Practically Magic Style

sandra-bullock-3-nicole-kidman-5camilla-belle-6There’s a little witch in all of us.”  In the 1998 film Practical Magic, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play very close, but very different sisters that share the same secret – they’re witches!  Sandra Bullock plays the “good” sister, Sally Owens, who just wants to fit in and have a normal life, while her counterpart, dianne-wiest-1-lora-anne-criswell-1Gillian (played by Kidman), just wants to have fun and ignore the townspeople that have judged them for so long.  Their styles are as different as they are from Day One: Sally is soft and innocent (played by a young – and still gorgeous – Camilla Belle, pictured above left), while Gillian (played by Lora Anne Criswell, pictured above right) dresses “edgy” for a kid in feathers and shear fabrics, although here she’s practically “angelic.” 😉  Besides being blessed with special powers, the Owens women all face the same curse that their ancestor Maria accidentally cast upon them: their beloved husbands tend to die!  After being impregnated by a married villager in colonial times, Maria is sentenced to hang but snaps the rope with her abilities, stockard-channing-1-dianne-wiest-2and puts a spell on herself that she will never fall in love again.  Instead the spell has more power than she realizes, and after a few centuries it’s a full-fledged curse, and all the men the Owens women love are “doomed to die.”  After their father is killed, Sally and Gillian’s mother dies of a broken stockard-channing-2heart, and they are left to be raised by their crazy aunts Jet and Frances (played by the incredibly talented Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest, pictured above and below).  The aunts have a different parenting style than most, but they focus on the basics: eating dessert for breakfast, getting drunk in backyard dianne-wiest-3picnics while discussing dead boyfriends, and making their nieces wildly uncomfortable (HELL YES!)  The aunts also dress like freaking queens: they love lots of over sized accessories, BIG hats, long necklaces, antiquated parasols and luxurious fabrics.  As the movie progresses, the writer hints the aunts don’t age, so it’s hard to guess what time period they’re dressing from… jewelry from the turn of the century, dainty lace gloves from the 50s, exotic silks from the orient, and embroidery from the 19th century… maybe ALL stockard-channing-5-dianne-wiest-5of the decades they have lived through!  Aside from being fiercely stylish, they also teach the girls to hone their craft.  Even at a young age, it’s clear Sally is the more naturally-gifted witch, but as the girls grow up, it’s Sally who wants to hide her talents, while Gillian wants to be noticed for sandra-bullock-6-nicole-kidman-7nicole-kidman-8Sandra-Bullock-7who they really are.  After the Owens sisters grow up, Sally stays in town, gets married to a nice local boy (who unfortunately meets the same untimely demise as her dad), has babies and opens a botanical shop, while Gillian takes off for an “exotic” lifestyle (really just drugs, bad parties and terrible boyfriends…)  After one of Gillian’s beaus beats her and then attempts to kill her, Sally accidentally poisons him and the sisters are forced back together to try and cover up his murder!  sandra-bullock-8(Or bring him back to life… Whichever nicole-kidman-9plan works first!)  The film was costumed by Judainna Makovsky, the extremely talented visionary who brought The Hunger Games to life onscreen.  The movie was made in 1998, and while you can recognize some of the 90s fashion, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman wear the clothes so well, it makes us want to break out our middle school wardrobes!  (Although, my longstockard-channing-3-dianne-wiest-4 floral skirts and cropped sweaters did not look that cute…)  Since the Owens women are sorceresses of the earth, it makes sense that they wear clothing indicative of their natures: Sally is light and pure, while Gillian is dark and mysterious (much like their aunts, too).  Sally wears beautiful, subtle florals, while Gillian wears rich earth tones.  Both styles are bewitching in completely stockard-channing-4nicole-kidman-10different fashions.  Historically, witches of the same family supposedly do not look like each other, which is why the filmmakers chose Bullock and Kidman, who look nothing alike (same for Channing and Wiest).  But their opposite hair colors also tell a tale: Sally’s warm, chocolate locks fit her girl-next-door sweetness, while Gillian’s fiery red indicates her wild personality.  After the aunts decide to leave, and let the younger Owens sisters solve their sandra-bullock-9nicole-kidman-11own problems (the not-so-dead, abusive boyfriend might be back from the grave?!), Sally and Gillian have to make some major decisions.  A gorgeous sheriff (played by the impossibly cute Aidan Quinn – just look at those eyes, pictured below) nicole-kidman-13investigating sandra_bullock-10sandra-bullock-11stockard-channing-6-dianne-wiest-6Jimmy’s disappearance rolls into town and for some reason, Sally can’t lie to him – or about her true self any longer!  Gillian tries to get rid of Officer Gary Hallet with her adorable nieces (pictured, above) who also have opposite hair hues.  (Fun Fact: A very young Evan Rachel Wood plays Sally’s oldest girl!)  But the daughters nicole-kidman-14soon realize Sally cast a spell for the perfect man as a little girl, and the sheriff fits every item on her list!  Now it’s time for the Owens women to all stick together, banish the curse and save Sally from herself!  Sally’s hair tells another tale, too… it shows her character arc: her hair starts out straight, and the more she accepts herself, the wavier her locks get.  It’s a subtle metaphor for the sweet witch – she’s been trying to conform her whole life, but when she eventually admits who she is and how she really feels, she lets the true Sally show.  Gillian’s style also changes throughout the duration of the film – it starts out a little skanky, but by the end, she’s wearing more conservative and sophisticated clothing (pictured, left).  Both sisters, however different they are, rub off on each other in good ways, but they are always strongest when they are together!sandra-bullock-12-nicole-kidman-15

