So, we’re more than happy to admit we called this one wrong. Back in April last year, Grazia Daily revealed that HBO had begun filming a new version of 'Mildred Pierce', starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce. You remember, yes? And you also remember, of course, that 'Mildred Pierce' was a book by James M. Cain, which was famously turned into a campy 1945 movie starring Joan Crawford that is well known for its stylistic excess. Whilst the 1945 film involved a totally improbable but completely awesome wardrobe, the new miniseries we feared, looked a bit, well, sensible in comparison. And because we are spoilt children, we were quite vocal about our fears. But, it turns out we were wrong!
Last night, the series premiered on HBO and we realised that we may have been sliiiightly hasty in moaning about the lack of glitz. Oscar winning costume designer Ann Roth (who won her Academy Award for 1996’s The English Patient) has spoken about her designs for the Todd Haynes’ directed series and said that she characterizes Mildred’s personal style as ‘cautious’ and ‘defined by meek dresses and separates... probably from Bullocks Wilshire' [an LA department store, built in 1929].
In particular, Roth describes the brown floral dress which Pierce wears at the opening of the series [top] as one of the ‘kind of "good" dresses women had a few of in their closet in those days’. In its HBO incarnation, the series begins in 1931 and finishes in 1940, but Roth utilised styles from the late 1920s for the start of the series, since, put bluntly; ‘no one had any money to buy what was in the stores’. Hence the distinctly un-glam initial images of Winslet from the set of the film.
HOWEVER, whilst Roth asserts that ‘costuming is not fashion - we're not doing a Vogue spread’ (or even a Grazia spread, for that matter. A-HEM) she goes on to explain that there is some room for glam in the series, because though Mildred was the kind of lady who ‘lived in the Valley and hadn't been anywhere, she didn't see [high] fashion’, her daughter Veda was a complete minx with a very different attitude to fashion.
In contrast to Winslet’s wardrobe, the outfits sported by Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Mildred’s daughter (whose character goes on to become a well known opera singer) are completely and unashamedly fox-tastic.
For these costumes, Roth unleashed glamour of the highest level, with dresses including a rust coloured evening gown with fox stole, and a piece described by the LA times as the series’ pièce de résistance – a gold, floor length evening dress which Veda wears onstage in her final scene and which was inspired by a picture of 1930s soprano and actress Jeanette MacDonald. Which is, indeed, completely amazing and provides some much needed contrast to Winslet’s practical wardrobe.
Mildred Pierce airs this spring on Sky Atlantic, and is already showing on HBO for any of your lucky people able to see it. Grazia Daily = beyond excited. [LA Times]
- Alex Butt