What do you get when you transport four of Hollywood's most respected actors back in time? As ''American Hustle'' shows, gorgeous dresses and crazy hair

By Lindsey Bahr
Updated November 15, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Fashion is just as much about place as time. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson kept this idea in mind while crafting the wardrobe for the cast of American Hustle (out Dec. 18). “The characters that [director David O. Russell] created are so human. They live large and their flaws are spectacular, but they’re far from cliché,” Wilkinson says of the archetypes — from Jersey mobsters to Manhattan hustlers to bored Long Island housewives — who populate the screen. For Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, that translated into plunging necklines (“It was the ’70s — all the women had burned their bras!”); for Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, everything began and ended with the hair.

Dangerous Curves
After looking at vintage silhouettes by iconic ?70s labels like Halston and Yves Saint Laurent, illustrator Warren Manser sketched out custom gowns for Hustle?s leading ladies. “Jennifer’s so relaxed with her body. That girl can wear clothes,” says costume designer Michael Wilkinson of the figure the actress cuts in a white halter gown with diamanté trim. As for Adams’ flashy gunmetal number? “As soon as she came onto the set, the conversation stopped.”

Keeping it Coiffed
“He’s a quick study,” Hustle hair-department head Kathrine Gordon says of Bale, who mastered doing his own hair (including comb-over) for scenes where his character applies his toupee. Meanwhile, Cooper worked with Lori McCoy-Bell — his go-to screen hair stylist — for weeks to create the perfect bad perm. “John Travolta would have been this guy’s hero,” Wilkinson says of the character’s obsession with his appearance.

American Hustle

  • Movie
  • R
  • 138 minutes
  • David O. Russell