From Russia We Love

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Anna Karenina is an epic story written by famed novelist Leo Tolstoy.  (Which was actually made popular again, due to its appearance on Oprah’s book list a couple of years ago… Oh, society.)  Director Joe Wright, of Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, brought the Russian epic onscreen, and didn’t really do a good job of it.  Although it took this editor three viewings just to get through the film, the only thing that kept me interested was Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran’s extraordinary work, and seeing it on one of our favorite girls, Keira Knightley.  We actually featured Durran’s most famous creation, the stunning emerald number that Keira sports in Atonement, in our very first “Look-of-the-Day.”  In an interview with Glamour, Durran said, “At the first meeting I had with the director, Joe Wright, he told me that he didn’t really want to make it historically accurate, costume wise: he wanted to stylize it.  The way he wanted to stylize it was to concentrate on the silhouette of each character and to take an 1870s silhouette, but simplify the surface details so that it really had the architectural simplicity of 50s couture.  What I had to do immediately was look at the 1870s shape then strip away all the surface detail and just be left with that pure shape.”  The combination of the two eras resulted in a stunning wardrobe, with inspiration from vintage Balenciaga, Lanvin, and Christian Dior.  Anna appears in an off-the-shoulder scarlet gown and strings of pearls in one of the opening scenes (pictured, above right) – the lady wore red alright, considering this scene marks the beginning of her affair with Vronsky (played by the miscast Aaron Taylor-Johnson).  Her romantic competition, Kitty, is played by the young and innocent Alicia Vikander (pictured, above with Taylor-Johnson).  Durran told the Daily News, “Kitty’s white dress really evolved from the idea of her being a debutante and being a child.”  Especially, since it’s covered in little pink ribbons and roses.  Knightley’s Anna Karenina is clearly the most striking individual at the party in red, while everyone surrounding her is in stark white.  If there’s one thing we learned from this version of Anna Karenina, it’s that Keira Knightley can wear a hat.  Be it a veiled topper adorned with a large rose (pictured, above left), or an embroidered stunner atop her curls (pictured, above right), or looking like she walked right off the set of Doctor Zhivago in a fur-trimmed Cossack hat (pictured, top), Miss Knightley looks purely stunning in any topper.  Her bold brows, high cheekbones, and magnetic eyes are certainly a director’s (and a costumer’s) dream for closeups.  At the dance where both Anna and Kitty dance with Count Vronsky, Anna is dressed in a black ballgown (pictured, below right).  According to the New York Times, Durran said, “It is one of the most famous costumes in literature.  The way the dress is described, and why it is the most perfect dress for that day, is because it frames Anna’s beauty.”  Knightley sports a dark taffeta gown, and two million dollars’ worth of Chanel diamonds, against a sea of pastels, which “functions visually, because Anna is standing out against this society.”  (Fun Fact: Keira Knightley is a spokeswoman for the famous French brand’s fragrance.)  According to Vanity Fair, “As Anna falls in love with Vronsky, her clothes become lighter in hue to reflect her lighter mood, before returning to darker shades to complement her growing anxiety and paranoia.”  After publicly divorcing her husband Alexei (played by a creepy Jude Law) for Count Vronsky, she appears at the opera in a beautiful, fluffy white gown, adorned in diamonds and a white fur stole (pictured, above).  Anna causes quite a scandal by attending the society event, now that she’s a “ruined woman.”  Jacqueline Durran’s favorite costume of the film is the asymmetrical ivory gown and pillbox hat Knightley sports in the tearoom scene (pictured, below).  Our editors’ favorite costume is the gray gown with the black lace overlay that Keira wears toward the ending of the film.  She looks distraught and depressed, but the gown is truly beautiful.  Although, her best accessories obviously hail from her hatted scenes, or ones where she’s dripping in diamonds from Chanel.  The movie may have stunk, but the costumes were some of the most stunning of 2013.  Best of luck to Miss Durran!

