Last Night in Soho costume designer breaks down the thriller's scary-good vintage glam
The question isn't what happened Last Night in Soho. The question is: What was everyone wearing?
In Edgar Wright's psychological horror film (out Friday), style takes the spotlight. Thomasin McKenzie stars as Ellie, a naïve young woman with a talent for clothing construction and a mysterious psychic ability who moves to London to study fashion design. In her rented flat in Soho, when she goes to sleep at night, she finds herself involuntarily transported in her dreams to the neighborhood as it was in the 1960s. There, she occupies the world of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who begins a romance with the charismatic Jack (Matt Smith). The experience empowers and inspires Ellie, even informing her work in design school — but as she and Sandie both discover, there are unknown horrors beneath the glittering surface of Soho at night.
Costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Brooklyn) was tasked with outfitting this glamorous crew, moving between Ellie's life in the present, her dreams of the '60s, and her modern reinterpretations of them. In pre-production, Wright sent Dicks-Mireaux a list of films for research, including "earlier '60s B-movie types, [and] some '70s Italian horror movies," she recalls. One of the most useful references on his watch list was John Schlesinger's 1965 drama Darling, which inspired a white coat she made for Taylor-Joy's Sandie.
"I thought it would be nice to do a Mac," Dicks-Mireaux recalls; she had initially gotten the idea from an image of Petula Clark singing "Downtown" in a black vinyl trench, but "I thought, well, black's a bit boring." Upon seeing Julie Christie wearing a white one in Darling, however, Sandie's final look clicked into place.
The piece came together so well, the team incorporated it again, reworking a modern-day scene so that time-traveling Ellie finds a similar coat in a vintage shop. "She was going to buy a black lace dress, but somewhere along the line we all went, 'wouldn't it be great if they both had white plastic Macs?'," recalls the designer. The finishing touch on Sandie's glamorous look also came in a stroke of serendipity: "I found the Courrèges boots in Paris, so we had those copied."
The wardrobe for Smith's roguish Jack also took inspiration from Schlesinger's Darling — particularly Laurence Harvey's role in it, and "the slight sleaziness that he has," Dicks-Mireaux says. In crafting Jack's slick look, "we looked at the DJs of the period and then tried to make him a bit different, [and] slightly more heightened in comparison to the other characters around. [Smith] was really happy with it."
Before Ellie becomes so deeply enmeshed in her dream visions of '60s Soho — where she finds inspiration to make herself over à la "Brigitte Bardot, linked with Sandie," as Dicks-Mireaux describes it — she's just a fashion student with an eye for midcentury style. In her first appearance, before she heads to the big city for design school, our heroine dances around her grandmother's house wearing a dress she's made for herself out of newspaper.
To find the garment's shape, "I went back to the sort of big pictures that Cecil Beaton had taken, of those big dresses in that period," Dicks-Mireaux explains. She experimented with different silhouettes, including a fishtail option, but Wright preferred this more sweeping look. "Once we got the shape, we then went for it. But it was quite a lot of work," the designer admits. The gown's newsy textile had to be specifically printed for this purpose: "We had this idea that we found this Cornish newspaper, where [Ellie] comes from, so it kind of looked like it was made out of local newspaper," she says. "And then we had to make sure to print stuff that wasn't libelous at all, which was quite funny."
Sandie's first scene, too, sartorially suggests a sort of hopeful innocence that will twist and evolve over the course of the film. As the story becomes more sinister, Sandie's clothes become tighter, the colors darker, the necklines lower, and hemlines higher. The first time Ellie and Jack (and the audience) see her, however, she wears this sweet but arresting shift dress in a cheerful peach with a high, beaded neckline.
The look not only catches Jack's eye, but also reverberates throughout the film as Ellie's inspiration at design school. Dicks-Mireaux identifies it as one of the most challenging costumes to finalize, since it carried so much weight as the piece that gets so firmly stuck in Ellie's head. "That's why I ended up doing the chiffon tent dress, so it meant that you had a more interesting shape" to play with for Ellie's subsequent reinventions of it, she explains. The swishy silhouette also makes for an ideal dancing dress, "which then Anya marvelously used in the scene," she says appreciatively of Sandie's dancefloor debut. "It was so beautiful. They sent me a video of it, saying, 'Look what she's done with your costume!'"
Last Night in Soho hits theaters Friday.