Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cinema Style File--Kim Novak's Hitchcock Heroine Style in VERTIGO

Inspired by all the recent celebration of Edith Head, it's only fitting that I share more of her great costumes with you.  Somehow I've caught Vertigo three more times late at night due to a bit of insomnia in the past few weeks, so the universe has clearly chosen the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock classic as the way for me to showcase more of Edith's genius.  

Vertigo is a great example of the talent that Edith had in creating costumes based on character.  Here she had to find a way to dress the same leading lady, Kim Novak, as both the character of Madeleine and as the character of Judy.  You'll see that these are distinctly different women, too.  Judy is much more free, in fact, it was decided that Kim would never wear a bra in character.  Madeleine, on the other hand, is much more controlled.  And the one costume that helped Kim become this character more than any other would also become the iconic look of the Hitchcock Heroine--the classic fitted gray suit.  For whatever reason, she felt too restricted in it and really everything about the outfit made her uncomfortable, from having to wear a bra right down to the hated black pumps (she liked her shoes to match her light hair).  It's understandable then why Edith and Hitchcock chose to bring it back even though they had just used it on Doris Day in 1956's The Man Who Knew Too Much.  Though there are some other wonderful costumes in this movie, including an enviable white cashmere coat over a black ensemble, it is the spectacular gray suit that is forever remembered.  

Along with the gorgeous costumes, Hitchcock makes sure his audience is mesmerized by Vertigo's plot as well.  This is, after all, the movie that is today considered his magnum opus.  Jimmy Stewart finds himself on an awfully wild ride when his character, Detective John "Scottie" Ferguson, is paid by a friend to follow his wife after he goes on medical leave for vertigo.  And that just starts the story.  In the end, it's pretty hard to tell what makes his head spin more...his vertigo or the ever seductive Kim Novak.  Make your guess.

The character of Madeleine in the gray suit which is now known as classic Hitchcock style

In the painting we see a mysterious connection between Madeleine and 
Carlotta Valdes, whose life ended tragically in suicide

The perfect Hitchcockian updo on Kim Novak

Scottie falls in love and becomes more obsessed with Madeleine each time he must follow her

Madeleine caught in a trance at Fort Point and
Scottie must rescue her from the icy water beneath the Golden Gate Bridge

Madeleine awakens surprised but in the safety of Scottie's apartment
with no memory of what has happened

Another well known ensemble--and perhaps my favorite of the film--is the white coat with black,
which has been referenced by many including Sharon Stone's all white outfit in Basic Instinct

Last kiss before Madeleine meets her fate in the mission bell tower

In his grief, Scottie spies a girl on the San Francisco streets that looks startlingly like Madeleine

Darker hair, stronger makeup, and a generally louder wardrobe (and attitude)
distinguish the character of Judy from Madeleine

Because of his obsession, Scottie convinces Judy to have a makeover 
to transform her into the image of Madeleine

Blonde + light makeup + sophisticated wardrobe = pure Hitchcock perfection

Judy's makeover is complete and brings Madeleine back from the grave for Scottie

Plans for a lovely evening out in a longsleeve chiffon cocktail dress...

...but Judy forgets herself and Scottie is thrown by a memory of the necklace she chooses

Scottie is driven to madness as he realizes the whole twisted plot and Judy's role in it all
and gives her one last kiss before she meets the same fate as Madeleine

For all your favorite Hitchcock films, be sure to check out my favorite TCM Shop!


Marline said...

One of Hitch's best...French twists and plot twists galore! I think this was one of Kim N's best performances and Edith's suits and dresses are marvelous in this stylish thriller. Thanks for such wonderful screen caps, Kimberly! I find Kim's bold contrasting suit/coat so inspiring!

Kimberly Truhler said...

I agree! It took me a little more time to warm to VERTIGO, but once I did I was hooked. Mostly, of course, because of those costumes. The gray suit and white coat/black outfit are major to me. The BASIC INSTINCT costume designer was brilliant to tap into that inspiration for Sharon Stone, including even with her hairstyle.

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