There is more than meets the fashionable eye when it comes to Laura Linney’s wardrobe in her latest pic, “The Nanny Diaries.” In the film, Linney plays the rich and at times ruthless, Mrs. X, a well-to-do woman of the Upper East Side who spends her days brunching at Bergdorf and shopping at Saks.
“She is a professional shopper,” Linney says of her character. “She is just one of these women that goes to Barneys every day or goes to the designer shops themselves — Pucci, Dior, Chanel, Fendi and Donna Karan.”
The film’s costume designer Michael Wilkinson pored over archives from the major fashion houses to find pieces that reflected the stylish character. “I wanted a timeless classic look for her,” he says, “pieces that would stand the test of time.”
It was also important for Linney’s attire to always sharply contrast with her nanny, played by Scarlett Johansson. To achieve this, Linney often wears very structured suits. “We liked the sort of armor feel, very constructive and tailored,” Wilkinson says. “It is a nice juxtaposition to Scarlett’s T-shirts and student wear.”
While Mrs. X may be perfectly polished on the outside, the inside is a completely different story.
“She is someone who on the surface was very together,” Wilkinson says, “but in reality suffers from a lack of confidence.”
Wilkinson’s clothing choices illustrate this dichotomy throughout the film. For example, the audience first sees Mrs. X walking through Central Park. She appears confident and courteous as she introduces herself to Johansson, although her true intensions lurk beneath the surface. As a sort of metaphor, Wilkinson dressed Linney in a $10,000 snakeskin Dior coat.
“The jacket symbolizes her character. It was the serpent in the garden of Eden,” he explains.
Later in the film, it becomes quite clear that Mrs. X’s life is not as fabulous as her closet full of Manolos may lead one to believe. On the night of her anniversary, she is stood up by her husband, leaving her hurt and vulnerable. For this scene, Wilkinson picked a romantic flowing red gown by Dior to help illustrate her frailty.
“She is absolutely crushed, and we thought the soft chiffon was perfect for that moment,” he says.
In the end, the film’s message to Madison Avenue moms is clear: Nannies and husbands may come and go, but Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior are here to stay.