×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Souvenir’ Costume Designer Put a Decadent Twist on Opulent ’80s Style

Set against the backdrop of London’s early-1980s cultural renaissance, British auteur Joanna Hogg’s exquisitely sculpted and critically acclaimed “The Souvenir,” which A24 has been widening in platform release for the past month, follows film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her gradually destructive romance with the magnetic Anthony (Tom Burke). “We didn’t want a film that screamed ’80s,” says costume designer Grace Snell, who, instead of browsing fashion magazines for secondhand ideas, mined Hogg’s old Polaroids and Ray Roughler Jones’  “3000 Hangovers Later,” a pictorial examination of Notting Hill decadence in the ’80s, for inspiration. The result is a softly nostalgic film that avoids the stereotypical shoulder pads and lamé of the era.

Snell distilled Julie’s artistic spirit, her preppy or “Sloanie” fashion sense (cashmere/silk instead of wool/polyester) and her chameleon-like desire to mimic Anthony to create an aspirational closet. For the couple’s first date, she dressed the student in Vivienne Westwood pirate buckle boots, as well as including daily staples: Levi’s, tomboy shirts (Ben Sherman and an ’80s original Katharine Hamnett) and various 1950s blouses from Norwich’s Lulu Vintage. For Julie’s classic-inspired loungewear, Snell considered the young woman’s evolving sensuality. “Phantom Thread” head cutter Cecile Van Dijk was brought on board for the Charles James-inspired couture gown (an original design by Snell), in which Julie elegantly strides in a scene set in Venice. On the train ride there, she wears a Hitchcockian, uncharacteristically waist-cinching gray skirt suit (another original) — a nod to Kim Novak in “Vertigo.” 

For one of Anthony’s signature looks, Snell notes that Hogg wanted a pinstripe suit. “We went to Earl of Bedlam,” a punkish South London fashion house that Burke favors. “The fabric is Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, blue chalk stripe,” she notes. But to amplify the precise character that defines much of Anthony’s wardrobe, Snell gave the suit a pink lining. His shirts were custom-made, but his silk bow ties were original ’80s pieces, hand-painted by Hugh Dunford Wood. Costume trainee Harriet Waterhouse made the dressing gown Anthony wears throughout the film: a military-style piece imagined as an old school coat. 

Snell had fun with the film’s mother-daughter facet, with Tilda Swinton, Honor’s real-life mom, playing that role for Julie. For an intimate birthday dinner scene, she put the duo in Fendi geometric prints; she also created subtle mirror-image moments between the two. “Maybe they swap clothes,” Snell suggests. “I imagined Julie had been given her scarves by her mother for Christmas.” A sizable portion of Swinton’s wardrobe, which conveys the character’s loyal commitment to ’60s style, came together thanks to a coincidence at a Norfolk charity shop, where Snell spotted a man donating boxes of clothes from a late family member. She bought the lot, discovering pristinely pleated petticoats, matching handbags and shoes and floral dresses. She added a red Mackintosh raincoat and vintage Wellington boots to the mix, as well as various silk scarves, including one of Swinton’s own.

The designer, who’s currently working on Bassam Tariq’s “Mughal Mowgli,” can be seen in “The Souvenir” in a fun cameo. “I’m the seamstress when Julie’s being measured,” she says proudly. 

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Motherless Brooklyn BTS Edward Norton

    Edward Norton Hails His 'Motherless Brooklyn' Crew for Their 'Career-Best' Work

    Edward Norton wrote, directed, produced and stars in Warner Bros.’ “Motherless Brooklyn,” but he’s quick to give credit to his behind-the-camera collaborators. Norton told Variety: “I think this is career-best work for some of these people.” The film is set in 1950s New York, and the team accomplished a lot on a budget of $26 million [...]

  • American Society of Cinematographers Honoring Frederick

    American Society of Cinematographers to Honor Frederick Elmes

    The American Society of Cinematographers will honor Frederick Elmes with a lifetime achievement award. The ASC is also honoring Donald A. Morgan with the career achievement in television award, Bruno Delbonnel with the international award; and Don McCuaig with the presidents awards. The accolades will be presented at the annual ASC awards gala on Jan. [...]

  • Camerimage includes 'Joker' in Main Competition.

    Camerimage Main Competition includes ‘Ford v Ferrari,’ ‘Joker’ and ‘The Irishman’

    Several awards season contenders — including “Ford v Ferrari” (pictured), “Joker” and “the Irishman” — will screen in the main competition at Camerimage, the cinematography-oriented film festival that will take place in Torun, Poland, on Nov. 9-16. In alphabetical order, the selected films are: “Amundsen” (Norway); director: by Espen Sandberg: cinematographer: Pål Ulvik Rokseth “Bolden” [...]

  • First still from the set of

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • National Theatre Live Midsummer's Night Dream

    National Theatre Live Marks Decade of Stage-to-Screen With Immersive ‘Midsummer’

    National Theatre Live has filmed nearly eight dozen theatrical productions over the last decade, bringing theater to the cinema using top technologies and talents in the videography space. This month, on the eve of its 10th anniversary, its production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is challenging the technical producers and crew with an immersive stage [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    How Bright Bulbs Enabled 'The Lighthouse's' Tough Black-and-White Shoot

    Early in development on “The Lighthouse,” writer-director Robert Eggers asked cinematographer Jarin Blaschke if he thought they could capture the look they were going for digitally. Blaschke answered no: Digital wouldn’t let them achieve the texture they had in mind — “what we photography nerds would call ‘micro-contrast.’ [The look] was never going to be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content