The Mirror Mirror Has Two Faces

Mirror Mirror is the other Snow White story up for the Academy Award for Best Costume this year, like Colleen Atwood’s work on Snow White and the Huntsman.  Both films actually bombed at the box office, and while they tell the same tale, the two films have very different tones.  While Huntsman tells the darker side of the legendary fairy tale, Mirror Mirror is its comedic complement, but it actually has the sad back story.  Its costume designer, Eiko Ishioka died last year after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  This was the last film she outfitted.  She previously won an Oscar for her work on Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.  According to The New York Times, famed director Coppola said their success was due, “90 percent because she was a genius, and 10 percent because she could not understand a word I said.”   Ishioka was undergoing chemotherapy while working on Mirror Mirror.  Director Tarsem Singh told The Hollywood Reporter, “You would never have known.  She only had two speeds.  Full throttle and stop.  We never had to wait for costumes.”  Ishioka’s incredible use of primary colors throughout the film was a stunning visual experience, especially against the beauty of the film’s two stars (and their tresses), famed redhead Julia Roberts (pictured, above), and the raven-haired Lily Collins (pictured, top right and below).  Singh commented on Ishioka’s work while discussing the evil queen as, “a person who only cares about power… She turned the queen into a peacock, literally a red peacock. You can see her from a mile away.”  (Pictured, top left).  Lily Collins was ideal casting for the girl with, “skin white as snow, lips red as blood, hair black as night,” since that’s how pretty the actress is in day-to-day life!  As Snow White onscreen, we see her first appear in a beautiful pastel pink, blue and yellow gown, decorated with tiny flowers.  According to THR, “Ishioka’s only direction was that the princess was ‘connected to nature.’  Tarsem recalls, ‘She came back with a feminine gown with embroidered hummingbirds, butterflies and flowers that said it all.'” (Pictured, top right).  When Snow attempts to flee, she sports a stunning sunflower-colored cape (pictured, above) that looks strikingly dramatic against Collins’ stark brunette locks.  During the pivotal ball scene, Ishioka came up with the concept that every attendee would be dressed as a different animal (pictured, above).  Prince Charming was played by up-and-comer Armie Hammer, who dressed as a rabbit, while Snow herself had a costume of another stunning white creature, famously known for starting out oppressed: an elegant swan.  The author of the THR article believes the low neckline and wings she wears represents the princess’s desire to break free from the evil queen’s hold on her.  Julia Roberts looks practically like a sister of Queen Elizabeth I, with extravagant ballgowns, high frilly white collars, and famous red hair (pictured, below right).  The Queen’s nemesis becomes quite sporty when she is rescued by seven tiny friends, and hides in the local forest.  In this version of the fairy tale, Snow White learns to sword fight, and dons pants!  (Much more interesting than cleaning up and keeping house after seven small men, I guess…)  Ishioka dressed Collins in a teal peasant blouse, billowy black bell pants, and a dark corseted vest decorated with gold leaves – another nod to the princess’s connection to nature (pictured, above left).  It’s our favorite costume that Collins wears in the film, while the stunning wedding creation Julia Roberts dons is clearly the other winner (pictured, below).  According to the Daily News, the queen “wore gowns with high collars and sharp shoulders to evoke the feeling of power and danger.”  If you look closely, the bodice has intricate detailing that spreads into crawling vines over the skirt, just like poison ivy, indicating what a sneaky creep the queen is.  The wedding gown weighed 60 pounds, measured eight feet in diameter, and needed seven people to move it!  Fun Fact: Between the wedding dress, the peacock gown, and the peach and gold embroidered frock, Julia Roberts wore over 100,000 Swarovski crystals between the three costumes, and all three dresses were handmade!  Snow White’s wedding gown is definitely different than her evil stepmother’s (pictured, bottom).  She wears a bright blue gown with orange sleeves and a bow, supposedly a tribute to Disney’s classic cartoon version of Snow White.  (Originally, the dress was red and blue, but it apparently looked too similar…)  Ishioka wanted Snow White to look like a gift to the prince and the audience, wrapped up with a bow.  Eiko Ishioka never saw the final film, but the real gift was her uncanny ability to tell a story through costume.  Her work was truly the “fairest of them all.”

Vive la Fantine!

