|Scarlet Johansson and James D'Arcy wearing their 'Psycho' costumes in Hitchcock|
With the release of Hitchcock in cinemas this week, and a slew of biopic films recently released or in production, an important issue arrises: how does a costume designer copy an existing famous costume for a new production? Is it really costume design if you're just recreating someone else's work?
This is a different skill than merely recreating a famous person's look for a biopic, which requires knowledge of the fashions of the day, and the persons style, but often allows for quite a bit of artistic interpretation. It's recreating a very specific costume that is, in some cases, as famous as the actor themselves. Does it even count as costume design? How would the uncredited costume designer of Psycho(1960), Rita Riggs, feel about Hitchcock costume designer Julie Weiss' recreation of her work over 50 years later? Does it even matter? Surely Weiss' first obligation is to the film 'Hitchcock' and it's audience?
|Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates|
|Janet Leigh as Marion Crane|
|With Anthony Hopkins and his bizarre fat suit in Hitchcock|
In an interview with blog 'The Film Experience', Julie Weiss said of Psycho's costumes: "We must remember this is a black and white movie, and our memories are in black and white and somehow we colour correct our own memories. In Janet Leigh’s book she talks about Marion Crane’s dress being blue and we were able to find these in the archives at Universal. I was lucky enough to be able to look at it."
There is definitely similarities in this costume to other leading ladies in Hitchcocks film, (and apart from the colour to Vera Miles dress and coat ensemble, also in Psycho) The cool muted blue/green/grey wool suit, with a high neckline displaying no cleavage is used again and again for Hitchcock's leading ladies: Grace Kelly in 'Rear Window' (1954), Kim Novak in 'Vertigo' (1958) and Tippi Hendren in 'The Birds'(1963) which is almost exactly the same colour as the 'Rear Window' suit (see further down). As his heroines all look physically similar as cool, reserved blondes, they also dress in a similar way. Yet Hitchock was unafraid to show women in their lingerie (or less), so maybe there is something in the idea of vouyerism: the virgin, the sexy librarian or the burlesque idea that the strip itself is sexier than the reveal. Women being completely covered in order to make it exciting when they do actually show skin.
|Grace Kelly in Rear Window|
|Kim Novak in Vertigo|
|Full length photo of Marion Crane|
|Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel in their Psycho costumes in Hitchcock|
|Vera Miles as Lila Crane|
|Jessica Biel as Vera Miles|
It would be difficult to talk about 'Hitchcock' without mentioning a very similar film of recent years, My Week With Marilyn (2011). For me the highlight of the costume design in this film was the recreations of Beatrice Dawson's original The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) costumes. Yes these costumes are unmistakably 1950s interpretations of Edwardian costumes, but I think that is part of their charm. I got to the end of Simon Curtis' film and wished I'd spent that previous two hours watching the real Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. I'm still not sure if this is a compliment or an insult to Marilyn costume designer Jill Taylor.
|Marilyn Monroe in her stunning The Prince and the Showgirl|
|The Prince and the Showgirl|
|Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn|
There is a definiate fashion at the moment for recreating old Hollywood. In the past few months there's been another (made for TV) movie about Hitchcock and his films: The Girl (2012) starring Sienna Miller as Tippi Hendren, which recreated scenes from The Birds.
|Tippi Hendren in publicity still for The Birds|
|Tippi Hedren in her green dress and coat ensemble designed by Edith Head|
|Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels|
|Lilo as Cleopatra - surely Liz would never have worn this neckline?|
|Lohan as Taylor as Cleopatra and Grant Bowler as Burton as Marc Antony|
|The closest picture I can find of Burton and Taylor to the costumes above|
|Possibly my favourite dress from Cleopatra: a similar colour to Lohanns costume. Notice the low cut cleavage and very fitted bodice and waist typical of the costumes from the film|
|Painting from the poster of the film - the headdress is in the film, but the shift is an imagined costume based on the sort of thing she wears in the film.|