Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cinema Style File--Steve McQueen Steals High Style in 1968's THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR

As soon as I saw the schedule for the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival last Fall, there was one movie I knew for certain I would see and cover for its essential cinema style--1968's The Thomas Crown Affair.   Everything about the production--Norman Jewison's direction, Hal Ashby's editing, Haskell Wexler's cinematography, and Robert Boyle's art direction--is beyond stylish.  But of course it is the costume design that interests me most.  This is a movie I have grown fonder of over the years, especially as I have come to know, appreciate, and respect Men's Style even more.  And one of the reasons for this is the great Steve McQueen.

Steve McQueen appeals to both men and women...in our fantasies, men want to be him and women want to be with him.  Much has to do with his strong sense of style, which arguably hit its peak in 1968.  Released within mere months of one another, The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt both exploded in theaters that year and sealed the deal on Steve the style icon.  As Thomas Crown, Steve made anything and everything he wore look good.  For the first time in his career, he worked the more formal side of the fashion spectrum in tuxedos and custom-made three-piece suits.  On the casual side, Jewison drew out Steve's personal style by allowing him to do his own stunts--including playing golf and polo, and driving a dune buggy at breakneck speed along the beach.  These athletic moments and their accompanying style would evolve even further in Bullitt.   

The role of Thomas Crown was a big change for McQueen in more ways than just the costumes.  He was mostly used to playing cowboys, and here he would need to portray someone from an old Boston family who attended Dartmouth and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.  With a real life background closer to Boys Town, you can see Steve reminding himself of his character's intellectual superiority by playing with the Phi Beta Kappa key throughout the film.  Even the seduction in the movie had an intellectual component...loving the cat and mouse challenge of Faye Dunaway's character Vicki Anderson during their courtship and ultimately losing to her in a game of chess.  "Chess and sex," Jewison enthused at the film festival, "and Steve ended up 'exposing his queen.'"  This game was followed by perhaps the most famous of the creatively cut moments in the movie...a passionate kiss that was edited from three full days of filming.  

I knew from the beginning that covering Thomas Crown would be an enormous undertaking.  There's just so much style here.  Costumes are credited to Theadora van Runkle, but she was largely restricted to the women's wardrobe alone.  These are some seriously controversial costumes, too.  Though van Runkle is celebrated for Faye's iconic look in the Style Essential Bonnie and Clyde, many consider her Thomas Crown costumes a "distraction" to the movie.  This is, in fact, the very word that multiple film festival attendees chose to explain why it took them so long to appreciate Steve's style.  I have to say, I felt much the same way.  Faye's costumes are very of the moment...they're on trend for the late 1960s, but seem a bit dated now especially when her accessories are often white tights with white shoes.  But what I've tried to do here is narrow those featured to my favorite looks since there's still a lot to love, whether it's her clothes, hair, or makeup.

Even so, it is really Steve's style that I celebrate here.  Perhaps most significant are the suits--three-piece masterpieces from Saville Row legend Douglas Hayward.  A "working class lad" who found he had talent in a business usually reserved for the upper crust, Hayward wanted to make sure that great style was egalitarian.  Most important, he believed, was that "you've got to make [men] feel good before you can make them look good."  As a result, in addition to outfitting Steve both on and offscreen, he was tailor to the hottest stars of the 1960s--Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, and James Coburn as well as his close inner circle of friends like Michael Caine, Terrence Stamp, and James Bond himself Roger Moore.  Hayward dressed many over the years, including at least 50 Academy Award winners.  And because he was the gold standard, even great designers--icons like Ralph Lauren--went to him for their suits before creating ones of their own.  Michael Kors and Tom Ford are just two other menswear designers who have taken their lead from Hayward.  Interestingly, Thomas Crown's credit for Steve's "wardrobe consultant" only includes Ron Postal--best known for Don Adams' costumes in the Get Smart television series--without mention of the fact that he was outfitted by a tailoring legend.   

The Thomas Crown Affair is for all the men in my life who think there isn't variety in the way they can dress.  Between Doug Hayward's incredible cut and color choices in suiting and Steve McQueen instinctively choosing classic casual attire, there are an awful lot of lessons to learn from this movie.  There are also incredible classic cars and locations that add to the overall style quotient.  Though there are even more moments of style in the film than the ones I share here, I think I've narrowed it down to the best.  Enjoy.  

