Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Cousin Rachel—Costume Design: The Woman in Black

Much like the titular character she plays in My Cousin Rachel, the beautiful Rachel Weisz is not the type to wear her heart on her sleeve. Weisz exudes a sense of mystery, of being the keeper of some dark, delicious secret that only she knows. Perfect casting for the secretive, seductive cousin Rachel.

Now, I know by now, you've heard the film is more melodrama than psychodrama, that it's not about to knock Wonder Woman off its perch BUT book loving ladies & gents that you are, I have no doubt you'll be seeing it someday. Even if that day is only when it finally comes to DVD or your fave streaming service. We have to see it if only for Rachel Weisz performance. 

Here's what David Edelstein said about that.

Weisz is riveting. Quick, vivacious, disarmingly informal, this Rachel is certainly not using stereotypically feminine wiles. She’s chummy with Philip but not flirty. She wears modest black outfits, as befits her mourning. And she asks for no money. But she finds herself showered with it, more and more as Philip’s ardor grows. Because Weisz is one of the least artificial actresses alive, you find yourself constantly asking: She can’t be as evil as the movie is suggesting, can she?

That being said, let's take a look at the costume design. Let's face it, sumptuous costumes are one big reason we love period costume dramas. To help Weisz portray the exotic widow who returns to Cornwall from Italy in the current screen adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's classic, it was up to costumer designer Dinah Collin to dress Rachel as Rachel. It doesn't hurt that as a widow she naturally wears a lot of black. The black lace veil is a nice seductive touch. There's just something about black lace that shouts sex. Add a veil and, well, that's a whole other level of intrigue. 


It's the unveiling that gives the veil its power.

Scroll down to see a featurette on the costume design

According to the Telegraph... 
Rachel’s look in the film is regal, elegant and subtly integral to whipping up intrigue. “One of the things which came up in discussions was that we thought she should look like something from outer space to the Cornish locals,” says Collin of the way she sought to play up Rachel’s Italian sophistication. “We went to the National Portrait gallery to establish where in the 19th century her style should be. We wanted her to look really elegant but also classic so we set her in the 1840s.”


By way of contrast to all the austerely beautiful black come several shots of Rachel in nightdresses which Collin created from piecing together authentic white cotton lace from the period. It is in these moments where the tension between the character’s innocence and sensuality reaches a crescendo, a point underlined by the reveal/ conceal feel of all that billowing white prettiness.

One of the film’s most memorable scenes sees Phillip giving Rachel a precious set of heirloom pearls. “The pearls are a big subject matter,” says Collins. “We had them made based on a painting we found from 1835. They were supposed to have been worn by his mother but we didn't want it to be fussy.” The effect of the pearl necklace is enhanced by the off-shoulder neckline of Rachel’s black dress, which allowed for Weisz’s porcelain-pale decolletage to create a striking contrast.
Inspired by a portrait? What portrait? All I know is I would kill for that neck!


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