“Christian Bale’s character was dressing himself to appear as a person who knew a lot—a very cosmopolitan man of the world. So he combined his wardrobe pieces in quite an expressive and exuberant way, like pairing a stripe shirt with paisley or polka dot ties and beautiful silk. We made no less than three, three-piece velvet suits for this film: burgundy, chocolate brown, and one in midnight blue. We really liked that texture for him. And of course, Christian put on an incredible amount of weight for this movie; part of his appeal is that he’s at ease with his own body. No, he doesn’t have model’s good looks, but he makes up for it with his charm and sophisticated approach.”
- Richard “Richie” DiMaso (Bradley Cooper)
“Bradley Cooper’s costumes were equally interesting for me, because he’s a guy who grew up in the Bronx and, initially, is pretty straightforward and unimaginative with his clothes. He works for the FBI and wears ill-fitting polyester suits and garish ties. But when Christian Bale and Amy Adams introduce him to this enchanting world of very sophisticated people, he uses clothes to dress as this sort of person, who he’s aspiring to be. He’s exploring the power of clothes and how they affect people’s perception of you. So he starts wearing silk shirts, three-piece suits, cool sunglasses, plus a great leather jacket. He gets more and more confident, and you can see that in his clothes.”
Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner)
“With Jeremy Reynolds’s costumes, we wanted to give him a real signature style too, so he wears quite bold suits in very pale colors, like spearmint green or bright ivory. He’s a man from New Jersey; he has fewer resources than the other guys, but he puts together an old school, very Italian look—a kind of throwback to the Rat Pack. He’s got this Sinatra-esque charm, with high pompadour hair and platform shoes. He comes across as this very aspirational pillar of society for his community—a white knight amongst the sprawl and grit of New Jersey.”
Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence)
“Jennifer Lawrence’s costumes were lots of fun, too, because she has this almost schizophrenic personality in the film, where she’s either hiding at home depressed or going out on town dressed to kill. Her wild mood swings are reflected in the clothes. At home, she’s in voluminous mumus with crazy jumbo paisley prints and in leopard-print housedresses and velour sweat suits. So she has this suburban glamour—if that’s a term— of New Jersey. But then when she goes out, she’s really grasping for attention, so we put her in strong evening ensembles, like a leopard-print chiffon halter neck jumpsuit with a short, ratty fur jacket. For the second time she goes out, I created a dress out of tight metallic white jersey, and it’s got a rather plummeting neckline. We wanted something that made the audience on the edge of her seat. Was she going to fall out of her dress? Is the dress too small for her? She’s like a train wreck, so we wanted something that had that element of danger.”
···Sydney Prosser/Lady Edith Greensly (Amy Adams)
“She had to really stand out with confident, high impact clothes, since she used them as part of her hustle to come across as a sophisticated and worldly woman. Clothes of the late ’70s were much less structured, so there was a real sense of liberation and freedom with women’s clothes, typified by designers like Gucci and Diane von Furstenberg. We thought this was a great fit for Amy’s character. There’s both a confidence and a vulnerability to those necklines of her dresses. There’s a sense of supreme confidence in using her physical appeal as a part of her hustle, but then there’s moments when she’s heartbreakingly fragile and there’s really nothing between her and the world. The revealing clothes give you that sense of a very raw emotional state.
GQ: What informed the looks you put together?
Michael Wilkinson: We tried to watch as many films from the period. Two prime examples areGoodfellas and Atlantic City, which captures the faded glory of the New Jersey shore in the ’70s. We looked mostly at photography, like the amazing work of Richard Avedo, Allan Tannenbaum, Helmut Newton, and Guy Bourdin. Besides of real people, we wanted the full spectrum of pop culture references our characters would’ve been influenced by, so we looked at a lot of magazines. We looked at lots of GQ photo shoots, I have to say. Shout out to you guys.
Michael Wilkinson: Absolutely, are you kidding? You guys are like the Bible to us, so we knew that our characters would be flipping through GQ for their ideas. We reached for our GQ archives and looked their for inspiration. So hopefully there will be a nice cross-pollination. You guys inspired us, and hopefully we also inspire people today.
Michael Wilkinson: I have a real fondness for ’70s clothes, because I feel like it was an era were ideas were big and people lived large and took risks and didn’t give a damn. There’s a lot we can learn from that. We’re quite conservative with the way we dress today, and we miss out on a lot of expressive possibilities with our clothes. It’s not so much the individual pieces and details from the ’70s that I feel like we need to bring back, but the approach and attitude to show the world how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about our world. It’s the attitude of walking tall and being comfortable in your own skin. I hope that’s what people take away.
Illustrations: Courtesy of Michael Wilkinson