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Almost Famous fashion moments
Almost Famous (2000)via hotflick.net

What you never knew about the fashion in Almost Famous

To celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, costume designer Betsy Heimann breaks down the stories behind the film’s most iconic looks

From the sharp suits of the Reservoir Dogs to Uma Thurman’s iconic Mia Wallace, costume designer Betsy Heimann is the woman behind some of your favourite cinematic outfits. One of her most beloved features is Almost Famous (2000), a semi-autobiographical film by director Cameron Crowe that follows the story of teenage wannabe journalist William (Patrick Fugit) on the road with rock group Stillwater and the Band Aids, a pack of groupies led by the enigmatic and beautiful Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

Thanks largely to the wardrobe, the film transported viewers back into the 1970s with its flared jeans, faded band t-shirts and suede jackets. Such attention to detail was largely down to the fact that Heimann (originally trained as a seamstress) “designed every single thing in that movie except the blue jeans”, which she thrifted from locales as far as Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “The entire movie was a labour of love for me and I loved every single person on that movie and every single outfit,” Heimann admits. To mark the film’s fifteenth anniversary today, she talks us through the inspirations and anecdotes behind the film’s most iconic outfits.

A ROCK PHOTOGRAPHER’S ARCHIVE PROVIDED INSPIRATION

“I am very close with Joel Bernstein, the famous rock photographer. He he gave me all of the pictures from the 1973 Time Fades Away tour he was on with Neil Young. They were all inspirational – you know, Led Zeppelin on an aeroplane. There was a picture of a guy who we lost recently who was a very good friend of Neil Young, and I knew him too. I don’t know what city it was, but he was in this big dressing room backstage standing in the corner, just looking at the camera. It was something very lonely and innocent and ‘here-I-am’. I said okay, this is William.”

THEY RIPPED OFF A NEIL YOUNG TSHIRT (WITH PERMISSION)

“I loved Jeff Bebe’s stuff. I loved all of those bell-bottomed pants I made for him. I made the Jeff Bebe t-shirt that was an exact copy of a t-shirt with Neil Young’s face on it that we got permission to use, but we put Jeff’s face on it. That cracked me up, I loved making that t-shirt! I am really serious about my graphic t-shirts. If you’re going to use them, they have to have value, they have to have meaning and they cannot be a distraction. They are a terrific way to say something within the context of the film and say something about the character.”

PENNY LANE’S COAT WAS HER ARMOUR

“We knew that Penny Lane had a coat. There was no picture reference for that at all, I just felt like she was so vulnerable on the inside and so strong on the outside, that this coat was her armour. She could wrap herself up in it and no matter how low or insecure she was feeling, she put on that coat and she became Penny Lane. It was her protection. I immediately felt it had to have a little bit of fur. I actually made that coat out of a rug with the collar and some upholstery fabric that I found and it was inspired by a 1920s opera coat because they were longer in the back than they were at the front.”

“She could wrap herself up in it and no matter how low or insecure she was feeling, she put on that coat and she became Penny Lane. It was her protection” – Betsy Heimann

...BUT IT’S MIA

“Well that’s the sad thing. I think a costume house bought a lot of the collection. The Penny Lane coat was in the Dreamworks archive for a long time and then it went on tour with the brown velvet pants I made her and a little lace camisole. The shoes were also all original, they were so hard to maintain – we were living at the shoemaker! The Penny Lane outfit went on to go to a costume exhibit overseas and it never came back. But I think Cameron Crowe has one of the coats in his office, because I made three of them.”

HER OUTFITS GIVE CLUES TO HER STATE OF MIND

“Another favourite look for me was when she says the line, ‘What kind of beer?’ and she had this kind of transparent, very vulnerable white sheer kind of cream blouse and she looks into the camera – he says, ‘I mean they sold you for a case of beer,’ and she says, ‘What kind of beer?’ So I had this blouse that I designed and made that was just very sheer because we were getting into the real person inside there. Trying to make it good, like maybe the kind of beer would diffuse the fact that they sold her for it.”

THEY HAD TO TRACK DOWN A 60S AIR HOSTESS TO MAKE THIS UNIFORM

“I made that. You wouldn’t have believed it. There was an airline during that time in California called PSA – Pacific Southwest Airlines – and they flew up and down from LA to San Francisco and that was the actual stewardess costume. And my assistant on the film tracked down one of the old PSA flight attendants who still had her stewardess outfit and we had it to look it at and made one for Zooey.”

THE GROUPIES CHANNELLED BIANCA JAGGER’S THRIFT STORE AESTHETIC

“In that time period, and I think Bianca Jagger kind of started it, it was the beginning of thrift shopping. So all of Anna Pacquin’s dresses were 30s-influenced, like she had got them at the vintage store, though we actually made all her dresses. For Fairuza Balk, I made the black lace ponchos and the really wide bell-bottoms and I cut up lengths of boa and stitched them down into the shape of a vest and she wore that. She was more flamboyant. Kate was the romantic, Anna was the shy kind of vintage put-together from the past and Fairuza was loud, the den mother. She was the most outrageous.”