Liberace, porn stars and teen thieves: the films that brought costume design to another level
Here's our costume design picks from the year in cinema, from Florida-teen fluoro surrealism to Swedish disco sleaze, a hyper-popped Jazz-Age and – most surprising of all – Indonesian death squads channeling Divine.
DIY-grime veteran Harmony Korine's improbable foray into the world of teens on Florida break was one of the year's highlights. Costume designer Heidi Bivens helped create the look of the surreal, fever-haze film, kitting out gun-toting former Disney star Selena Gomez and gal pals in their crime-pulling vacation – neon bikinis, black sweatpants with "DTF" ("Down to Fuck") on the butt, pink fluoro ski masks – and drawing on a heady mesh of Riff Raff, Kevin Federline and Gary Oldman in his True Romance phase for James Franco's look as a gold-toothed, corn-rowed G.
THE GREAT BEAUTY
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's brilliant, razor-sharp and grandiose portrait of existentially tired man of culture Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) visually encompasses a two-faced Rome of sacred splendour and vulgar superficiality. It opens with his flamboyantly over-the-top rooftop birthday party, guests dripping in gold jewellery gyrating under a neon Martini sign. Costume designer Daniela Ciancio hit up Neapolitan tailoring firm Cesare Attolini for Jep's urbane, colourful suits.
The collaboration between costume designers Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller (aka 'Kurt and Bart') and Park Chan-wook - known for visually rich horror – proved fruitful on the Korean director's first English-language film, a meticulous-looking gothic tale. Mia Wasikowska has shades of little-girl fairytale about her as the daughter in a dysfunctional family in high-waisted, knife-pleated skirts. Having worn an identical style of black-and-white leather saddle shoes through her entire life, an 18th-birthday gift of crocodile-skin Louboutin heels signals a calling to predatory sexuality.
BEHIND THE CANDLELABRA
Matt Damon in jewel-encrusted Speedos and Michael Douglas exiting a Rolls Royce onstage in a white Norwegian fox-fur coat (faux for the movie) with a 16-foot train were just two of the looks costume designer Ellen Mirojnick got to go all-out with for Steven Soderbergh's biopic of pianist Liberace, based on the tell-all memoir of his assistant and '80s live-in lover Scott Thorson. The extravagant showman nearly kept the Austrian rhinestone business flush singlehandedly, and his real-life costumes weighed hundreds of pounds.
Costume designer Cilla Rörby was instrumental in the meticulously authentic visual recreation of the seamy side of a disco-era Stockholm of oranges and browns for this chilly, slow-burning Swedish thriller from director Mikael Marcimain. Based on the real-life case of a prostitution ring with a high-powered clientele that nearly brought down a government, it sees ringletted new talent Sofia Karemyr in an array of 70s furs, halter tops, and high-waisted flares as she's lured from a girls' home into work for an indomitable madam.
Rob Epstein's biopic of Linda Lovelace – the star of porn film Deep Throat, wife of a controlling spouse and later anti-porn activist – also sought to recreate the 70s for the glam, suggestively dressed. Costume designer Karyn Wagner was eager not to fall into the trap of considering the era through a later parodic lens as a decade that taste forgot, underplaying silhouettes and colours while still milking the period's transparent layers, hot pants, hoop earrings and elaborate facial hair.
THE GREAT GATSBY
Costume and production designer Catherine Martin and her director husband Baz Luhrmann teamed up with Miuccia Prada to concoct a vision of the Jazz Age that reflects its exhilarating energy for a modern audience, rather than strives for museum-like accuracy. Striped regatta blazers, fringed dresses and bobs, cloche hats, diamonds and pearls all still nod to the Roaring Twenties in this portrait of mysterious millionaire and bootlegger Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is a picture of new-moneyed flamboyance in candy-pink linen chalk stripes.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR
The counterculture feel of the early 70s is authentically recreated by costume designer Jurgen Doering for this sprawling, nostalgia-free depiction of young activists in Paris from director Oliver Assayas. Gilles (Clement Metayer) is a shaggy-locked painter whose political ideals begin to fade as he veers into filmmaking, and is torn between two women – Laure (Carole Combs), who is apolitical, drug-infused bohemianism in flowing white gypsy dresses and wispy tresses, and no-nonsense, denim-flared and T-ed Christine (Lola Creton),who becomes increasingly radicalised.
THE BLING RING
Costume designer Stacey Battat worked with director Sofia Coppola on her recreation of the real-life exploits of the Bling Ring, who thieved luxury goods worth millions from the homes of celebs from Rachel Bilson to Lindsay Lohan. Paris Hilton's actual walk-in wardrobe features in the film, which is a torrent of Juicy Couture sweatsuits, Bulgari jewellery, monogrammed Dior bags, hot pink Louis Vuitton pumps and designs from Rick Owens to Dolce & Gabbana and Herve Leger in its depiction of Valley youths gripped by celeb obsession and label fetishism.
THE ACT OF KILLING
Unquestionably, the most conceptually mind-bending ends to which costume was used this year occurred in a documentary – Joshua Oppenheimer's lauded exploration of the nightmarishly surreal hell of historical memory repression. He invites unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads, who were adulated for killing communists, to theatrically re-enact their violent crimes in elaborate, hyper-coloured scale. Dressed in the flamboyant attire of the Hollywood films they loved – from John Wayne Westerns to gangster thrillers and glam, sequinned musicals (the costume designer, credited as anonymous to avoid reprisals, was inspired by Divine) – they show how the fantasy of self-denial bleeds into unthinkable acts.