How we meet Thomas Crown...
at the office in a blue gray glen plaid three-piece suit, light blue silk shirt, cornflower blue tie, and pocket square

His gorgeous masculine office, which also includes a giant globe along with the other tasteful details

Playing with his Phi Beta Kappa key while orchestrating the robbery

Some of the incredible editing and split screen storytelling at both the beginning and end of the robbery

Following the getaway of the 1967 Ford Country Squire station wagon while
looking through the front window of Thomas' Rolls Royce 

Picking up the cash at the Cambridge cemetery
and looking cool in blue-tinted Persol sunglasses

Driving the Rolls Royce home to his posh pad in Beacon Hill
and seeing the personalized license plate TC 100

Home at last

Celebrating success with a cocktail and a cigar in his living room

Calling to celebrate with dinner at Joseph's with his hot girlfriend as well

Multiple trips to Switzerland to deposit the cash

Looking super smart in another suit while doing a little banking

Back at Logan Airport, Detective Eddy Malone (Paul Burke) and bank insurance agent Jaimie McDonald (Gordon Pincent) 
call in the big guns to solve the bank crime...Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway)

I love Faye's entrance and sublime cats eye tortoise shell sunglasses, 
but not necessarily her opening outfit even though it was very of the moment

Golfing at the Belmont Country Club

Vicki's first visit to Eddy and wearing a white skirt suit and eggplant blouse
with a big braided updo

Though Steve looks cool in this yellow glider, it was really flown by its owner Roy McMaster -
he told me he wore Steve's glasses and hat and his hair was even "spray painted blonde"

Supermodel girlfriend in a suede suit and her convertible Cadillac waiting for his landing

This is naturally much of McQueen style - 
Persols, navy windbreaker, khakis, and saddle suede desert boots

Paul Burke looking very stylish for a detective
alongside Faye in a safari-inspired skirt suit (with a polkadot blouse) that was very en vogue

After much investigation, Vicki thinks she's finally found her man

More split screen storytelling for the polo match

Vicki has another stylish vehicle of the movie--the first of only 10 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spyders,
a model that Steve later bought for himself after falling in love during filming

Sporty Steve looking incredible while playing polo

At an auction, Thomas spies the same Ferrari from the polo match
and looks for the girl inside

 Deep charcoal wool three-piece suit with pale striped shirt, gray silk tie, and pocket square
for the St. James Ballroom on Beacon Hill

Vicki telling Thomas he's her man

Though not crazy about the outfit, I do love Faye's hair and makeup here

Hard for a man to go wrong with black suit and solid red tie (and coordinated pocket square, of course)

Orange is a dominant color for Thomas' casual clothes, such as this big thick bathrobe

Any of Faye's costumes that are too literally late 1960s are not my favorites, such as the nautical suit with white tights and shoes (above)
but I do like others such as her pale pink dress paired with pretty hair and makeup

We see Thomas in suits of glen plaid, charcoal, black, and now brown
as he discusses liquidating his assets in a three-piece with yellow shirting

But for date night with Vicki, Thomas chooses a gray gabardine
with a lilac striped shirt and lavender silk tie

Face off between detective and criminal...
working man and rich man...
and both who want Vicki

Vicki's date night consists of a side button coat with mock neck and bell sleeves
and a backless chiffon cocktail dress with a cameo attached

Let the games begin

During the chess game, Vicki successfully uses tactics to distract Thomas

Checkmate...Vicki wins

Filming lasted three days for this one kiss

Another McQueen moment in the movie...
driving a dune buggy (with license plate TC 300) at breakneck speed on the beach

A gorgeous early morning in Boston with Thomas in a tuxedo

I love how the real McQueen comes out while he's trying to be Thomas reading the Wall Street Journal

 As Thomas shows Vicki her own squeeze and stakeout on him,
the mustard gold accessories--silk tie and pocket square--make this suit sing

Back at the beach...a gorgeous look on Faye with classic white jeans and big blonde hair

