×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Phantom Thread’s’ Couture Costumes Capture Period Flavor of ’50s London

Talk about a daunting challenge.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson and costume designer Mark Bridges have collaborated on many films, from “Magnolia” to “There Will Be Blood” to “Inherent Vice.” But the helmer’s latest project, “Phantom Thread,” is a film centered on the art of costume design itself.

The twisty “Thread,” from Focus Features, is set in the world of 1950s London couturiers. With lace overlays and meticulously draped taffetas, Bridges, who won an Oscar for “The Artist,” diligently conceptualized the emotion, history and mystique-infused creations of fictional society dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who finds inspiration in his muse Alma, played by Vicky Krieps.

In “Thread,” Reynolds fits his own toiles in the rare, sculptor-like tradition of Cristóbal Balenciaga. Though Bridges says the groundbreaking Spanish designer wasn’t precisely in the DNA of “the house of Woodcock,” neither were the designs of legendary British-American fashion designer Charles James.

“[My work is] very specific to time and place,” Bridges explains. “There are references [to both], but we tried to do Reynolds more like his contemporaries.” He cites such names as Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies, Michael Sherard, John Cavanagh, Digby Morton and Victor Stiebel. “We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and examined their work to get a flavor of London at that time.” Bridges even playfully guesses that when a major aristocratic client, Henrietta Harding, abruptly leaves Reynolds, it might be for Hartnell, then the maker of Queen Elizabeth’s traveling clothes.

Bridges made approximately 50 garments for “Phantom Thread,” including the understated wardrobe of the character named Cyril, played by Lesley Manville. We put a lot of work into having her be the power behind the man,” Bridges says. “It was Anderson’s idea to put her in dark colors — he loved her luminous pale skin. I chose charcoal grays. We touched on the [kind of] uniform women would wear at Balenciaga’s. Paul and I love [Hitchcock’s ‘Rebecca’], so maybe accidentally we got a flavor of [Judith Anderson] in there.”

His team went far and wide for fabrics, sourcing them from suppliers in Rome, France, Los Angeles, New York and Germany. But most, especially the woolens, came from the U.K.

To instill clothes with personalities that enrich the story, Bridges selected colors and repeated garments and silhouettes throughout, constructing a fun puzzle. An American heiress is dressed in green, the color of money, for instance. One of Alma’s early necklines is replicated on a wedding dress designed later for a princess. The opening dress Reynolds delivers to Harding — a floor-length maroon-and-pink caped gown — is duplicated with alternate colors for his spring collection. A lavender cap-sleeve dress Reynolds fits on Alma — his first design for the muse — is reworn by her to a carefree New Year’s Eve party. And so on.

For his favorite garment — and the most challenging one to make, a full-skirted gown overlaid with precious lace — Bridges successfully hunted down Flemish lace from the 1700s. Ultimately wanting Reynolds to have some authorship over the dress, he let Day-Lewis pick a soft lilac for it. And true to the taste of Woodcock (who wears lavender pajamas purchased at Budd Shirtmakers in the Piccadilly Arcade), shades of purple or lilac appear as a through line in the film. “Purple is often associated with royalty, magic, mystery,” Bridges says. “When combined with pink, it is associated with eroticism, femininity and seduction. It was a subtle emphasis to many of the aspects of the story.”

More Artisans

  • Payroll Specialist Cast & Crew Sold

    Payroll Specialist Cast & Crew Sold to Investment Fund EQT VIII

    Payroll specialist Cast & Crew Entertainment Services has been sold by Silver Lake to the investment Fund EQT VIII for an undisclosed price. Cast & Crew, based in Burbank, Calif., and founded in 1976, touts itself as the premier provider of technology-enabled payroll and production-management services to the entertainment industry. Services include payroll processing, residuals [...]

  • Vladimir Smutny The Painted Bird Cinematography

    Cinematographer's Craft Drives Tragicomic Story in Czech Film 'The Painted Bird'

    Czech indie producer director Vaclav Marhoul says he knew from the moment he got his hands on Jerzy Kosinski’s Holocaust novel “The Painted Bird” that he had to adapt it for the screen. Finding the book at all in Central Europe was not easy even a decade ago, when Marhoul took up the challenge of [...]

  • Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard

    New 'Star Trek' Series to Shoot in California, Selected for Tax Credit

    CBS’s new “Star Trek” series, with Patrick Stewart reprising the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, will shoot in California and receive a $15.6 million production tax credit. The California Film Commission announced Monday that the untitled “Star Trek” series and eight other TV series have been selected for the latest tax credit allocations totaling $90 [...]

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • 12 08 _148.NEF

    Mississippi Beckons Producers With Southern Charm, High Incentives

    Mississippi may not be the first state that comes jumps into the mind of a producer considering locations for an upcoming shoot, but the state has a lot going for it, including a picturesque Southern ambience, antebellum homes, rich farmlands, pine forests, Gulf coast sands and casinos – not to mention significant rebates on qualified [...]

  • Charles Saldana Clint Eastwood Key Grip

    Key Grip Charlie Saldana Recalls His Long Career With Film/TV Greats

    Interviewing Charlie Saldana in the quiet of his North Hollywood home, the 79-year-old working key grip still exudes the cool confidence of someone who’s spent a lifetime in partnership with one of Hollywood’s great directors: Clint Eastwood. Saldana still possesses an actor’s looks, with a salt-white mustache and a full silver mane. He began his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content