the Porters oblige. He becomes increasingly indiscreet in his affairs. She becomes frustrated that the delicate balance of their lives is being destroyed. She has a miscarriage. He becomes a drunk. But all the while, they look splendid.

    Costume designer Janty Yates crafted the look of the Porters as played by Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. She turned to the designer Giorgio Armani for help. Although the film focuses on the years from the 1920s to the 1960s, the fashions are rooted in the '30s and '40s, decades when everyone looked particularly swell. This is a film that gives elegance as much importance as historical accuracy. And although Armani has contributed to a host of recent films such as "Shaft" and "Hannibal," not since "The Untouchables" in 1987 has a film benefited so profoundly from his aesthetic.

    " 'The Untouchables' was the first period film I worked on and it taught me that I am really not a costume designer. I can only work on projects which lend themselves to my aesthetic. . . . Though the film was set during Prohibition, the look was my interpretation of what the style of the time was," Armani says in an e-mail. "The same can be said of 'De-Lovely,' a film where the action spans the '20s, '30s and '40s. I love this period of fashion -- it was a time when people really dressed up in an elegant manner. However, I am not a fashion historian, nor am I interested in re-creating the past. Instead, I have done outfits which have the spirit of elegance of the time, but are updated with modern touches."

    Yates, who worked with Armani on "Hannibal," was responsible for striking a balance between what was appropriate for the time and what is pleasing to modern eyes. For example, many of Linda Porter's evening clothes were pulled directly from the Armani archives and used with only subtle changes.

    "Mr. Armani nearly always makes his evening wear in a slipper satin silk, so because of that we were halfway there. He cuts on the bias, so we were three-quarters there," Yates says in a telephone interview. "In a couple of dresses, he took out the zipper and put in buttons and took out elastic and put in ribbon."

    Both of the Porters had a distinctive style, and for once, the gentleman's fashion sense is not overshadowed by the woman's. He was a theatrical dresser, almost always wearing a suit and never dressing down. "Cole Porter always had a flower in his lapel. He would always, always go for a fresh flower and would go after an unusual flower. We were always looking for purple flowers and dark green flowers," Yates says.

    Armani tailored all of Kline's clothing. This was a period when even the most dissolute man would button himself up in an extravagant suit. And even when Porter's shadowy dalliances were becoming more reckless, he sartorially presented himself as composed, controlled and confident. There is a scene in which Porter wears a white suit as he prepares to depart from Venice. He looks supremely elegant. Yet is there a man alive today who can wear a white suit and not look as though he should be an airport lounge singer? During a rehearsal for one of his musicals, Porter sits cross-legged on the floor in a beautifully cut gray suit with a red flower in his lapel. Are there still men who can simultaneously be so relaxed while dressed up?

    The '30s, says Armani, was "an era of great tailoring." The clothes were in service to the wearer.

    Tailoring "did everything to give men as much of a shape as the women," Yates says. "You had these broad shoulders and slinky hips. Even the rattiest man could cut a dash."

    Linda Porter preferred clothes with clean lines and simple tailoring. Her palette was often monochromatic gray, navy and cream. Her jewelry was bold and glamorous. She was one of the day's notably stylish women and used her influence and connections to launch the career of her jeweler, Fulco di Verdura, by introducing him to Coco Chanel. There is a cool sophistication to all of Linda Porter's clothes that belies the complexity of her emotional life. When she tells Cole about her miscarriage, she is wearing a spare white satin, vintage-inspired gown that slithers down her frame, accented by a provocative piece of jewelry. Her wedding gown, designed by Armani, is a sensual swath of ivory satin. It shows no skin but hints provocatively at what is hidden.

    In working on the film, Armani found himself absorbing the sensibility of the period. He looked back at his own work, he says, and was reminded "of some of my core values, like simplicity of cut and detail." And although the costumes will not translate directly into ready-to-wear, the designer says he was inspired to create a more refined silhouette for spring 2005. In menswear, for instance, he has experimented with higher armholes and a more defined shoulder line.

    In telling the story of the Porters, "De-Lovely" addresses the ways in which appearances, stylishness and elegance were valuable currency and worth safeguarding. And in the film, the complicated beauty of Cole Porter's music is enhanced by the stunning facade of satin, furs and fine woolens that he and Linda so carefully built.



