Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine has been hailed as the fashion film of the summer. Cate Blanchett (who’s been tipped for an Oscar nom) plays the couture wearing crackpot Jasmine. She’s the Upper East Side socialite and trophy wife to financier Hal (Alex Baldwin) whose chintzy life is concerned around planning gala events. But when Hal’s financial dealings are found to be fraudulent, Jasmine is left single on the verge of a nervous breakdown and living in reduced circumstances with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco.
Costume designer and Woody regular Suzy Benzinger was tasked with telling the riches-to-rags tale of Cate’s Ruth Madoff-esque character. She began constructing Jasmine’s wardrobe based around the people she knew. “I know these gals,” Suzy tells Grazia “I know where they shop and how they shop. The truth is, just because they have all the money in the world it doesn’t mean that they shop like crazy. They aren’t frivolous about their clothes they’re serious.”
She says that the ‘Jasmine types’ are calculated about their sartorial purchases. “Their lives are complicated. In one day they will have a ladies luncheon, then go to pick up their kids from school then have to go to a meeting of the board of the New York City ballet. (These women) have to find something to wear that is appropriate for all those occasions. “
Jasmine’s final wardrobe was filled unique pieces from a host of designers (Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton) but with a relatively small budget, Suzy was worried that she wouldn’t be able to accurately portray Jasmine’s opulence. “The first stage direction in the script sees Jasmine standing with Louis Vuitton luggage, and I’m thinking ‘are you kidding me, how am I going to get this?’ The panic set in.”
Luckily she had the director’s friendship with Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera and the late Versace to fall back on. “Woody understands the lives of these designers. Just as he churns out a film a year how many collections do these designers churn out a year? So the whole work ethic that Woody has translates to fashion, more than other directors.“ Suzy also says the star of the film helped. “Who wouldn’t want Cate Blanchett to wear your clothes?”
Here she talked us through some key components of Jasmine’s wardrobe...
The Chanel Jacket
“We wanted to have an item that bridged her ‘Upper East Side life’ and the period where she was down on her luck. It had to be a universal item that the audience would recognise immediately. It also had to be an item that she took out of her wardrobe as she ran out of the apartment. It wasn’t in the script but I decided on what it would through conversations with Woody. I laid myself at Lagerfeld’s feet and said ‘please could we have it?’ We were very lucky because he said yes. It was shocking.”
The Louis Vuitton Luggage
“I was panicked about getting it. It was beyond the budget of the movie and beyond my budget. We went back and forth for months with them, because when people ask to use their luggage in films they insist on seeing a script first. They don’t want to give you something to then have the character cut it up in a scene. So I understand it. But we didn’t have a script. After months, they finally relented because Cate had opened up a Vuitton store in Australia.”
The Birkin Bag
“There’s a snake print one, a lizard print one. Women will mortgage their house to get the latest Birkin one. The bag became like another character on the film set. It became a touchstone to Cate’s character between when she was rich and then when she became poor. Cate did lots of research for the role and was drawn to all these pictures of women holding up their Birkin bags like a shield for protection. She picked up on that idea and ran with it."
Blue Jasmine is in cinemas now