Costume Update: New Days for Disco

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Published August 27, 2009

Whit Stillman’s cult classic The Last Days of Disco, a tale of Yuppie ambivalence,  standing up for yourself, and nightlife at the end of an era, sees a new day with a Criterion re-release. We asked the film’s original costume designer, Sarah Edwards, to update the looks for a less sequined time, a post-iconic Chloe Sevigny, and a post-Blockbuster Kate Beckinsale. Here’s what she came up with:

My inspirations were The Preppy Handbook and the Brooks Brothers catalogue, not what you might imagine for a movie called The Last Days of Disco. In Whit Stillman’s movies, there is always a feeling of timelessness. The clothes needed to be timeless too, so I used the staples of the Wasp world: a little black dress, a liberty print blouse, and a wrap skirt. For the men a Brooks Brothers or J.Press suit, a polo, and the real break out, a madras jacket. Although we had a disco atmosphere in the club, it was the background actors around the principle actors who created it.

Whit’s world is very rarified, and the parameters’ quite narrow—although you can catch a few sequins here and there, and some out right character costumes, like the Wizard of Oz costumes and the Harlequin costume on “Jimmy,” it was all pretty restrained. So if I were to do the film today with the same director and the same script, it would probably be a similar process and outcome, except maybe with time I’ve become a stronger designer and a better listener and might  have  created an even more staid world!

I would love to put “Alice” (Chloe Sevigny) and “Charlotte” (Kate Beckinsale) in clothes from The Row, or Acne, and Vionnet. For the guys, I have to say, sometimes it’s hard to improve on the original. For “Des” Chris Eigerman I’d stick with J.Press, which has moved and updated its store. For”Jimmy” Mackenzie Astin and “Tom”(Robert Sean Lenard), Brooks Brothers and J.Crew are both timeless preppy institions, that still do elegant men’s clothing that’s good looking.

Hey Whit, what do you think, maybe we could get the band back together again?