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  2. That is really interesting, Chris! I'd just heard a radio piece on the upcoming movie and the Porters' lives. It definitely caught my attention that they were said to have travelled via four train cars: a personal car for each and a personal car for each one's wardrobe.

    I tire people, who try to watch movies with me, with comments about the clothing. This one will be a doosie. :D

    Steph
     
  3. I would be interested to see what is selected from "the archives" for this film, and since the costumes will be created in the spirit and not the re-enactment of the period, it should be interesting to see what is interpreted, what is directly reproduced, and what is completely a departure.
     
  4. Mmm hmm. I think I'll be going berserk on departures. :P
     
  5. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    It sounds interesting, but I have to admit I am not a fan of "designer" costume for films. The interpretation of the past by a modern designer for a period film usually misses out on the true sensibilities of period style. I am a HUGE fan of Anna Shephard who did the costumes for The Pianist, Schindler's List, Washington Square, and Band of Brothers. Although as a costumer for the films, she seems to becoming typecast for WW2 era films, I can understand why -- she is just too dam good! In the Pianist for example she not only created authentic WW2 era clothing, she captured the Polish version of fashion at the time. There are subtle differences in style between various countries even today, even within the same country (New York and Los Angeles both have subtle but distinct differences in style for example) but Anna Shephard caught subtle nuances of middle European style for her Polish men and women in the cuts of coats, hat styles, shoes -- little things like that. In Washington Square Anna Shephard managed to get across questionable taste in American 1850s/60s clothes -- a period where most of us today just exclaim how pretty everything is without questioning the taste of the fabric or decoration or suitability of the cut of the garment for the time of day.
    Anyway, I will give Versace a chance, but I do remember that the Untouchables looked more like a 1920s version of Miami Vice than it did the real 1920s.
     
  6. I was unfamiliar with Anna Shepard by name, but didn't forget her work. In Schinder's List, the costumes really contributed to a sense of as a viewer feeling like you are "right there" versus feeling like one is seeing "costumes." sometimes its when costumes DO NOT stick out is when a master is truly at work. sometimes i wonder how much the artistic director and the director for that matter influence some of the designs...although many pick a designer for their style and abilities and just trust that whatever world they create with the costuming will mesh exactly with the overall vision.

    I think the expressing creativity vs being a true archivist/reviver of vintage styles is what are at odds with some I am sure. But then every designer has their unique style that fits in with some genres more than others,
     
  7. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    I have a friend who works at various costume related jobs in film in Toronto. She has been everything from a buyer, wardrobe assistant, tailor, design assistant and everything else that is costume related in the movie biz. I grilled her about the industry once, asking why sometimes you get great costumes, but the hair and make-up is a mess, or the costumes are good, but the hat is put on incorrectly etc. She said that the pecking order of Producer - Director/Artistic Director - Star - Costumer is sometimes out of whack. If you get a star who doesn't wear purple, or doesn't like wide brim hats, or won't go without eye liner, or refuses to wear a certain type of neckline, especially at the last minute, you can end up with costume problems in period films, especially if the Director agrees with the star, in order to keep peace. Many actors thrive on the different look their costume and make-up/hairstyle creates, giving them fodder for their character, but some 'Stars" are just vain and refuse to look like anything other than themselves, and preferrably as beautiful and thin as they can possibly make themselves look. Apparently Babs Striesand is nearly impossible to work with as a costumer, and Robert DeNiro refuses to wear ANYTHING vintage, he demands all clothes be freshly made for him.
     
  8. I heard that about Striesand, even down to preferred camera angles, et al.

    I am suprised with De Niro, as he started out as a method actor, but maybe that's something that developed along the way as he became more and more famous.

    Maybe that's why it was such a huge deal with Nicole Kidman's and Charlize THeron's recent oscar roles, considered beautiful women, but they were willing to risk looking less than perfect for roles. (well Kidman was not ugly, just not like herself at all). Hey, looking thin and beautiful might keep you out of the gossip columns wondering if you have let yourself go, but pretty alone does not win you any awards. well, at least not any for actually acting.

    But hey, if i looked like Nicole Kidman, you would get no complaints from me : ) or Rita Hayworth : )
     

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