TORONTO – Oscar-nominated Her didn’t earn a nod for best costume design, but fashion observers say the retro-futuristic looks featured in the film take the trophy for trendsetting style.
Period pieces will be contending for the Oscar costume crown on March 2. The nominees are Catherine Martin (The Great Gatsby); Patricia Norris (12 Years a Slave); William Chang Suk Ping (The Grandmaster); Michael O’Connor (The Invisible Woman); and Michael Wilkinson (American Hustle). But it’s Her, which is up for five Academy Awards – including best picture – that has already left a fashionable imprint.
American clothing label Opening Ceremony created a collection inspired by styles designed by Casey Storm for the inventive drama, which is set in near-future Los Angeles. Her chronicles the relationship between Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), with the film’s lovelorn protagonist regularly seen sporting buttoned-up collared shirts paired with ultra high-waisted pants.
“I think you tend to think of everyone putting their life out on display in the world that we live in now, and the fashions were really the opposite to that,” said Noreen Flanagan, editor-in-chief of Elle Canada.
“It was very much about kind of concealing yourself which I thought, again, was a kind of interesting twist to what we’re increasingly becoming more familiar with in terms of how we relate to one another in the digital world.”
Probably of all the films, Flanagan said “Her” has the greatest likelihood of “getting a little bit of street cred.”
“It’s not going to be for everyone and, my God, you really have to have flat abs to wear pants like that. That is not a flattering silhouette on most people. It requires a certain young, youthful, in-shape physique to wear it. I can see for a certain hipster set it becoming quite cool.”
Toronto-based costume and set designer Sarah Armstrong also sees the potential for Her to emerge as a trendsetter.
“(Theodore’s) kind of got a look, a unique esthetic, that’s not unlike what we see today. It’s very, very comfortable. And I think, too, because he’s a younger character, that may also lend itself to a trend that might come up.”
While Armstrong said she didn’t think there was anything “blindingly new” about the designs for Her, she viewed them as an interpretation of the hipster trend being embraced by the 20-something generation.
“They’re pulling from steampunk, they’re pulling from Victorian elements, from the ’60s, they’re pulling from a whole bunch of different eras and blending them all together.”
On the opposite end of the style spectrum was costume design nominee American Hustle with its depiction of flashy ’70s fashions. The film is awash in plunging necklines, brightly lacquered nails and bouffant ‘dos as well as bellbottoms and mile-wide ties with lapels to match.
“We’ve had films in the past that have gone back to the ’70s, but they really play down the hair, they really play down the wardrobe, the clothing,” said Armstrong. “With American Hustle, it really is all about the excess of the ’70s, and the characters are extreme.”
Flanagan said while she found the clothes in Hustle to be “fun, fabulous and entertaining,” she said she almost found them to be “too much.”
“In terms of digging up those V-neck Halstons and Diane von Furstenberg dresses and vintage Dior aviators and Gucci accessories, full marks for going on a fashion treasure hunt and finding real gems from that period. But it needed some editing,” she said. “It needed the director to say: ‘Wait a minute. We don’t want the fashions to overshadow the story and the characters.”‘
Flanagan said designers have periodically played with the idea of certain ’70s pieces. But with the strong interest in the ’90s influencing fashions for spring and summer, she’s uncertain whether ’70s styles will see a resurgence among consumers – particularly those inspired by Hustle.
“I can see people playing maybe with the nails, maybe with the big hair, but I think they’ll leave the plunging necklines and the velvet suits at home – or I hope they do, anyway.”
One nominee that generated considerable fashion buzz even before its release was The Great Gatsby. Costume designer Martin worked in tandem with Brooks Brothers, which produced more than 500 ensembles for the film, combing the archives of the menswear brand for designs on which many of the 1920s items were based.
Tuxedos, sport coats, linen suits, boater hats and wingtip brogues are among the menswear styles showcased in the film, and the on-screen collaboration led to a real-life Gatsby-inspired collection sold to consumers. Flanagan found the Tiffany baubles and womenswear looks featured in the film to be noteworthy.
“There’s a lot of these classic silhouettes that maybe we didn’t even associate with the ’20s that are actually very prominent there,” Flanagan said. “You saw strapless gowns and one-shoulder gowns and even harem pants that I wouldn’t have thought for a million years were actually from that period. From just a pure fashion history point of view, I found that quite instructive.”
While styles inspired by the Roaring ’20s have made a mark in fashion in recent years, Flanagan feels the style spotlight has somewhat dimmed.
“I think it’s really about the ’90s for the next little while. Looking at the spring collections, we see a lot of overalls and crop tops and spring dresses and logos,” she said. “I think ’20s have had their moment, which is too bad, because it’s a wonderful period in fashion.”
Armstrong said there could be space for retro fashion inspiration from another Oscar nominee that didn’t earn a costume design nod: The Wolf of Wall Street. Set in the ’80s and ’90s, the black comedy showcases power suits and preppy styles.
“It’s just like when they did Wall Street with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. There was a whole resurgence in men’s suiting that was quite unique going back to that ’40s look of the pinstripe and the double-breasted suit and that strong men’s silhouette with suiting,” said Armstrong.
“I think of all the films, The Wolf of Wall Street will probably be the only one that, along with Her, (will) maybe impact on men’s clothing, on men’s fashion.”