Once in a paper moon comes a movie so gorgeously inspired and passionate in vision that you're tempted to torch your closet and outfit yourself entirely from its costume racks. Grab a gas can, baby, because that flick is Down with Love.
We haven't seen looks this great since the rumpled-lace-and-linen craze launched back in the '80s by Out of Africa. A madcap romantic comedy--styled faithfully after the Rock Hudson-Doris Day "sex" romps of the '60s--Down with Love stars Renée Zellweger (playing feminist novelist Barbara Novak) and Ewan McGregor (as journalist/lothario Catcher Block) as would-be lovers poised on opposite sides of the battle of the sexes. I won't linger on the brilliant staging or the supposedly dated (but eerily right-now) dialogue about love, sex and marriage (for that see review, page 63). For this gal, the eye candy alone is worth the ticket price.
Daniel Orlandi, former protégé of Hollywood designer Bob Mackie, designed the more than 100 costumes that festoon the film. It's a true homage to the mid-century studio machine, where every visual detail was manufactured to frame and flatter the stars. Inspired by the swanky looks of that era's top designers--Oleg Cassini, Givenchy and Balenciaga--Orlandi supplies a riot of fuzzy bouclé suits and broad-brimmed straw hats, matching coat-and-cocktail dress combos, and gloves, gloves, gloves!
Men's costumes are as swell as the women's--from the dead-on Tony Randall redbreast vests and wheaty tweeds worn by neurotic publisher Peter MacMannus (Frasier's David Hyde Pierce) to Catcher Block's seductive silk and sharkskin suits. No item is reused in a scene--not one pocket square or square-toed pump--and the color palette evolves with each set change. And use of costume to advance the drama isn't subtle: As Barbara Novak grows in stature, so do her shoulder pads. But who wants subtle?
Still, unlike other warmed-over '60s camp like the Austin Powers pics, these clothes go beyond retro drag to look like wearable, chic pieces--pieces you need now. Neither Zellweger nor McGregor is a flawless Botticelli, and seeing her squinchy eyes and his skrunky teeth framed into fabulousness by these clothes reassures me that every last one of us can pull off this look.
Here's your spring shopping list for a complete Down with Love debut:
Pajamas: Catcher Block's post-coital garb of choice--charcoal gray brushed silk, with just a whisper of piping. Monogram optional.
Skinny ties: and a suit to match. The narrow lines flatter anyone but the very hefty, while the sheen of '60s fabrics lend a wham of glam.
Pomade: and none of that art-rocker Bedhead business, either. We're talking drugstore-style, petrolatum-packed Murray's Superior Pomade ($2.49 at Walgreen's). It smells like your grandpa's denture rinse, and it just twitterpates the dames.
Negligee: not a nightie, not a slip, nothing by Victoria's Secret. A negligee is a floaty, translucent layer of seduction. It hovers. It's hovering at Goodwill right now. Look for shades of coral, melon and cloudy pink.
Something yellow: a buttoned-up coat or linen sheath dress, in any shade along the lemon-to-taxicab spectrum. Shoes to match? Gosh, yes!
A hat: crisp, straw and as big as you can stand. This trend dovetails neatly with summer's inevitable melanoma warnings.
Gloves: make them white, make them long, and always keep a clean pair in your purse.
Chocolate: Barbara Novak wouldn't have it any other way.
For tips on dressing '60s: www.costumes.org/pages/1960links.htm .