Les Miserables was a massive cinematic undertaking by director Tom Hooper, as well as his costume designer Paco Delgado.  The famous story was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, and became a famous stage musical that ran for sixteen years in New York (which this editor was lucky enough to see on Broadway, during a class trip, before it closed in 2003).  Les Miserables tells the very sad tale of overlapping characters over a generation in 19th-century France.  Anne Hathaway (pictured, below left) plays a factory worker forced into the streets (and prostitution) to feed her daughter, Cosette, who has been sent to live with another family.  Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean (pictured, top left), a former criminal, who eventually cares for the young girl, while he’s stalked by his lifelong nemesis, Javert, a miscast Russell Crowe (pictured, top right).  The stunning portraits Vogue took of the actors in their costumes are a beautiful tribute to the film.  Seeing Hathway as the young mother Fantine, before taking to the streets, in a purplish pink dress, compared to her daughter’s profile, played by Amanda Seyfried, in similar periwinkle (pictured, above right) is somewhat melancholy.  She never gets to see her daughter grown-up, and well-cared for.  According to Cristina Everett of the Daily News, “Though set during a time of death and despair, the film’s musical element allowed Delgado to play with color and texture. The pink dress worn by Fantine (Anne Hathaway) during the factory scene was chosen to make her appear as an outsider, as well as to show a stark visual contrast against the other workers’ dull blue uniforms.”  Costume designer Paco Delgado told Entertainment Weekly, “Fantine was originally a seamstress and had nice clothes in the past, but now she doesn’t have any money.  So Anne was very keen on the idea that her costumes would have a lot of mending, like they were old and mended by her character.”  I think the character’s transition from pale pink in the factory to a prostitute in shocking red rags (pictured, above) demonstrates her transition from an innocent girl to a woman destroyed by the harsh world.  Everett of the Daily News added, “To accurately tell the story of poverty stricken Paris during the 19th century, Spanish designer Paco Delgado created 1,500 new costumes – out of a total of over 2,000 – only to destroy them with mud, grease, sand and blowtorches.  He also combed through flea markets and secondhand stores in France and Spain to find authentic clothing of the time.”  While it seems everyone is suffering, Fantine’s child, Cosette, seems to be doing pretty well compared to her compatriots, including her romantic rival, Éponine, played by Samantha Barks (pictured, above left).  We don’t get what Marius (Eddie Redmayne) was thinking… we’d take that Irish cutie any day!  Especially after her incredible rendition of On My Own (anyone else think of Joey Potter singing it on Season One of Dawson’s Creek?)  While everyone seems to be in rags, Cosette gets to sport some beautiful floral frocks, including her silk nightgown (pictured, above right), and her soft yellow and lilac frock (pictured, below).  Cosette seems to wear a considerable amount of floral, lace, pastels, embroidery, and ribbons, probably to indicate her girlhood and blossoming into a young woman; we likes the bitches in rags better.  Hehe.  What’s impressive about Delgado’s work is that while other costume designers vying for the Academy Award usually compete by making the most beautiful costumes, his creations are rough and distressed, much like the characters who wear them.  It makes his Oscar nomination all the more impressive.  Everett of the Daily News also brought up the interesting point of how Delgado worked the national colors of France into the costumes, “The colors of the French flag were a common theme used throughout the film, with blue used in the factory scene, red for the revolution and then white for the wedding and nunnery scenes.”  Paco Delgado is creative and considerate of the story he’s telling.  We “dreamed a dream” of his talents being rewarded.  Best of luck Mr. Delgado!

