Ocean’s 8 Makes A Fabulous Fashion Statement
Style has such a major role in this latest film — could it be the most fashionable movie ever made, asks Bethan Holt
There’s a storyline in the new Ocean’s 8 film where it’s rumoured that hot-young-thing starlet Penelope Stern (Dakota Fanning) will be wearing past-it designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) to the most fashionable event of the year, the Met Gala.
Stern’s implied coolness imbues Weil with a rekindled veneer of desirability, persuading the slightly older Daphne Kruger (Anne Hathaway) that she should commission her for her own red carpet moment. It’s a perfectly observed study of how the often fickle world of fashion works, where just one starry endorsement can transform a designer’s fortunes.
While relationships do, inevitably, come into it, I’m not sure I have ever seen a film pass the Bechdel Test so gloriously as Ocean’s 8, where most talk of men is swapped for smart masterminding, fashion-industry machinations and tons of fabulous clothes.
It’s undoubtedly the most stylish film of the year, as well as being a tribute to the fashion world itself in all its zany luxury; American Vogue was a key adviser on the finer points of detail, and a major part of the action revolves around a $150 million (£113 million) Cartier necklace.
“I don’t think there’s a working designer that didn’t use some piece of something in this movie — there just didn’t seem to be enough clothes in the world,” says costume designer Sarah Edwards, who faced the almighty challenge of wardrobing eight leading ladies — famous fashion plates Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Rihanna among them — as well as hundreds of extras for the scenes set at the Met Gala, the opulent party hosted by American Vogue editor Anna Wintour on the first Monday in May each year to celebrate the opening of the annual fashion exhibition at the New York museum.
You’ll probably leave Ocean’s 8 with a desperate urge to go shopping — inspired by the lavish looks on show. The early breakout star item from the costume line-up is the Alexander Wang leopard-print coat worn by Blanchett, who plays rock ‘n’ roll nightclub owner, Lou.
Her look is a glamorously androgynous mix of designers such as Saint Laurent and Dries van Noten, with ”$19 vintage finds” thrown in.
Who did Edwards draw on for the ensemble? “I looked back at iconic rock stars and people in the music industry over several decades,” she says. “There’s a great picture of Keith Richards in a three-piece suit which served as the inspiration for the three-piece Burberry suit that she wore. Then we looked at Debbie Harry, too.” If you prefer a more polished look, then Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean or Sarah Paulson’s Tammy are your women.
“Sandra is very cool, calm and collected, with a certain sophistication, but in an understated way, so she could move through different things under the radar,” says Edwards of the heist chief’s pristine tuxedo suits, silk blouses and pared-back trench coats.
Paulson plays a housewife with a side hustle in smuggling who makes a return to the criminal world big time. She transforms from her twee Mom uniform to an ultra-preened undercover Vogue assistant. “We actually Googled Wintour’s assistants for her look, and had sleek New York women like Tory Burch on the moodboard,” Edwards recalls.
Ironically, the most-dressed down star was Bob Marley-esque Nine Ball, played by Rihanna. Most of her clothes were sourced from military surplus stores. “Her assistant was shocked when she came into her dressing room and found there were no heels...”
For the Gala scenes, each protagonist had a bespoke designer outfit, while Edwards teamed up with fashion PR agency KCD to hook her up with dresses for the extras, “because I soon realised that you can’t just go to Macy’s for these gowns”.
In a case of life imitating art, Anne Hathaway called on Valentino, which dressed her for the Oscars, to make Kruger’s couture dress for the gala — a hot pink, Cartier-necklace framing show-stopper.
Edwards also turned designer herself, creating 50 costumes for a fashion show scene that depicts Weil showing a collection of Sixties-inspired looks with a line-up of Vogue editors offering withering facial expressions on the front row.
“She’s a designer who’s been incredibly relevant over the last several decades, but she’s somehow fallen out of fashion and is trying to hold on to her business. She’s trying to capture some kind of younger trendy, audience and she’s just not hitting the mark. We didn’t want it to be hideous, we just wanted it to be a mess.” It’s a tale as old as time in fashion.
The attention to detail is astonishing. Bonham Carter took hours of sewing lessons to be convincing as a world-renowned designer. “I wanted to look as if I could make a frock,” she says.
Vogue shared their secrets about how the Met Gala is planned, so the event could be faithfully recreated; there is even a cameo appearance by La Wintour herself. Editor-at-large Hamish Bowles also curated an imaginary exhibition as a gala backdrop for which a hall of mirrors was filled with “regal” designs borrowed from the archives of Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
How on earth can next year’s actual Met Ball measure up?
— The Sunday Telegraph