Dressing up Sensuality: The Costumes of “Call Me by Your Name”

by Nick Sheppard

Photography by Alli Weitzel

Stylist: Rebecca Wong

HMUA: Viviana Torres

Models: Hank Freeman, Grant Kanak

“Call Me by Your Name”is a categorically gorgeous film. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, every shot is alluring, each bit of dialogue is enticing and the narrative is heart-wrenchingly romantic. Set in rural 1983 Italy, the precocious 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) falls for Oliver (Armie Hammer), the American grad student who has come to study with his father for the summer. It was nominated for and received plenty of awards, but the retro costumes seem to have been overlooked. Understandable? Sure. Excusable? No, ma’am. While this film’s costumes do not take center stage, they are as much a part of the fabric of the film’s aesthetic and narrative as the illustrious Italian scenery. ick Sheppard grant kanak hank freemansexuality gay clothes movies Luca Guadagnino André Aciman stripes ItalyClothing is a fundamental thematic tool in this love story, both on the page and on the screen, the main players being swimming trunks and a large button-down shirt aptly named “Billowy.” In the novel, Elio invents an emotional color coding system for Oliver’s bathing suits, convincing himself for a while that red trunks communicate something totally different from green ones. As for the onscreen significance, we get a très risqué scene between Elio and a pair of Oliver’s worn trunks that speaks to the sexual awakening Elio is experiencing (he sneaks into Oliver’s room and puts them on his head while on all fours … the phrase you’re looking for is “hot-hot-hot”). On and off screen, Billowy is a sky-blue shirt that squares off Oliver to emphasize his statuesque American physique. Oliver gifts the shirt to Elio upon his request, and later in the film we see Elio turn down his summer girlfriend, Marzia, while Billowy hangs unbuttoned over his exposed torso, a sign of Oliver’s presence. Billowy carries the weight of the title message in its cotton stitches, a garment that might as well have the line “Call me by your name and I’ll call you my mine” written all over it. Elio is Oliver’s and Oliver is Elio’s; Billowy ties them together across space and time through the classic tailoring of Ralph Lauren. hank freeman grant kanak Nick Sheppard sexuality gay clothes movies Luca Guadagnino André Aciman stripes ItalyEvery shot of “Call Me by Your Name” drips with languid seduction. Stunning, sun-kissed Italian locations complement Chalamet and Hammer’s play with distance to imbue their scenes together with sexual tension, but that extra something-somethingthat peppers the film with the lightest notes of sensuality are the costumes. Giulia Piersanti — Céline’s knitwear designer on the regular, Guadagnino’s costume designer on the side — told GQ Style that she “tried to avoid ‘80s cliché as much as possible” and focused on “communicat[ing] a sense of summer heat and sensuality very subtly.” Elio’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, says to Oliver that the statues they are studying have impossible curvature and an air of nonchalance, “as if they’re daring you to desire them.” The costumes in this film do just that, deftly carrying the air of desire that Chalamet and Hammer work to create. Brava, Signora Piersanti.     

Elio is hands down the star of the movie when it comes to costuming. We see him lounging around his family’s villa in a few pairs of funky-printed swim trunks (well above the knee, of course), strolling back from the river after a swim in an oversized navy sweater, and dashing through the town’s piazza as he bikes after Oliver in a red and blue striped muscle shirt.  These pieces draw our eyes to Chalamet’s slender, yet muscular, legs and the gentle curvature of his arms that nudge us, nay, dare us, to enjoy slightly naughty thoughts. Maybe it’s just Chalamet’s devastating beauty, but the clothes certainly don’t hurt (I also might have a bit of a crush… oops). Write it down: Armie Hammer invented men’s booty shorts in 2017 C.E. His shorts are so short that his man bits had to be digitally removed from some shots (true fact). Nevertheless, they pair perfectly with his barely buttoned flowy shirts that expose his hairy chest. With so much of their bodies on display, how can Elio and Oliver not fall head-over-heels for each other?Dressing up Sensuality: The Costumes of “Call Me by Your Name” relates a summer of the past, a memory of awakening and sexual liberation.  The costumes of this movie might represent one of the most personal aspects of the story and reminds us just how powerful clothing can be in a relationship. Elio loves to smell Oliver’s trunks and shirts because they feel like Oliver, are even little pieces of him. The film speaks to clothing’s power to tie together past and present and even bring the past into the present. When Elio smells Oliver’s clothes, the memory of their intimacy is able to leap out of the past and be re-lived through pheromones in the present. Many people keep clothes of loved ones they’ve lost in some way. You keep your grandfather’s ties, your mother’s skirts, your ex-boyfriend’s denim jacket because their sentiment is so strong. With luck, the sentiment and nostalgia of this movie will allow it a long life in our memories and in our hearts. I know there’s a special place for Elio’s muscle shirt in mine. •

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