Snow White and the Seven Dresses of Ravenna

Lips red as blood, hair black as night, bring me your heart, my dear, dear Snow White.”  It seems fairy tales are back in a big way, with popular shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, and movies like Enchanted, inspiring a resurgence in the classic children’s fables.  But director Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman is much darker than its comedic counterpart, Mirror Mirror, which is also a Best Costume competitor.  But instead of vying for the princess roles, Hollywood’s megastars seem to be gobbling up the villain parts lately… Julia Roberts is the evil queen in the other Snow White flick, Angelina Jolie will play Maleficent next year, and Cate Blanchett has been cast as the evil stepmother in Cinderella.  Academy Award winner Charlize Theron plays Ravenna, an utterly terrifying evil queen in this medieval Snow White story.  Wimpy Kristen Stewart couldn’t hold a candle to this stepmother…  Costumer Colleen Atwood is a three-time Academy Award winner and one of our all-time favorite designers here at theSkinnyStiletto.  She earned her 10th nomination for her work on of Snow White and the Huntsman.  Atwood told Entertainment Weekly, “We had things that were made from beetle wings, and pieces that were made out of parchment paper, which is an ancient technique not normally used in costuming. I had stuff made in India, in Turkey, I had fabrics woven.”  In the beginning of the film, Ravenna seems like a sweet, new mother figure, but if her wedding gown is any sort of warning, the epaulettes on the gold and cream-colored gown were designed to look like a skeletal rib cage (pictured, above) – not exactly the romantic look you want on your new mom.  While Snow White is supposed to be the star, it’s hard to keep your eyes off Charlize’s creepy and vain queen, along with her stunning outfits.  Our favorite is the mirrored black and silver number (pictured, above left), which has a feathered high collar that matches the ravens she distracts her enemies with.  Snow White really only wears two costumes: an earth-tone and scarlet gown (pictured, top), which the huntsman chops the skirt off of, so she can move easily in the forest, and her suit of armor (pictured, below left).  Same for said Huntsman, played by the incredibly sexy Chris Hemsworth (pictured, below right), who Sanders decided was the real love interest in this revisioned fairy tale.  Atwood said, “The Huntsman was a forest dweller, his clothes all leather and rough fabric he cobbled together, paired with weaponry that was his signature.”  Matched was his alluring blue eyes, and Hamlet-like voice, he was quintessential casting for a strong, but broken, antihero.  Unlike her costars’ simple looks, Charlize got to wear a bevy of intricate costumes.  As discussed in The Hollywood Reporter, Atwood used elements of death, like spiderwebs and skeletons to show, “decay as a central theme in the castle, life being taken out of things. So I used what remains, or elements of that, in the costumes.”  Her pointy, metal crowns, clawed jewelry, and the sharp edges of her clothing don’t exactly indicate she’s a loving person.  Atwood also added of Ravenna, “Her costumes kind of crumble along with her. They go from light to dark to very dark at the end.”  Ravenna’s reign may come to an end, but Atwood’s onscreen imagination is unforgettable.

The Gettysburg Dress

I must dress in costly materials.  The people scrutinize every article that I wear with critical curiosity.  The very fact of having grown up in the West, subjects me to more searching observation.  To keep up appearances, I must have money – more than Mr. Lincoln can spare for me.  He is too honest to make a penny outside of his salary; consequently I had, and still have, no alternative but to run in debt.” – Mary Todd Lincoln.  It seems the creators of her husband’s 2012 biopic also didn’t want to overlook any details either, when recreating the tale of our national hero.  The film’s outstanding wardrobe was put together by costume designer Joanna Johnston, who also outfitted some of our all-time favorite films, including Munich, Saving Private Ryan, The Sixth Sense, and Love Actually.  She did an incredible job recreating the gowns First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln wore while living in the White House, as well as her legendary husband, President Abraham Lincoln.  Johnston enlisted the help of dressmaker Erica Ciaglia and tailor Michael Sloan to bring the Lincolns back to life.  Sally Field purposely put on extra weight, so that she would obtain Mary Todd’s actual waist size.  Talk about dedication to a role!  Johnston discusses Field’s weight gain, and what else she did to accomplish her fascinating costume design to Entertainment Weekly’s PopStyle.  She explains, “They’re polar opposites, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln… She’s spending a lot of money, and he can’t be bothered by that.”  Johnston referred to biographers, museums, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian to complete her research of properly outfitting the First Family of the 1860s.  Our personal favorite looks in Lincoln were Mary’s cream and black striped ballgown with little purple flowers (pictured, bottom), and the stunning electric blue number with black lace trim (pictured, top).  Both had full ballgowns and boat necklines that made the petite Mary Todd look even shorter, but her fiery personality was not comparable to her small stature.  Her girly accessories, including delicate lace hand gloves, pretty shawls, and pearl jewelry (by Tiffany & Co.!) also probably surprised the lucky few that ever ended up on her bad side; Mrs. Lincoln may have been feminine, but she never backed down from a fight.  During this era, men’s formal coats were slmost always black, but the color is not easy to film onscreen, so Johnston broke the male costumes into shades of off-black and browns.  Any American can tell you Abraham Lincoln’s most famous accessory was his stovepipe hat.  According to Vanity Fair, Johnston sent the president’s actual head measurements to an Italian milliner to get the topper just right.  It even included the Moroccan red leather lining, where the president stored his notes and speeches!  Johnston’s attention to detail, including studying the Lincolns’ undergarments to get the all facts right, is flat-out astounding. Joanna deserves this nomination – we’re rooting for you!

