1/17/2016: Having a brain lapse and believing/wanting the costume design for Brooklyn to be nominated I reposted this a few minutes ago. They were not nominated but Congrats to Costume Designer Odile Dicks-Mireau anyway. They should have been. This post from December 29th looks at how she recreated the 1950’s look.
I fell in love with the costume design for Brooklyn since my first sighting of Saoirse Ronan in a period perfect pink dress back in April of 2014! Costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux, who also did the wardrobe for An Education and One Day told Variety that the story of Brooklyn mirrored her parent’s 1950’s move from France to England, so while she studied period photo archives, she also watched her parents’ home movies and rifled through their old photographs, noting the abundance of women wearing flats, and the cut of her own father’s suit.
For the scenes set in New York, Dicks-Mireaux was inspired by photographer Vivian Maier’s late-’40s New York street scenes. In the film New York is presented with strong patterns and bold colors, like that striking pink-striped dress Eilis wears. For the part set in Ireland, she studied collections of Irish social life. Just from the clothing Eilis wears when she goes home to Ireland, it’s clear as day she can’t stay. The colors, the cut, everything about her says she no longer belongs in Ireland, she has to return to Brooklyn, her new home.
Director John Crowley decided during pre-production that actress Grace Kelly would be a reference in creating Eilis’s “natural, graceful” style, shares Dicks-Mireaux. The costume designer also settled on another reference early in the pre-production process: her mother.
“My mum had a dress like it,” recalls Dicks-Mireaux of this sweet butter-yellow number. “I found it from a shop in Montreal, and this dress reminded me of hers immediately.” (Entertainment Weekly)
Ronan fell in love with the feminine fashion her character wears throughout the period-set flick. “I think Brooklyn was the first film that I got to dress like a girl,” jokes Ronan, who played an assassin in 2011’s Hanna and a grungy girl-next-door in 2014’s Lost River. “I think up to this point, people weren’t even sure I was a female because half the time I was in animal fur, rags, or an orange jumpsuit.” In fact, Ronan has no problem taking on another period role in the near future – on the condition that corsets aren’t required. “I don’t want anything where your lungs are shriveled at the end of the day,” she says. “But in all seriousness, if you’re the type of person that really wants to change things in every role, which is how I like to work and what I’m drawn to, it’s a great thing to experiment with different fashion, looks and clothes and embrace a character’s physicality.” (Entertainment Weekly)
As Eilis embraces life in America, her outlook – and her wardrobe – become more colorful. “She starts to wear brighter clothes, things that are more vibrant and that need just a little more confidence to pull off,” says Ronan. Her favorite outfit? This flirty, floral skirt she wears on a date to the beach in Coney Island with boyfriend Tony (Cohen). In keeping with real-girl habits, Eilis wears the closet staple throughout the movie. Says Ronan, “I love that she wears it a few times.” (Entertainment Weekly)
For a sentimental courthouse-set scene, Dicks-Mireaux outfitted Ronan in a sleek skirt suit. “I saw it at a costume house in Montreal, where I was struck by the color,” she shares. “I had no idea whether it would suit Saoirse, but I bought it. Luckily, it fit her perfectly and looked incredible on her. Sometimes you just have to be bold and go with your instincts, hoping that it works.” And if the look hadn’t flattered her leading lady, the London Boulevard designer would have found a use for the ensemble anyway. Says Dicks-Mireaux, “If it hadn’t worked on Saoirse, I would have put it on someone in the background!” (Entertainment Weekly)
“It was an actual swimsuit from the times,” shares Ronan of the glamorous retro suit her character purchases for a special beach outing. Though stylish, the cotton bathing costume – made before the days of modern Spandex – didn’t hold up once wet. “It’s nice, but once you get into the water, they completely stretch out,” says Ronan of the suit, laughing. “Everything went south!” (Entertainment Weekly)
I absolutely loved this movie! The results of Odile Dicks-Mireaux’ attention to details are as period perfect as those of the more acclaimed Sandy Powell for Carol which we’ll take a closer look at later this week. In the meantime here’s the image gallery for that film where Powell’s work is on view. I’m guessing they’ll both be in the costume design awards conversation.
All images by Kerry Brown.