Orange once again appears in casual costumes for Steve...this time in shirting

While in the steam room, Vicki tries to convince Thomas to take a deal with police

Vicki's done too good a job in convicting Thomas, so he must figure out a plan

Classic fisherman's sweater, light blue denim, and baseball cap (and cigar) at the beach

Thomas breaks it to Vicki that he's planning another bank robbery

Both blondes look incredible in their fishermen sweaters the night before the second robbery

Staking out the Cambridge cemetery for the new money drop

Love Faye's voluminous ponytail paired with lined eyes and pale lips...
a look that's classic and still popular today

Vicki finds a Western Union delivery boy in the drivers seat of the Rolls rather than Thomas

Checkmate...Thomas wins
Or does he?


Beautiful Day said...

Wow, I feel like I just watched the movie! Enjoyed your comments on the styling - my favourite outfit was the pink chiffon dress.

My only question, what happened to the pretty girlfriend??


Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Wendy! :) The pink chiffon cocktail dress IS lovely. I would have loved to seen it styled without the matching stockings and shoes. Bare legs and strappy stilettos would have really allowed that dress reach its potential.

Regarding the pretty girlfriend, are you asking about in the movie or real life? In the movie, she quietly disappears once Vicki enters Thomas' life. Not nearly as much of a challenge for him. ;)

Melissa Clark said...

Steve McQueen was the coolest and his wardrobe in this movie is to die for. Beautiful clothes on a beautiful man -- can't beat that!

Spending three days kissing McQueen seems like one of those "nice work if you can get it" situations, doesn't it? LOL.

I'm with you in not being crazy about Faye Dunaway's costumes. They're interesting as examples of the time period (I can imagine Megan Draper wearing them in a couple of years!), but not too inspiring for me personally.

For that I actually much prefer the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair. Rene Russo's clothes, mostly by Michael Kors for Celine, remain among my favorites in any movie from any era. I saw that movie in the theater an embarrassing number of times, just studying her clothes! It was all so luxurious and elegant. My wardrobe in the Fall of '99 was the low-rent, just-out-of-college version of hers, scoured from the mall. I was obsessed. ;)

Excellent post as always, dear Kimberly! Just what I needed after a stressful day at the office.


Marline said...

Dear Kimberly,
Obviously a labor of love for you! What a great post and it was a Marvelous trip to 1968-9 fashion. I happen to love Faye's super-trendy Courreges-Quant inspired wardrobe, but then, I loved THAT GIRL for the same thing! I distinctly remember wearing those opaque stockings with minis...man, sitting down was always a challenge in those things. LOL! The long color-blocked gown for date night is being copied RIGHT NOW by Target, in almost the same colors. But Steve's laid-back style really does show men how to do it right. I really didn't care much for his suits, but loved the all-American casual looks he sports. Yummy. And I don't really dig blondes! Loved all your insights and how you lay them out for us. GREAT work in every way!

Oh, Melissa, I was similarily obsessed with Rene Russo's wardrobe in the update. Oh, and one more thing, the stunt flyer for Steve is a friend of mine's husband! The whole group of glider pilots went to that movie and sat thru the credits just the scream when his name appeared! I know what I'm watching tonight!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Melissa! I could not agree with you more about everything you said, including a mutual obsession with Michael Kors' clothes for the 1999 version of THOMAS CROWN. It was around the time that I became a huge fan of his since he was the master of luxurious minimalism. And like you, I was making clothing choices that were quite inspired by Renee's wardrobe. I LOVED it.

He did a collection that had pieces inspired by PILLOW TALK that I loved as well for his own label (versus for Celine). I know you would have loved to have seen that!

It's a sign of great design that Michael's pieces from the 1999 version could still be worn today. Great great combination of classic but still VERY sexy. It also showed how ageless classic design is since Renee was 30/40 something when doing the movie and those pieces really could work on anyone at any age.

And don't forget Renee's hair! From the color to the cut, that was a huge trend at the time that rivaled (and was similar to) Jennifer Aniston's from Friends.

I'll have to circle back and cover it all here at some point. :)

Kimberly Truhler said...

