Gene Wilder’s costume for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory went up for auction back in December. It eventually sold—for $70,000. Pretty sure you can buy an everlasting gobstopper with 70 Gs. After we posted about the auction, Walker Lamond reminded us of Wilder’s input in the costume design. Essentially, Wilder thought the costume was too true to the book’s character, and wanted the outfit to represent a man unpredictable not in a silly way, but in a calculated way. Regarding Wonka’s trousers:

Jodhpurs to me belong more to the dancing master. But once elegant now almost baggy trousers — baggy through preoccupation with more important things — is character.

Can a man in a purple velvet jacket, massive bow tie, and top hat can seem like he’s preoccupied with more important things than trouser elegance? The 70s were weird. Read the whole thing at Letters of Note.

-Pete

Evolution of Style: Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson’s first film Bottle Rocket (1996) feels like practice; it has a lot of good moments, a lot of potential (Roger Ebert didn’t recommend it, but said he looked forward to what Anderson would do next). But it’s not immediately clear from BR that Anderson, when given more resources to work with, would go on to be of the most stylistically distinctive directors of the decade to follow. Detail-rich, intricate sets; dry, deadpan dialogue; and self-deluding charmers are now familiar aspects of his film style—I look forward to more in the upcoming Grand Budapest Hotel.

Anderson’s personal style has also evolved over the years—above is a series of photos of the director while he was making BR, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, and Moonrise Kingdom. In the Bottle Rocket shot, his clothing seems incidental; thrift store casual, hair disheveled after hours editing (OK; I’m extrapolating). For Rushmore, in sneakers and a more interesting jacket, but still very much “I woke up this morning and these clothes were clean.” After Anderson worked with a tailor to develop the costumes for The Royal Tenenbaums, he began to wear more suits, and today he’s known for his natural shoulder, casual fabric suits and Clark’s Wallabees. In those last photos, you see his current “uniform.” I wanted to show photos of Anderson working, but this shot from Cannes also captures his style well.

Anderson films’ wardrobes seem to have evolved in parallel. All Hollywood films have costumes, of course, but Anderson’s characters show conspicuous interest in their own clothing and outward appearance, and the impressions they make (or that the characters hope they’ll make). Consider Max Fisher’s tidy prep school uniform (where other Rushmore Academy students are less tucked-in), Chaz Tenenbaum’s rack of repp ties (sober and traditional, to go with his preternatural understanding of finance) and Adidas tracksuits, or the brothers’ matching gray suits in Darjeeling Limited. For a solid breakdown of Anderson costumes film by film, check out Wax Wane’s posts on Wes. I’d argue that what Amelie did for women’s style in the 2000s (Anthropologie-style whimsy, flea market whimsy, homemade qualities), Anderson’s body of work did for men (bringing back American/prep references, casual and custom tailoring, color).

We’re not born with good taste; it’s a discernment that develops with use. The arc of Anderson’s career shows that he’s found what works for him (thematically, dramatically, and stylistically) and stuck with it.

-Pete

Reader Penguincoast alerts us to something cool: on June 26th, TCM will welcome Joseph Abboud as a guest programmer. He’s chosen four films from the 1940s that he things exemplify great men’s style. His picks are They Died With Their Boots On, Rebecca, Notorious and Casablance. Pretty good choices. You can find more information here on TCM’s semi-awful flash website.

Reader Penguincoast alerts us to something cool: on June 26th, TCM will welcome Joseph Abboud as a guest programmer. He’s chosen four films from the 1940s that he things exemplify great men’s style. His picks are They Died With Their Boots On, Rebecca, Notorious and Casablance. Pretty good choices. You can find more information here on TCM’s semi-awful flash website.

DV Magazine just published a really lovely feature on how our director Ben Harrison puts together Put This On. For those of you interested in filmmaking, or just a peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of our web series, it’s a really interesting read. And the lovely photos by our friend Zac Wolf don’t hurt, either.

DV Magazine just published a really lovely feature on how our director Ben Harrison puts together Put This On. For those of you interested in filmmaking, or just a peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of our web series, it’s a really interesting read. And the lovely photos by our friend Zac Wolf don’t hurt, either.

