Cate Blanchett Gets All the Good Outfits in Woody Allen's New Flim, Blue Jasmine
Costume Designer Suzy Benzinger talks dressing Blanchett and the kindness of Karl Lagerfeld.
In Woody Allen's new flim, Blue Jasmine, the legendary writer and director turns the beautiful-beyond-belief Cate Blanchett into a designer-wearing basket case. Blanchett plays Jasmine, an Upper East Side socialite who spends her time planning galas and being married to financier Hal (Alec Baldwin). When it's discovered that Hal was actually running a Ponzi scheme, Jasmine is left broke and alone. She takes herself and her nervous breakdown to San Francisco to stay with her cute but dowdy sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), where the difference between their two lives is made even more obvious.
Blue Jasmine marks costume designer Suzy Benzinger's fifth time working with Woody Allen. Her resume includes Deconstructing Harry, Celebrity, and Whatever Works. After working with Allen so many times, she's become accustomed to his creative process. "It's a funny thing with him," said Benzinger, "I know what he doesn't like." She knows his taste so well, she even knows the "certain look" he gives when he disapproves. "He wants his films to be timeless. He doesn't want you to look at one of his films five years from now and say, 'Oh, that was so trendy. That was so five years ago.' He loves the classic stuff; that's just the way he is."
Blanchett's character required more elegant clothes than the other characters because Jasmine's whole world is defined by bank accounts and labels. So when Benzinger and Blanchett went hunting for wardrobe, they hit up major designers. "As far as the brands go for Jasmine, it really was Chanel and Fendi." Jasmine was also draped in gorgeous dresses by Valentino and Carolina Herrera for the film. Benzinger was pleasantly surprised at the generosity of fashion houses when asked if they could borrow clothes for the shoot. "I called up Karl Lagerfeld and, I have to tell you," said Benzinger, "I was astounded. I sent a note and in two days he shipped out two custom made jackets for Cate Blanchett with the most beautiful note. And I just thought, 'Oh my god,' and he just said 'For Cate, I’d do anything.' When the jackets arrived, I said, 'How could he do this?' It was right during the fashion shows and everything and he turned them around and sent them to me. Cate put it on and it was perfect."
That white Chanel jacket was one of the pieces that Allen wanted for Blanchett's character. It was a key piece that people would recognize and flawlessly represented the character's background and lifestyle. "Woody loves to have costumes in his films that speak volumes about history and fashion," explained Benzinger, "I think as soon as I said Chanel jacket his eyes lit up and he said, 'Do you think we actually could get a Chanel jacket?' And I said, 'I think we could.'"
For the film's other characters, Benzinger turned to Ralph Lauren and thrifting. Alec Baldwin's character hangs in the Hamptons in leather loafers and white button downs, so the classic designer was the perfect choice for him. As for Sally Hawkins' character, Ginger, she wears a lime green sweater with a tiger on it, just to give you an idea. "We did Salvation Army and thrift stores because she started down on her luck," said Benzinger, "I think her character’s fun and I think she’s sexy and has found a different way of life than her sister."
"Honestly, Karl Lagerfeld and Ralph Lauren—I bow to them. They never said no."
Blue Jasmine hits theaters July 26.
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