What surprising comments, Kay! I thought I knew you, and here I finally find our opinions diverge. First that you actually like Faye's clothes, though I understand that if you actually wore the fashion then it would have fond memories for you. Though great designers were behind the look in fashion and another one here in this film, it just is too too trendy for me and does not speak to the ladylike aesthetic I favor. But I'm actually happy to hear that some women like the wardrobe from this since that means the movie has something to offer beyond the men's clothes. It's certainly a great historical snapshot of fashion at the time.

But when I read that you "really didn't care much for [Steve's] suits," I nearly had a heart attack. WHAT?! LOL I re-read that line several times due to my own disbelief. I mean, to each his/her own of course, but these are such immaculate works of art and so perfectly and classic-ly cut that it was really something to hear that anyone would not like them, especially you. Those suits could still be worn today and the man wearing them would be the best dressed in the room.

But that's the great thing about fashion...it IS art and it IS subjective and different people are drawn to different design for a multitude of reasons. I love that this movie is illustrating that even among people I know well. :)

Thanks so much for sharing!

Marline said...

Okay, let me clarify...I LIKE Steve's suits...just not on HIM! He looks uncomfortable in them, even though they look just fine on him. The SUITS are marvelous, he's just not a "suit" kind of guy. The difference in his look when he's in his knock-around clothes is telling. Sorry for giving you a heartattack! LOL!! Love, Kay

Marline said...

PPS--Re: Rene's hair...it is THE picture I take to the hairdresser time and again when I want a swingy, piece-y shattered bob. And I do have to remind them that I do indeed know that I DON'T have thick, naturally curly hair (as both Rene and Jennifer do). And I sketched all M.Kors ensembles from the new Thom. Crown, and adored every one of them. A few Halstons thrown in there, too, btw. I love your phrase "luxurious minimalism" ...that hits the nail on the head! Love, K

Grand Old Movies said...

I tend to be more into set design than costumes, and the sets here are gorgeous - the office suite particularly, with the bank of windows; the lighting during the chess game is gorgeous, a warm, glowy gold. But McQueen was dressed beautifully here; his clothes have that 'classic' look in that they would look good today. Yes, Faye's clothing style does look dated, they have that look that 60s women's high fashion always has for me, of somehow trying to look sophisticated but coming across as very 'young' (it might be the short-short skirts that do it; they come across as awkward). Great post on a fun movie!

Kimberly Truhler said...

I'm with you, Grand Old Movies...I adore great set design and cinematography, and THOMAS CROWN has both. Most of the sets are on location, and they really outdid themselves on the number of historical places in Boston and its surrounding areas they were able to do. And also the furniture details, like his office or living room, are really outstanding.

I love that warm glowing cinematography from Haskell Wexler, too...whether it was by the fire (indoors or out) or that street shot in the morning with Steve in a tux and Faye in an evening gown.

So happy that you appreciate those aspects as much as the fashion itself--thanks for your comments!

Melissa Clark said...

Rene Russo was 45 when she made "The Thomas Crown Affair"! She was so gorgeous and sexy. God bless Pierce Brosnan for insisting on a grown-up, glamorous leading lady his own age, instead of some 20-year-old starlet. I'm sure the studio would've preferred the latter.

I loved Rene's hair in the movie too, as well as her make-up. Even though I was only in my early 20s at the time, I didn't feel that her style in the film was at all too old for me. Like you said, classic style is ageless. And anyway, I never wanted to dress like people my age! I always sympathized with the second Mrs. de Winter in "Rebecca" when she said she wished she were "a woman of 36, dressed in black satin with a string of pearls." I always yearned for a sophistication beyond my years. I still do -- that's why I love the Advanced Style blog. Those ladies are such an inspiration to me.

I hope you do a post on the '99 version, Kimberly. I'd love to read your take on the movie's style. In the meantime, I think I'm going to join Kay in watching it again tonight. It's been too long since I saw it.

Grand Old Movies -- I agree about late '60s fashion being too young looking. So many of the details in clothes of that time had a childlike, schoolgirl look -- dropped waists, short skirts, big buttons and collars, loud colors, big hats sitting on the back of the head, like Marlo Thomas in the opening credits of "That Girl." (Peggy Olson wore a very similar hat in a recent episode of "Mad Men.")