A Tribute to The Hunger Games

As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.”  Katniss Everdeen is the iconic heroine of The Hunger Games, both a wildly popular and groundbreaking book and movie.  Author Suzanne Collins seamlessly weaves politics, history, philosophy and social commentary into a young adult action-adventure novel about a dystopian society, so it’s no surprise she also has a lot to say about the role of appearance in this horrifying future. Oscar-nominated costume designer Judianna Makovsky (for her stunning work in Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) was given the herculean task of bringing the style of The Hunger Games to the silver screen.  For the past week, we’ve highlighted some of the film’s most memorable moments, looks and costumes.  The Hunger Games begins in the home of Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) in District 12 – a depressed mining area in former North America.  Katniss spends most of her time hunting with her best friend, Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth, pictured, above left) and providing sustenance for their families, since their fathers were killed in the mine.  Makovsky told Vogue, “We looked at a lot of photographs of coal mining districts from the turn of the century to the 1950s, because we wanted it to have a very American feel.”  The people of Katniss’s district are starving and struggling to survive, so they’re not very worried about looking good.  Makovsky continues, “We wanted to make a very serious impact, and color was very important – to keep it mostly gray or blue… very cold because coal leaves a black dust everywhere.”  The lack of color throughout District 12 certainly gives it a bone-chilling look, and makes the over-the-top publicist Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, pictured, above right) stick out even more when she comes to collect the male and female tributes for the games.  While the children of District 12 appear in fifty shades of grey, like Katniss’s sister, Primrose (pictured, above left), Effie appears in bright magenta, crazy makeup and a powdered wig.  Makovsky was inspired by the Elizabethan era, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen, to create the frivolous and frightening citizens of the Capitol.  She told Vogue, “I just thought it would be funny if these people, who have such a vicious streak in them, are sort of covered in flowers and ruffles.”  When Katniss sacrifices herself by volunteering to take the place of Prim, she and the male tribute of District 12, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), leave for the capital city of Panem.  They make their first impression on the Capitol by arriving in a glorious chariot ride, hand in hand (pictured, above).  Along with Effie, Katniss and Peeta are accompanied into hell by the only living victor from District 12, Haymitch Abernathy (played by the fantastic Woody Harrelson).  Haymitch (pictured, below left) is a drunk, and is living proof happiness doesn’t always come with winning… Makovsky told EW, “He had won the game, he had money… We didn’t want him to be the cliché filthy, dirty drunk. There’s a bit of a dandy about him. He puts on a bit of a front so you don’t really know who he is… he knows how to play the games. He’s done it before. And we thought he would dress for the capital. So he has a little bit of Edwardian cut to his clothes.”  In the days before entering the arena, Katniss and Peeta have to show off to the Capitol, too, to gain sponsors, who can pay for items, like food and medicine when they’re in the arena.  They also face several days of “training,” which might as well just being a showing-off session to their competitors… Each tribute wears a black tracksuit with grey and red piping and their district number adorned on their sleeves (pictured, above).  Following this physical training, they also take part in televised interviews with TV host Caesar Flickerman (played by Stanley Tucci).  Waiting to meet with him, the future killers are lined up in different shades of pastels, like lethal Easter eggs.  Katniss and Peeta stand out, once again, in a coordinating gown of flames and a dark suit – just like coal and fire.  But it turns out, there is a burning passion inside of Peeta Mellark, too.  Sexy duo Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson weren’t the only men who got to wear significant costumes.  Katniss’s stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) makes her come alive through clothing, but he dresses pretty simply, himself, in a black Lurex Prada sweater and his famous gold eyeliner.  Stanley Tucci is completely redone as TV host Caesar Flickerman (pictured, below left), with false teeth, bright blue hair and a sparkly suit to match.  And according to the Washington Post, even President Snow (played by the highly under-appreciated Donald Sutherland, pictured, below right) had costumes with deep secrets.  If you notice, he wears a white clergy shirt underneath his suit made of sharkskin – it’s obvious why he’s wearing clothing made of a vicious animal, but that’s certainly saying something about religious oppression/manipulation by putting him in a clergy collar…  When Katniss and Peeta are finally thrust into the Games, it seems their getups match, once again.  In the book, all of the tributes wear identical outfits in the arena, but that didn’t work on film.  Makovsky told EW, “It was my problem to find a look that looked good on boys and girls, and from kids that are age 12 to age 18… All the jackets were specifically dyed – that took forever just to find colors that would read in the woods.”  Apparently, the jackets read quite well – because they’re now available to purchase online!  Between Katniss’s bow-and-arrow skills, and the upcoming Pixar film, Brave, we’re sure archery lessons are going to go through the roof, but that isn’t the only thing from The Hunger Games that is catching fire… Not only are the arena jackets for sale, so are the training uniforms, backpacks, makeup, and numerous mockingjay accessories on Amazon, Etsy and Cafe Press, among many other outlets.  Despite the fictional novel’s futuristic element, Suzanne Collins has created one of the most realistic female characters of all-time.  This is a strong girl who knows herself, and isn’t ashamed of who she is – a rarity among many “heroines” that Hollywood and publishers seem to churn out.  Katniss Everdeen is a hunter, sister, daughter, tribute, rebel, friend, soldier, symbol, survivor – she IS the mockingjay.  And this bird isn’t going to stop singing any time soon…

