When reminiscing about iconic film fashion, perhaps visions of bejeweled corsets from Moulin Rouge! or the extravagant flapper ‘fits of The Great Gatsby come to mind. But while our fixation centers on extravagant costumery, it is also paramount to celebrate the man behind the camera who brought the dazzling displays to life. In honor of Australian filmmaker, writer, and producer Baz Luhrmann’s birthday, CR examines his film’s most sensational ensembles.
Dubbed a “pioneer of pop culture,” Luhrmann is commended for his contributions to the film industry in many respects. Morphing classic story structures, his postmodernist approach evidences that the power of storytelling lies in the ability to bring new perspectives. It is this innovative and exhibitionist outlook–formed by a rich background in dance, theatre, opera, and of course filmmaking–that continues to evoke wonderment and admiration from audiences today.
It was his mockumentary film Strictly Ballroom, based upon his 1986 play of the same name, that became his first award-winning film. Production Designer Catherine Martin worked alongside the then young director to embody the film’s fierce ballroom dancing competitors through costume. Truthful—sometimes ironic—but always character-amplifying, each costume sought to embody the wearers essence.
A devotee of expressive artforms, Luhrmann channeled his knowledge of opera and theatre for his 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, a contemporary take on Shakespeare. His created world, Verona Beach, included mostly modern elements, except for the uncontested inclusion of Elizabethan english. But it wasn’t language that posed challenges, it was the presentation of two rivaling gangs that held distinct visual identities but shared the same rebellious spirit. In pursuit of alternate aesthetics, Luhrmann was joined by Costume Designer Kym Barrett and his now partner Martin to bring the Montague and Capulet clans pronounced personalities with undertones of youthful defiance.
Styles of the 1960s and ‘70s and Yves Saint Laurent inspiration dominated the Capulets’ wardrobes. Their dark and defiant look is accented by hints of embellishment in the form of bulky belt buckles, silver chains, and ornate gun holsters. The Montagues emit a much more nonchalant approach to fashion. The film’s designers pulled inspiration from the post-Vietnam 1970s, with a unique mix of utilitarian-meets-tropical styles courtesy of Prada defining the unruly bunch. Colorful Hawaiian shirts, straw hats, and fatigue pants radiate a casualness that is juxtaposed by punk accessories.
The final obstacle of the film was to differentiate the main characters, Romeo, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Juliet, played by Claire Danes. It was Barrett who interpreted Lurhmann’s vision of the two characters’ uncomplicated appearances in such saturated surroundings. While they remain equally as fashionable as their respective tribes, the star-crossed lovers sport rather pared down apparel.
Luhrmann’s next film transports us to late 1890s Paris, France, where another unusual love story unfolds in Moulin Rouge! A bohemian poet by the name of Christian, played by Ewan McGregor, quickly becomes enamored with Nicole Kidman’s character, the svelte and sultry courtesan Satine. Their romance unfurls in a collection of stylish scenes that feature the infamous underground cabaret Moulin Rouge.
Satine’s accouters are just as enthralling as her involvement in a deadly love triangle. In order to portray Kidman’s character as a seasoned showgirl with aspirations of becoming a real actress, Luhrmann and Martin joined forces with Angus Strathie to symbolize her ambition and revitalize historical details. Beading, corsetry, and fishnet stockings are swapped for exquisite full-trained gowns and well-mannered daytime attire as the plot progresses. One of Satine’s breathtaking looks, a red satin dress, was inspired by Old Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo and their uncomplicated use of color.
Over 400 ensembles were created to bring about the electrifying atmosphere of the musical. These costumes, in conjunction with magnificent sets, choreography, and a soundtrack rooted in popular culture, are what makes Moulin Rouge! the ultimate spectacle.
Theatrical, and intentionally chaotic, Luhrmann’s interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of his most recent displays of grandeur. It follows the excessive lifestyle of a rather secretive millionaire Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his neighbor Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, who unveils his complicated past which happens to have familial ties.
Channeling a similar energy to that of Moulin Rouge!, the reinvigorated rendition spared no expense on ornamentation. True to the revolutionary fashions and forward-thinking ideals of the 1920s, the film’s costume sought to symbolize materialistic associations of the American Dream. Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Buchanan, played by Carey Mulligan, is highlighted often for her highly ornate and glittery garments.
To reflect 1920s New York in an authentic light meant that costumes for the film would not be filled with the stereotypical flappers that we often reference today. Martin was very much inspired by Chanel’s contemporary fashions, and even facilitated a partnership with Miuccia Prada to create around 40 party frocks for the film’s secondary characters. Tiffany jewels are also strewn throughout the film, flaunted by a few main characters.
The aforementioned films are among the filmmaker’s highest grossing, and for good reason. The awe induced by these fascinating tales, and the glamorous garb they contain, is all thanks to Luhrmann’s unbridled vision. Costumery was merely one of many crucial elements that the visual-led filmmaker exercised to entertain his audiences. The film icon’s twist on classical storytelling, amplified by stunning imagery, music, and relevant pop culture references, is what makes the magic behind the movies that are still celebrated today.
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createdAt:Wed, 09 Sep 2020 16:18:31 +0000