An Education is one of my favourite movies. I only discovered it last summer but I am glad I did. It tells the story of a girl coming of age in post-war, pre-Beatles Britain. The film is an adptation from a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber. It originally appeared in the literary magazine Granta, and recounted her two year affair (starting at the age of 16) (with a man who said he was 27 but was presumably in his late thirties.
Nick Hornby, the screenwriter, read the memoir and inmediately understood Jenny's feelings of boredom and imprisonment and the need to break free and experience: "I felt that I understood Jenny's life; That sense of being bored in a suburb of London and frightened somehow the city is going to shut you out of its life... I know that very much"
Despite her mundane surroundings, Jenny has her sights set on studying English at Oxford (when she isn't distracted by French chanteuses and Sobraine cigarrettes). Her hunger for sophistication and cultural enrichment clashes with the bleakness of that period in Britain's history. Jenny's curiosity and appetite for a more exciting life lead her to David, a sharply dresed man twice her age who offers her a cello ride home in the rain. Charmed by his chivalrious wit and genuine interest in her, she soon puts herself in the car. Things escalate from there, with Jenny's spectacular wardrobe change and the introduction to David's cool friends and the party scene of 60s London. It is a film about a teenage girl diving into adulthood and finding out what it really is.
The costume designer is Odile Dicks-Mireaux (One Day; The Constant Gardener) collaborated with the director, Lone Scherfig with all the costumes in the movie, but especially with Jenny's transformation. The costumiere says he was among the most involved directors she has worked with, the only one ever to bring mood boards to their first meeting. Together, they decided that "one of the important things is that Jenny's transformation has to be in the image of how David wants his little girl to be. "We had this idea that David would have bought her dresses"
Dicks-Mireaux sourced the entire wardrobe, apart from a few custom suits for the boys, from vintage dealers and costume houses. "There were three looks I was quite strong on: a little black dress and white coat that make up the "after" look of a make over done by David's groovy friend Helen; a printed shift for a weekend in Paris; and a very Jackie O, gold sleeveless number for a tearjerker scene. These three looks constitute a sort of arc, Jenny's evolution from a sopping wet uniformed student, As David first meets her, to a slightly more wordly 17 year old.
Dicks-Mireaux relied heavily on books of the era's pop stars, as well as photographs of her assistant's mum ( a teen in 1961). For the Mad Men-ish David, she looked to Sean Connery during his James Bond days. Jean Paul Belmondo is the source of his business partner Danny's "sexy, sort of French look". And Helen's look, "a little ahead of her time", is a mix of Romy Schneider, Catherine Deneuve and a bit of Diana Ross. The costumier's favourite look is Jenny's Parisian watercolour shift, a Brigitte Bardot moment, "probably a bit dated for 1961, but it's how we thought Peter would want her to be"