Titanic: A Film to Remember

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day the Titanic fell to the bottom of the Atlantic, and we wanted to honor the vessel and her passengers, by discussing costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott’s intricate and beautiful early 20th-century Edwardian dresses that Kate Winslet wore in the film that was made fifteen years ago.  In order for this editor to write this piece, and do it justice, I decided to watch it for the Nth time.  (Our other editor got to see it in 3D last week, and said it was truly spectacular.)  Having been just shy of my eleventh birthday, when I first saw the film, all I knew was Leonardo was incredibly handsome; I hated Kate Winslet, because she was making out with my future husband; and I adored all of the dresses Kate’s character, Rose DeWitt Bukater, got to wear.  I no longer hate Kate – I have actually grown to appreciate her as a phenomenal actress, but I am still in love with all of the designs that earned Deborah Lynn Scott her Academy Award for Best Costume Design.  Scott’s resume is as diverse as it is magnificent.  She was the head costume designer for mega blockbusters like Back to the Future, all three Transformers movies, and the hugely popular, Avatar, but aside from the action-packed films she’s done, including others like Minority Report and The Patriot, you won’t be shocked to find out that she’s best known for her beautiful craftsmanship on this James Cameron creation.  Scott has been quoted as saying that she likes to design for all different time periods because they give her, “an incredible opportunity to delve into history, which is a real educational experience,” and she has proven her ability to tell stories through her variation of designs.  Scott studied theater at California State University at Northridge and ended up catching a big break working as a costumer on the set of E.T.  She was eventually promoted to costume designer and has been expanding her extraordinary range ever since.  While watching the feature, I noticed the beautiful subtleties of Rose’s transformation that is partially aided through her costuming.  Rose is first seen in a frock we’re fanatics about (we featured it in one of our first posts) – she appears in a fitted, pinstriped, high-collared suit and a major statement of a hat, but the dress that Rose is wearing at the end of the film, though equally stunning, has a completely different meaning to its presence in the movie.  Rose’s gowns that she wears to dinner are extremely formal, adorned in painstakingly, perfected bead-work complemented by satin and lace, in dark hues of scarlet and maroon.  For Rose’s daytime outfits, they are similar in style as well as color, gold and lime, with long, white sleeves, empire-waists, satin trains, and lace embroidered collars.  For the dress that withstands that most action and longest screen time, Scott created nearly two-dozen copies of the multi-layered, flowing, pastel sheath Rose wears, because she goes through the most physical scenes in it (pictured, above left).  It made sense that this pink and lavender dress was looser than the others in terms of fit and material, but it was also softer and uninhibited, showing the changes Rose was preparing to make with her life once she departed the Titanic.  (Note: Today’s Look-of-the-Day honors a character who is born to survive, just like Rose was.)  In the scene where Rose and Jack are running through the engine room, the dress could easily resemble the paintings that she loves so much.  The movement of the dress alone is filmed in its own shot to show the beauty and existence of Rose’s new found freedoms; freedom to do whatever she wants and the freedom to experience them with the love of her life.