I'm sure there are underlying reasons behind why those styles became fashionable just at the moment when women were finally making inroads in the workplace and feminism was on the rise -- trying to put them back in their place by infantalizing their clothing, perhaps? Regardless, it's just not my cup of tea.


Kimberly Truhler said...

Yes, 45! I remember the two of them doing the press rounds and Pierce saying as much...that he found Rene sexier than any 20 year old and wanted a very hot adult relationship on screen. They succeeded. And with the combination of the classic Michael Kors clothes (and occasional Halston--thanks Kay), on trend haircut and makeup, Rene could not have looked better. She was really feeling the moment.

And I think the late 60s clothes were a reflection of the time, which was all about a youth movement. Thus, I think the fashion swung dramatically in that direction to really draw the line between one generation and another. Like you said, a childlike schoolgirl look. And of course the super sexualization going on in America at that time as well, so the hemlines got higher and higher. It's definitely easier to understand and even appreciate them within the context of the time.

But I'll tell you, when I first saw this film years ago, I literally stopped watching because I couldn't take her seriously in those clothes. As the people kept saying to me at the film festival, I thought her clothes were a "distraction" to the rest of the movie.

I think some of the elements you pointed out--big buttons, loud colors, short skirts--can work, but just not all together. lol A little goes a long long way. ;)

I'm with you...I tended to lean toward a more sophisticated look, even when I was younger. But it took me years to finally master things. As Chopin once said, minimalism is the hardest thing to achieve...especially to make it look effortless.

Melissa Clark said...

Excellent point about the youth movement's influence, I hadn't really thought about it that way but you're so right. They really threw in everything but the kitchen sink in some of those clothes, though, with all the schoolgirl details. I didn't even include tights in my list, but that's another element. A little goes a long way with that stuff, LOL.

I'm kind of dreading the costumes on "Mad Men" as we get further into the '60s! Even this season I've noticed I'm not enjoying the clothes quite as much, at least not as something I daydream about wearing myself. They still add a great deal to the story and the characterizations, however. Janie Bryant is so brilliant. Did you see her at the TCM Festival? I think she was at the screening of "Sabrina."

Such a fun discussion! It's nice to have people to talk about these things with. In my "real life" there aren't too many people who give a hoot about any of this!

Kimberly Truhler said...

It's a wonderful conversation! I love talking with you all about it and love stumbling into the movies that create the greatest debate. ;)

I wasn't able to see Janie Bryant at SABRINA since it was one of those many conflicts that came in the schedule. I'm with you about the evolution of the MAD MEN costumes. She's decided to focus on the crazy patterns of the late 1960s and those are not my favorite looks. Megan Draper does have the best costumes right now and it will be interesting to see how they evolve. One of my vintage vendor friends, Dave Temple at Clever Vintage, has been an ongoing source for costumes for the show, especially in seasons 2 and 3. It's fun to hear about some of the behind the scenes selection process.

Christian at Silver Screen Modiste recently did a post on this seasons costumes and sets so far, so you should check that out if you're a fan of the show. :) Patterns patterns everywhere. I just wish there were just a few more "grounded" examples of fashion at the time...maybe more solids here and there. So much of my own wardrobe is vintage 1960s and you can see that it's not one giant explosion of patterns. That said, some are still very fun! And yes, a little of the details of the time--big buttons, tights, etc.--goes a long way. For me, details like that act like any accessory and you don't want to be overwhelmed by them.

Thanks for such great thoughts on all this, ladies!

The Lady Eve said...

My reaction to rough-and-tumble Steve McQueen in a three-piece suit and a Rolls is - Yum! "The Thomas Crown Affair" was a huge and trendy hit in its day and was an interesting follow-up to his last film, multiple-Oscar-winner "In the Heat of the Night," for director Norman Jewison. Steve McQueen was already on quite a roll, having been nominated for Best Actor for his previous film, "The Sand Pebbles," the high point in a series of hits that began with "The Great Escape" in 1963. It was definitely McQueen's moment. Faye Dunaway, of course, had just broken out with "Bonnie & Clyde" and "Thomas Crown" cemented her stardom. Love this film and really enjoyed your stylish take on it, Kimberly.

