×

‘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

  • Peaky Blinders Season 5

    Time-Jumping Season 5 of 'Peaky Blinders' Aims for a More Cinematic Look

    Cinematographer Si Bell was thrilled to learn he and director Anthony Byrne had been tapped to shoot the fifth season of BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” but surprised to find out how free a hand executive producers Caryn Mandabach and Jamie Glazebrook were giving them to determine the scheme of their six-episode run. “I expected to meet the [...]

  • Ad Astra

    How 'Ad Astra' Production Crew Created Authentic Look for Brad Pitt Space Drama

    In “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride crosses the solar system to find and confront his long-lost father, requiring the movie crew to create an authentic-looking future that conveys the theme of traveling long distances to learn the lesson that it’s where you started from that has the most value. “Visually, the aim was [...]

  • Women in Animation Logo

    WIA Partners With Animation Mentor, Toon Boom to Expand Scholarship Program

    Women in Animation has partnered with Animation Mentor and Toon Boom to expand the organization’s WIA Scholarship Program with workshops and software packages. WIA scholarships are given to animation students with a financial need and who demonstrate talent and passion for animation that will lead to a promising career in the field. The Animation Mentor [...]

  • Steven Poster ICG National President

    DP Steven Poster to Receive SOC Lifetime Achievement Award

    Stephen Poster, cinematographer on such classics as “Donnie Darko” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” will receive the Lifetime Achievement Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Camera Operators at a ceremony on Jan. 18, 2020. SOC grants the award to an Individual who has served the community at large and/or the Society through outstanding service [...]

  • Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep

    Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep Potential Runaways at Home

    Horror film “Midsommar” did it last year. A new adaptation of the Swedish classic “The Emigrants” will do it next year. Prestigious productions that could have taken advantage of beautiful Swedish locations and craft expertise continue to run away to foreign locations for lower costs and tax incentives. Despite having a strong film industry creatively [...]

  • Game of Thrones

    Ireland Lures Filmmakers With Locations, Expertise and a 37% Tax Credit

    Few locations on earth can match Ireland’s proverbial 40 shades of green. In addition to its restful hues, the island nation also boasts alluring lakes, rugged windswept coasts, small charming hamlets, rustic farmhouses of aged stone, hilltop castles and breathtaking expanses of wild scrubland. Bustling and modern Dublin, Ireland’s capital, will be the largest English-speaking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content