Tracee Ellis Ross' Glamourous Costumes In 'The High Note'
The dazzling world of L.A's music scene is captured in this new film through music and fashion
She’s one of our favourite red-carpet style muses, and this week sees Tracee Ellis Ross make a stylish turn in her new film The High Note as Grace Davis, a superstar with major talent and ego.
The film is directed by Nisha Ganatra, the award-winning creator of Transparent.
In a role not far removed from her showbiz upbringing (Tracee’s mother is Diana Ross), the film is set in the dazzling world of L.A’s music scene and also stars Dakota Johnson as Grace’s overworked personal assistant Maggie Sherwoode; and Ice Cube as Grace's long-time manager Jack Robertson.
WATCH: The High Note trailer
For fashion lovers, the costumes in The High Note are also worth looking out for, created by costume designer Jenny Eagan whose film credits include Beasts of No Nation, Widows and Knives Out.
Jenny worked closely with production designer Theresa Guleserian to create a history of Grace’s looks, depicting her as an artist in her forties who had enjoyed a successful, decades-long career.
“The most exciting thing about the potential of doing this movie is showing Grace’s career in its entirety,” says Theresa.
“Hopefully we’re making the audience feel like she did exist for her whole career and that the album covers and the fans and the posters and everything feel true to the story that we’re telling. It’s a challenge to make that a believable thing.”
To document a history of looks for Grace, the team worked on a mix of outfits and styles during a day-long photo session involving 14 looks.
“We had a huge storyboard where we had laid everything out- we want this album to look like this era, this reference,” says Theresa.
“It was Tracee’s first day on set. Usually, you need a little bit of grace to slide into things, but we were just from the jump, like, ‘Okay, for this album, it’s called this. We want it to look like Cher. Luckily, Tracee’s been a model before, so she responded to all of that and stuck with it the entire day. We have these incredible albums as a product of that.”
For Tracee, exploring different eras in this film was an opportunity to enjoy a character who, like her, has an innate sense of style.
“We went from the Mariah Carey Butterfly era to the TLC era. We went through the whole thing, J.Lo. We went everywhere” says Tracee. “We did Grace’s Rolling Stone cover, her fashion looks, her edgy looks, all of it. I really wanted Grace to not be me."
"Honestly, it all started with the hair. What were we going to do with this woman’s hair? I’m a Black woman, and our hair can really define so much. It can be the telltale sign of an era. It can be your crown. It can be the marker of your identity.”
When conceptualising looks for Grace, Jenny considered the character both as a wealthy real-world woman and a music icon with formidable stage presence who performs numerous times during the story. “It felt like it would be really fun to create a different character for each song, and to explore who she is a person versus the performer,” she says.
“They’re two separate people. The wardrobe for Grace Davis, it’s been more than wardrobe says Tracee, it’s really strong, elegant, polished, guarded and expensive,”
When it came to designing costumes for the rest of the cast, Jenny sought to capture a spectrum of contemporary looks that would reflect the inner spirit of each of the characters. Maggie’s clothing was understated, creating a contrast with Grace’s more extravagant style. “I love the simplicity of Dakota’s character,” says Jenny.
“Maggie didn’t have a lot of money, so she couldn’t afford a lot of nice things. I wanted to keep her very low-key and nonchalant.”
Her look was strongly influenced by the 1970s, and Dakota was dressed in vintage pieces that married well with the Chevy Nova she drives around the city.
“There’s something about Maggie that made me want to lean into those 70s ladies, Joni Mitchell or any of those women that were really inspiring for all of us,” says Jenny.
“Just because she didn’t have money doesn’t mean she couldn’t be cool. The Crosby, Stills and Nash T-shirt she wears is the most beautiful T-shirt I’ve seen in a long time. I was like, I have to get it in the movie somewhere. It’s really old. It’s one of their first ones. She looks so cool.”
The High Note is in cinemas nationwide Thursday 2 July.