by Prerna Pamar
What would film be without fashion? The intricacy of clothes is almost vital to any scene no matter what the situation. In films of all genres, the minutest detail of whether the actor is wearing a certain item of clothing holds so much more magnitude then it may seem. What would the movie Almost Famous be like without Penny Lane’s iconic fur jacket? The sultry white button down and black lace bra Uma Thurman wore in Pulp Fiction is an outfit that defined her character and has been re-lived throughout our generation. So what would a film directed by a fashion designer himself look like? In last years hit thriller, Nocturnal Animals, as well as the independent film A Single Man, Tom Ford proved that cinematic world would die without the poetic power of fashion. Using the steely, modern aesthetic seen in many of his collections, the film is inspired by the creative genius of one of the most renowned designers in the world.
Although Tom Ford did not use his own clothes in the film, he infused the sleek, sophisticated characteristics of his design into the costumes used in his scenes. A common theme between the two films he directed, A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, is his ability to make every character look almost perfect. From the straight-cut, perfectly ironed suit Colin Firth wears daily in A Single Man to the jewel-toned, elegant dresses worn in Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford makes sure that the characters in his films are never shabby, understanding the importance of visuals in creating a story. Coincidentally, this recurring aesthetic is essential to a theme of loneliness he portrays in both films. In Nocturnal Animals, Amy Adams plays Susan Marrow, a successful, yet lonely woman who owns her own art gallery and unfortunately suffers from a loveless marriage with an unfaithful husband. Tom Ford directs the film in a way that shows Adam’s character consistently surrounded by beauty. Donned in a fitted pencil skirt, silk white blouse, and a fur jacket, Adams sits in her pristine, trendy office surrounded by intricate glass structures and expensive artwork, however, through the perfection Ford has implemented in the scene, we can see that Adam’s character is utterly alone. As she stares blankly at the monochrome white wall in front of her, the audience can see that even though the character Susan Marrow is in a position any normal person would strive for, she lacks substance to her life. Tom Ford uses fashion as a form of paradox since the excessive, fashionable clothes she wears have a sleek, emotionless style that expresses the emptiness within her life. Farrow and her surroundings are aesthetically pleasing but under the surface she lacks substance and meaningful relationships. Ford implements the excess of beauty and perfection in order to emphasize the veil the character uses to cover the flaws in her life.
While Tom Ford uses fashion to illustrate the emotions and personality of his characters, he also uses it as a distinguishing factor of time. Throughout the film Nocturnal Animals, the scenes transition between three different realms of time. One is the present, a period when Farrow is a successful, unhappy art gallery owner. The other realm is the past before Farrow became successful, a time when she was happy and naïve, not yet exposed to the tragedies and under comings of the world. The third realm is a fictional world created through a book sent to Farrow by an ex-lover. The fictional events that occur in this book closely resemble the events in Farrow’s actual life, adding another dimension to the complexity of this film. In order to keep these three realms in order, Ford uses distinctive wardrobes for each one.
In the first realm, Farrow wears the excessive, modern clothing normal high-power women would wear: fitted jewel-toned dresses, business skirts, and the occasional fur jacket. Her makeup is always dark-toned and her hair is always straightened, portraying her inability to stray away from the aesthetic perfection that holds her together.
In the second realm, Farrow resembles a youthful woman who moves to New York City from a small town in Texas, having not experienced the sadness that she will face in the future. Immersed in a variety of neutral tones, Farrow’s wardrobe is reflective of the style of the nineties with many combinations of skirts and tights. Although her clothes do not project the image of someone who is rich and powerful, Ford’s choice in clothing shows the simplicity that made her happy in the past. Without the excess of wealth and style shown in her wardrobe in the first realm, we can see Farrow’s true, unveiled personality, a girl who is content with the new experiences she is having in the city. Implementing this strategic change in wardrobe from excess to simplicity, Tom Ford ventures out of the high-end fashion he is known for.
The third realm is where Ford truly shows his creative ability. As a fictional realm, the main antagonist of this world is Ray Marcus, played by actor Aaron Taylor Johnson. Shot in the beautiful, rural landscape of Texas, Ford transforms the quintessential cowboy look by implementing an unconventional item. Throughout these scenes, the character Ray Marcus is notably wearing green cowboy boots, emphasizing the eccentric personality of this character. Only a director with a highly regarded background in fashion could pull of an idea as bizarre and incredible as green cowboy boots.
Ford uses similar clothing concepts in his first film A Single Man, however, this time through a male perspective. Colin Firth plays George Falconer, a college professor in the nineteen sixties who recently lost his lover in a car accident. Riddled with grief and sorrow, Falconer goes through his monotonous daily schedule with the intention that he will eventually commit suicide at the end of the week. In order to capture the complex emotion of this hopeless loss of faith in life itself, Tom Ford infuses the classic sixties look, a sharp suit that so resembles his own work, into the film, using it to show the uptight, lifeless environment Falconer has created for himself. Ironing his white lapel shirts till not a crease can be seen, George Falconer resembles the character Susan Marrow from Nocturnal Animals since both use their impeccable style to fill up the emptiness in their lives and to mask their unhappiness. In the film, Falconer wears Nalco’s spectacles daily, a common characteristic of Tom Ford’s collections, once again portraying the many veils Ford’s characters wear to hide their true emotions from the public. Overall, Ford creates the classic sixties look while integrating his own style with it to implement strategic character development.
Tom Ford is one of many directors who utilize fashion in innovative ways in their film, however, Ford has the experience of creating his own clothing, allowing him to bring a whole new perspective to cinema and how scenes are shot. Ford uses film as a platform for fashion to transcend the normal boundaries it is limited to since the clothes are worn in situations we are accustomed to, instead of the detached setting of a fashion show or photo shoot. Through the costume design in Ford’s film, we are able to see fashion through a new lens.
Stylist Megan Arimanda / Photographer Emiliano Zapata / Model Phyllis Gong / HMUA Natalie Arriaga
Read the full digital edition of Issue No.9 here.