Monday, 3 March 2014

The Wolf Of Wall Street. Costumes ...

Now that the Academy Awards are over, and with them all the mayhem, constant media pressure and general insanity, we can focus on the good great things which weren't recognized in last night's charade. The Wolf Of Wall Street will (in a few years) hopefully become a cult classic, a bit like The Great Gatsby. Yes, it is wrong in every level and yes, it portraits an uncomfortable picture of America and the money-making machine it is, but as scandalous as it may be, it is a true story, which is what I think scared off the traditionalist at the Academy from giving Leo his well deserved statue or Scorsese's for Best Director.

Moving away from resentment and focusing on the movie now. Apart from its pulse-racing rythm, fantastic cinematography and hilarious, near-perfect performances from all actors, I want to talk about the costume design. They say the clothes make the man, and in a world of excess and luxury like the one you see in The Wolf of Wall Street, three-piece suits, Polo shirts, loafers and Versace are there in spades. Costume designer Sandy Powell, who has worked with Scorsese since they collaborated on Gangs of New York, was responsible for bringing to life the power-dressing of the 90s. But she didn't do it alone.
Giorgio Armani collaborated by supplying reference material like runway shows from the period and various of original pieces including one of Jordan Belfort's early 90s suits.

"I remember the period well, when my deconstructed suiting emerged as an emblem of success," said Armani recently. "The era of power dressing on Wall Street projected tremendous amounts of resolute strength." Says Powell, thrilled to access the Armani archives: "We endeavored to capture that iconic look through our partnership with Mr. Armani. It was all about a jacket silhouette that was fluid and structured at the same time."

"I tried pretty much to stay true to the period but, having said that, I took liberties in as much as I invented how I thought the characters' clothing would change as opposed to exactly copying what the real Jordan wore. I was lucky enough to have a lot of photographic reference supplied by the real Jordan so I was able to take inspiration from that rather than exactly mimic" says Powell

But even those deconstructed Armani suits don’t last long. “Belfort starts off in off-the-peg cheap suits, progresses to an Armani, which is what everyone in the ‘80s aspired to, and then swiftly moves on to bespoke tailored suits which were often made by Savile Row tailors flown in specially from London,” Powell says. “Jordan Belfort actually had his own tailor who custom made everything for him for years.” At the height of his powers, Belfort spends his work days in tailored, single-breasted pinstripe suits, then switches into an unbuttoned Polo shirt, oversized sunglasses, and loose, pleated linen pants to lounge around with a pair of models aboard his yacht. He looks like someone who stepped out of a Ralph Lauren advertisement circa 1996. (“That’s exactly how he was meant to look!” says Powell.)

But while Belfort and his suits are the center of the film, it’s the sea of horribly dated Italian silk ties that really steals the show. They are everywhere—and they are hideous. Squiggles. Squares. Blobs. Diamonds. Hundreds of them, on almost every character, none of which any sane human being would wear today. It’s a remarkable coup on Powell’s part—an instant signifier that we’ve traveled back in time to an era of obnoxious wealth and abundant bad taste. “The tie pretty much can define an era,” Powell explains, so she and her team put a lot of effort into finding actual examples from the period, renting “from costume houses that hold thousands” and “scour[ing] thrift stores and flea markets” for just the right “graphic and geometric” patterns. “I never stopped buying ties!” Powell says.

Another stylistic highlight is Belfort’s wingman Donnie Azoff, played by a riotous, depraved Jonah Hill. In his memoir, Belfort describes Danny Porush (the real Azoff) as a Jewish Long Islander with WASP pretensions. “I think I’ve ended up exaggerating this a little,” Powell admits—“mostly because of how Donnie’s character developed during my fittings with Jonah.” The result is a spectacular mash-up of aspirationally misguided 1990s preppy style. A multicolored pastel oxford-cloth button-down shirt. A cable-knit sweater tied around the shoulders. Tortoise-shell spectacles with clear lenses. Lilac suspenders. And so on. “We arrived at Donnie’s look after trying on various different combinations of things usually bright or pastel colors and not always coordinating,” Powell says. “I wasn’t trying to making him look comedic. But I wanted him to look as if he was really trying hard!”

When it comes to the girls,close attention was paid to detail, from hair, make up, spray tan, acrilic nails, snake-skin and the list goes on. Naomi, Jordan's trophy wife, is the personification of the 90s aesthetic. "The first dress we see her in was an Hervé Leger dress very typical of the early '90s. It is openly sexy and revealing, which is fitting for the character at that point in the story" says Powell.  "She also had to really stand out from the crowd in the party scene. I later had her dress from head to toe in the same designer, be it Versace or D&G, to show a kind of naive nouveau riche kind of approach to showing off her wealth. As the story progresses, however, and she becomes less happy with her lot, I had her change her style to something a bit more chic and understated, as if she was growing up and away from Jordan. This more refined look was also typical of the Prada and Gucci looks of the late '90s"

The result of Powell’s efforts is a seamless depiction of a decade that until now has been all but ignored by Hollywood. It’s almost enough to inspire a broader 1990s revival. Powell, for one, is convinced. Asked if the silhouettes and patterns of the period are due for a comeback, she answers with a resounding, “Yes to all of that!”


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