Kimberly Truhler said...

Yum is right, Lady Eve! Steve looks absolutely divine here and is clearly relishing his moment. Thanks for adding some of the context in film. One that could be added is this is the follow up to Steve's first time with director Norman Jewison in 1965's CINCINNATI KID. At the festival, Jewison discussed that all other directors had acted as surrogate fathers to Steve, especially GREAT ESCAPE's John Sturgess. But since Jewison was so close in age to McQueen, he simply volunteered to guide him as an older brother would. It worked, so Steve really trusted him when THOMAS CROWN rolled around.

And yes, Faye was becoming a star before our eyes here on the heels of BONNIE AND CLYDE, which I cover for its style on GlamAmor. She was so good that Jewison hired her based on rushes sent from Arthur Penn. What a great moment for her. She has an incredible style history on film, essentially documenting each decade--BONNIE AND CLYDE, CHINATOWN, MOMMIE DEAREST, THOMAS CROWN, and NETWORK.

Thanks for your comments!

Christian Esquevin said...

Great post Kimberly. I'm a big fan of both of the TC versions. But I have to agree with Kay on Faye Dunaway's Theadora Van Runkle designed wardrobe. Perhaps that's because we remember seeing it when it first came out - and what a fashion splash it made. I think for this film you have to view her outfits in context of the times. Van Runkle achieved an amazing combination of a (then) fashion forward/"look at me" aesthetic while combining that look in a sophisticated wardrobe that still looked overtly sexy. This was not the look seen in the workplace or worn by professional women at the time- so it was daring. But since the costumes were there to define the character's personality, they matched Dunaway's eye-cathing beauty and her strong and daring persona. Rene Russo's wardrobe was great but there was not the same daring quality of design. I think Dunaway's hats were another indicator of wanting to make a statement, but that creates a look that is harder to accept today. I liked McQueen's three-piece suits (quite in style at the time) but I have to say I prefer the look of the center-vent American jacket over the British side-vents. The side vents always exagerate the size of your backside. And separately, let's not neglect Michel Legrand's amazing music.

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Christian!

Regarding Steve's suits, I have to say I'm with you on the vent being in the back versus being on the side if I had my choice. But I really admire Hayward's body conscious cut, the width of the lapels, the notch placement, and the angle of it which is almost parallel with the shoulders. And of course it's clear he's choosing some seriously luxurious fabrics for those suits.

Regarding Faye's clothes, I am really enjoying getting more insight into them from those of you who experienced that exciting time in fashion. It gives me another level of appreciation for the designs. And I never meant to criticize Thea for her interpretation of the late 60s design...she's an amazing talent.

But on GlamAmor, my aesthetic is very classic and my aim is to show the most timeless fashion from classic cinema, whether it's the 1920s or 1970s. And this is a case where the clothes in the 1968 version do not appear that way for me, or for many other men and women I've spoken to about it at the festival and online. I should point out that I've left out the most outrageous of Faye's clothes, too, such as most of the hats you mention.

But if there are fashion students reading the blog, this is certainly a period of time and design that you must know whether it's your own personal aesthetic or not. It's always of value to know more about history, and I truly appreciate you and Kay sharing your personal insights about the time.

And yes! Thanks for giving a shout out to the great music for the movie. I especially love whenever he dipped into Thomas Crown's theme, as it were, like when the robbery was done and he drove his Rolls into the cemetery to pick up the cash. So great! Perfect all the way through and worked so well with Ashby's incredible editing.

RosieP said...

I loved Faye Dunaway's costumes. They were very evocative for the late 1960s. I don't really care about whether they could be worn today.

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thank you Rosie! You know, it's comments like yours and Kay's and Christian's that have made me appreciate Faye's costumes much more. I love that. They're still not my favorites because I do share these movies as modern fashion inspiration, but I do realize that those costumes are ART and representative of the peak of fashion for that time. Beyond significant. Since I teach fashion students now, I consider this movie an important part of their education. And who knows what future fashion it may inspire!

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