Bill Cunningham New York is out on DVD, and you can also find it on Netflix Instant. It’s a documentary about Bill Cunningham, the On the Street photographer for the New York Times, who also has been shooting society events and fashion shows since the couture era.

The 80-something Cunningham lives a monastic life: he spent fifty years in a studio apartment in Carnegie Hall, the walls of which were lined with filing cabinets full of photographs. Indeed, the apartment had no other features besides filing cabinets of photographs: the bathroom was down the hall, and the bed was simply a bedroll on top of some plywood on top of some filing cabinets.

Cunningham simply lives clothes. Every morning, he puts on his trademark work smock (he buys them in bulk for $20 each at a hardware store in Paris), pulls his bike out of a janitor’s closet in his building, and hits the street, documenting the beauty around him. If you’ve ever watched one of his slideshows for NYTimes.com, you know that his eye is informed and discerning, but also gloriously enthusiastic, democratic and non-judgemental. Follow his work for a month and you’ll see society doyennes, drag queens, Harlem teenagers and everything in between.

Then, at night, he puts on an orange safety vest and pedals to charity benefits - he refuses to look at guest lists and picks solely based on what he thinks of the charity, and he won’t eat or even drink their food. He simply documents, documents, documents.

The film is so filled with inspiration, it almost boils over. Cunningham’s beautiful, half-French, half-English speech as he is inducted into the French Order of Arts & Letters is not to be missed. “Seek beauty, and you’ll find it.”

The movie touches upon Cunningham the man, as well. He is, as he admits, both garrulous and open and fiercely guarded. We tried to book him for season one of our show and were turned down flat - the documentarians, friends of his, worked for years to convince him to participate. He goes to mass every week, and has never had a romantic relationship.

If, like me, you’re turned off by the fashion industry, Cunningham may restore your faith in its possibilities. He’s questioned about whether fashion matters, whether he should have dedicated his life dealing with the “real problems” of the “real world.” Our clothes, he says, are our armor: that which gives us the strength to engage the world instead of shrinking from it. He’s a man who believes, really, in beauty. His sincerity and open heart are absolutely magical.

Seriously: watch the film.

Buster Keaton in “College.”
Via Greensleeves to a Ground

Buster Keaton in “College.”

Via Greensleeves to a Ground

Photographer Bruce Weber talks in 2001 with Charlie Rose about in his short film “The Teddy Boys of The Edwardian Draper Society.” It’s about a group who revived the Teddy Boy subculture - English rock-and-rollers from the 1950s who wore Edwardian clothing. Weber, of course, is well-known in party for his contribution to very different fashion movements - Abercrombie & Fitch’s shirtless dudes and Calvin Klein’s dudes in underpants.

I re-watched a favorite film last night, “To Catch a Thief.” The above ensemble, which Cary Grant wears for the series of scenes, is one of the best in film history. It captures the relaxed elegance of a retired jewel thief living in a French resort town perfectly. The gray flannels, which Grant wears for much of the film, are so elegant it hurts the eyes. The outfit even makes me think (along with the rest of the film) that maybe a neckerchief isn’t so nutty. On the other hand, I’m not Cary Grant.
For the ladies, by the way… Grace Kelly has a few truly spectacular looks in the film, but I was perhaps most impressed by her gorgeous pajamas. If anyone knows where I can find a similar pair for the Mrs., do let me know.

I re-watched a favorite film last night, “To Catch a Thief.” The above ensemble, which Cary Grant wears for the series of scenes, is one of the best in film history. It captures the relaxed elegance of a retired jewel thief living in a French resort town perfectly. The gray flannels, which Grant wears for much of the film, are so elegant it hurts the eyes. The outfit even makes me think (along with the rest of the film) that maybe a neckerchief isn’t so nutty. On the other hand, I’m not Cary Grant.

For the ladies, by the way… Grace Kelly has a few truly spectacular looks in the film, but I was perhaps most impressed by her gorgeous pajamas. If anyone knows where I can find a similar pair for the Mrs., do let me know.

Our pal Matt Haughey says this scene from Joe vs. the Volcano strikes him as PTO-ish. Ossie Davis teaches Tom Hanks a thing or two about dressing like the man he is.