The Way W./E. Were

We’re not exactly Madonna fans here at theSkinnyStiletto.  After viewing the more realistic “love story” between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII in last year’s Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech, and how much pain and embarrassment he caused his younger brother with a speech impediment, who would have to take the throne following his abdication, this romance certainly lost any allure that Elaine was yammering on about when she made herself sick on a piece of their wedding cake on Seinfeld.  Considering those two facts (and that this film opened to horrible reviews), W./E. wasn’t exactly on our must-see list of 2011.  But, the photos of the costumes are so delicious, we’re quite tempted to rent this flick!  English actress Andrea Riseborough plays the American socialite that throws the line of British royalty out of whack, when King Edward decides to leave the throne, in order to marry the twice-divorced American.  (Riseborough was fantastic in 2010’s Made in Dagenham, if you’re looking for a good movie to see her in.)  Even though W./E. didn’t get positive reviews, Riseborough looks pitch-perfect as Wallis Simpson.  In fact, she actually even reminded us of Madonna herself, when she played a 1940s dark brunette in A League of their Own (the only film associated with the Material Girl that has a good reputation.)  James D’Arcy was also exceptionally well-cast as the young, slender blonde king.  Some of the film’s stills look so real, they could pass for actual historical photos.  Madonna hired costume designer Arianne Phillips to create the outfits for the film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her stunning work.  (We think she deserves this Oscar!)  Phillips began work on the film a year prior to filming even began, studying costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York and Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris.  Many of Simpson’s original dresses have been kept in museum archives, which were unavailable for Madonna’s production.  Many couture houses offered to recreate outfits for W./E., including Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli and Balenciaga.  (Fun Fact: Madonna asked for a wedding dress from one of Phillips’ competitors for the Oscar this year, Michael O’Connor.  The gown was on display at the National Museum of Costume in Scotland, whose general manager agreed to lend Madonna the dress.)  Co-stars of the film also looked fabulous in their various looks.  Abbie Cornish (pictured, above left) plays a modern girl researching Wallis, and looked wonderful in an all black shift with a matching cardigan, purse and pumps.  Natalie Dormer (pictured, above right) looks fantastic as a young Queen Mother.  In the above scene, she’s being fitted for a hat by the famous milliner Stephen Jones, which is Elizabeth and her daughter’s go-to accessory.  Phillips told W Magazine, “To me, Wallis Simpson was a style icon, but I didn’t know she was a couture client well before she met Edward.  She was also a hungry whore for jewelry.  Edward gave Wallis jewelry to make her feel royal.  My first task was figuring out how to re-create those famous gifts.”  Phillips contacted Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to replicate several pieces from Simpson’s jewelry collection, including a famous emerald cross bracelet Edward gave to her.  Phillips also got in touch with luxury goods company Alfred Dunhill and Savile Row to get original fabrics and wool from the mills that actually created clothing for King Edward.  Phillips’ work and research on the film was not only thorough, but absolutely gorgeous.  Any one of Wallis Simpson’s beautiful outfits is inspiring today, even 80 years later.  We’re rooting for Arianne this year!

Plain Jane Eyre

Sweeping romances and period films tend to dominate the Best Costume Design category, and this year is no different.  Jane Eyre was a novel published by Charlotte Brontë in 1847, and tells the tale of a strong-willed plain Jane (hmm… is that where the phrase comes from?) struggling through the 19th century.  Like most gothic tales of its day, this poor girl can’t catch a damn break.  Jane Eyre is an orphan who lives with her aunt (Sally Hawkins, pictured, above) and extended family that all seem to enjoy physically and emotionally abusing the little girl.  She finally escapes those sick freaks by attending an all-girls boarding school, only to get abused all over again by a clergyman.  (Seriously, what was wrong with people?  Why do they take such pleasure in beating up a little kid?!)  Jane’s only solace in the world is her best and only friend, Helen, who dies in her arms from consumption.  Man, this kid can’t catch a break.  And it doesn’t end there!  Jane grows up to become a teacher with a strong spirit, and goes to work for a man named Mr. Rochester (played by the very sexy half-Irish, half-German Michael Fassbender, pictured above, with actress Imogen Poots).  Jane doesn’t have looks or money, but she’s got opinions and independence that seem to drive the brooding Rochester wild!  Enough to leave his spoiled fiance (played by Poots).  Ah, a perfect match – finally!  Oh wait, on Jane’s wedding day (SPOILER ALERT!) she discovers her fiance has been keeping his crazy first wife stashed in the attic.  Oy vey.  This book should have been called Jane Eyre and the Curious Case of her Bad Luck.  In this 2011 version, Jane is portrayed by the very big up-and-comer Mia Wasikowska.  You may have seen her starring in last year’s Best Costume winner, Alice in Wonderland.  Costume designer Michael O’Connor has been nominated for his beautiful work on Jane Eyre.  He received his first Oscar for The Duchess three years ago, and has done lovely work on Harry Potter and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  The Brit told Stylelist where his inspiration came from, “The inspiration is her character, the challenge is making a woman from that time look stylish today, while still looking simple.  She’s sort of a ‘thinking’ Jane, so it was about looking and finding paintings of women in simple costumes at the time.  And notes from Emily Dickinson, things like that.  I just thought, ‘How would we make something exciting in all black?’  So, instead of black, she could be in dark grey, and it could show more of the style, or detail.  The original costumes were a great inspiration.”  The other women in Jane’s life, like her aunt and Rochester’s fiancee, get to wear more elaborate outfits than she sports, but that doesn’t matter in the end, because Miss Eyre eventually gets her happy ending.  The film’s costumes are currently on display (pictured, bottom) at the FIDM Museum & Galleries.