Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fifty Shades of fashion: The film's costume designer on the lack of underwear, designer labels and that grey tie

Emma Akbareian

Our interview with Fifty Shades of Grey costume designer, Mark Bridges.

Clothing may not seem like a particular concern in the film adaptation of a book that's all about sex, but that didn't stop the film's director Sam Taylor Wood signing up Mark Bridges, an Academy Award winning costume designer, to kit out the cast.

Bridges' CV boasts a string of critically acclaimed films including The Artist, for which he won an Oscar, Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, There Will Be Blood and The Italian Job.

He makes the rather candid confession that he's never actually read the book, instead taking his queues for costume from the script and from the book's author EL James, who he explains was "there all the time to be a touchstone if questions came up."

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan 50 Shades of Grey
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan 50 Shades of Grey

For fans of the books there's several key outfits that are expected to make an appearance. The first of those is a purple dress, borrowed by Ana from her roommate Kate.

"It was based on a Roland Mouret dress -  tight fitting with a zipper down the back. He [Roland Mouret] didn’t make it in the colour we needed, we needed it in a wine colour so we were heavily inspired and borrowed that look" he explained.

And although Bridges' endeavoured to make the film's costumes more anonymous explaining his idea was to let the audience "just fall in love with these characters and their story and try to understand them better without the material trappings." Another designer label that makes an appearance is Jason Wu on Ana's roommate Kate in the family dinner scene.

"My whole goal for Ana was to make her seem real, but be sort of what I like to call ‘Hollywood real’ the best possible reality you could have."

Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades Of Grey (Universal Pictures)
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades Of Grey (Universal Pictures)

And how does one go about dressing Christian Grey - a man for whom money is no object? The answer for Bridges was in keeping with the character:

"Christian Grey isn’t the type of person who would necessarily wear a designer brand, he’d probably have them all made for him. Which we did. His shirts we made, his neck ties most of them we made."

"We did the tailoring ourselves from the fabric-up, we ordered the fabric from Italy and we told the tailors here in Vancouver what we wanted."

And for eagle-eyed fans looking out for the first appearance of that grey tie, that too was custom made for the film.

In a film whose subject matter sees the main character seduced into a BDSM lifestyle one would expect underwear to play a fairly main part. But for those expecting to see Agent Provocateur's finest, they will be sorely disappointed.

"I thought that I was going to design all kinds of lingerie and I had all these designs and swatch fabrics and then you look at the script and there’s really no place for it."

Instead the lingerie appearances are "surprisingly minimal, your clothes are on or their off."

"We see Ana’s underwear, it’s just white cotton panties and a bra but it’s the best possible white cotton panties and bra, it could be that it’s got a lovely little lace trim from the brand Hanro, but it’s very simple" he explains.

But as the storyline of the film develops so does the lingerie:

"When we see her in the red room and she’s become more involved with Christian, we were lucky enough to get some panties and underthings from Stella McCartney who's friends with the director."

Those who are familiar with the books will know the characters undergo a transformation through the course of the story, Bridges carefully tailored the costumes to reflect this.

"For Ana it goes from awkward, thrift-store and childlike choices to a much cleaner adult look; flat shoes, sleeker shapes - a much more refined, maybe even a bit more body conscious as she discovers her sexuality."

In Christian "we softened his textures, he started out very buttoned up and forbidding and then we see him move into t-shirts and cashmere and the sensual textures start to come out as their relationship heats up."

For Bridges' the scale of publicity and hype surrounding the film did not effect the experience:

"It felt like a very intimate collaboration, maybe even more so because of the guiding hand of Sam Taylor Johnson."

"I would usually keep really mum about it if it was the usual, if it wasn’t an extraordinary experience and it was made so by the people, it’s right up there with one of my best experiences in filmmaking."

Independent News Service

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