Thursday, June 29, 2017

If looks could kill: Dressing the women of The Beguiled [Costume Design]


At this point I think we've all seen enough trailers and commercials to know what The Beguiled is basically about: a wounded union soldier (Colin Farrell) who's taken in by a group of women at an all- girl boarding school in the south during the Civil War; his presence sparks a lot of interest with the females competing with each other for his attention. Sounds like just another episode of The Bachelorette! There seems to be a lot of sexual tension, and some surprising—or maybe not so surprising—turn of events. After all the trailer and ads push pretty hard on the old 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' motif using the hashtag #vengefulbitches proudly. From what I gather, the ladies do something nasty with the apple pie. 

The film is coming to my local movie theater this weekend and since critics are mixed on what to make of it, I'm curious to see how I respond. I loved the first one starring Clint Eastwood back in 1971, mainly finding Clint especially sexy. Colin is sexy too but my understanding is this one is told more from the women's perspective. 



Penguin has just reissued the book, originally titled A Painted Devil as The Beguiled. Written in 1966 by Thomas Cullinan the novel is in the southern gothic genre

Let's check out the costume design. Stacy Battat, who also worked with director Sofia Coppola on The Bling Ring and Somewhere, told Vogue she met with Coppola plus the production designer & cinematographer before beginning her work. Par for the course in most movies:
We all sat down and talked about the world that we were going to create and knew we wanted one that was very ethereal and diaphanous, with pastels and light pouring through moss trees and big windows.

Because many Southern women would have been in mourning—the Civil War having killed thousands and thousands of husbands, sons, brothers, uncles and cousins on both sides of the Mason Dixon line—they would have typically been wearing black. The light colors suggest a quality of sweetness and light which, judging from the trailer, is little more than a sheer and pretty petticoat over a wicked black corset. These ladies are the ultimate nasty women. And not without good reason.




Nicole Kidman’s character Miss Martha is the head of the household, so we wanted her to be dressed in a way that spoke to her being in charge. We gave her a high neckline, and the dress she wears in much of the film looks as though it’s made with a vest on top. It’s very masculine for that era.” 
Women would never have worn their hair down, either, not even for bed, but Fanning’s character, Alicia, has locks that are always loose. For several scenes, Battat also styled her buttons to be undone just so at the chest.





She’s a bit wilder than the rest,” Battat says of Alicia.

Kirsten’s Edwina is from the city, so her looks were all a bit more sophisticated and more romantic, with decorated sleeves and more jewelry than the other girls.” Battat called upon Ten Thousand Things in New York to make Edwina’s bracelets, and Miss Martha does wear a Eugenia Kim hat, but the majority of the costumes were specially made based off of Battat’s sketches.

“I started by going to the Metropolitan Museum and looking at all of these fabric swatches from the textile department,” she recalls. “I looked at the era in which The Beguiled is set, but I also found inspiration in fabrics and colors and textures from years before and after that time. I’m sure we are going to get abused by Civil War reenactors,” Battat adds with a laugh.

I'm really intrigued to see this one. And I'm hoping you'll let me know what you make of it, if and when you see it too.

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