Green Book Costume Design: 60s Style With Modern Appeal
Green Book directed by Peter Farrelly is undoubtedly a modern cinematic masterpiece that’s at the centre of plenty Oscars buzz this year. Nominated for best picture for the 91st Annual Academy Awards, Green Book savours American vintage styles of the 60s era with a timeless sophistication. Despite being just shy 60 years since the real life events occurred, costume designer Betsy Heimann shows us how effortlessly vintage styles have translated into the modern era. Tonal silk bow ties, brown checkers and turtlenecks all remarkably make an appearance and remind us that our 20th century fashion heritage isn’t so long and forgotten.
As the awards ceremony quickly approaches, it’s a great time to stop and reflect on the masterclass in vintage styling that Green Book delivers. Whilst Hollywood’s going down a route of simplicity and realism, illustrated by Moonlight and The Shape of Water which have nabbed top spot in the previous two years; Heimann refreshingly reminds us that Hollywood’s glamorous roots still holds traction. She captures an essence of old world New York glamour in her costuming which increasingly gets dismissed in the modern cinematic landscape. It’s not common to see such a humanistic and socially charged film such as Green Book be coupled with the thrills of lavish costume design, but Heimann navigates the territory so well.
Green Book follows the story of two distinctly different gentleman who come together in an unlikely pairing. Dr. Don Shirley is a world class African American pianist who hires Tony Lip, a working class Italian-American bouncer from the Bronx, to be his driver for his Down South tour. Betsy Heimann eloquently differentiates their social status with a firm brushstroke from her costumier repertoire. The more affluent of the two, being Dr. Don Shirley, is constantly portrayed with a more nuanced style than his Bronx native ally.
The two polar opposite gentleman present a fantastic styling opportunity for Betsy Heimman to create starkly opposite wardrobes. Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, is a wealthy, well educated man and is fittingly coupled with a smart wardrobe consisting of tailored suits, turtlenecks and patterned sweaters. Tony Lip’s character, played by Viggo Mortensen, is alternately met with a wardrobe that fits his personality- he just likes to stay comfortable. This entails sweatshirts, dark clothes, and baggier silhouettes.
Although the film captures a distinctly 60s-esque styling palette, it importantly reveals the ways in which we’ve readapted and transformed these styles to suit 21st century tastes. The plaid checkers and silk bow ties we see on screen aren’t a far cry from the styles we’ve seen coming out of London Fashion Week ‘19. Essentially, the film shows that some of our favourite styles today have a long and timeless heritage.
Tuxedos in Green Book make recurring appearances and they're tailored with the signature brushstroke of 20th century detail. Black tuxedos are paired with tonal bowties to remind us that classics earn their name for a reason.
You'll find the classic black tuxedo elegantly paired with bow ties, diamond bow ties and a tie for a more edgier rendition. They show us that formal sophistication has no expiration date and tonal colours deliver on elegance every time.
Green Book takes on the tonal hues of the season by seamlessly transitioning from Autumn mustards to Winter blacks in the most elegant way. You'll find Dr. Don Shelby sporting a 60s signature checker jacket paired with turtle neck in one of the film's most famous scenes. This overtly retro style isn't dissimilar to the street style trends we've seen coming out of London Fashion Week.
Mustard tones and vintage checkers were an overt trend on the Fashion Week radar and they allude to the seasonal hues of Autumn and Winter. Taking advice from Green Book’s mid 20th century era, checkers and khakis have been readapted to suit modern silhouettes.
You’ll find baggier, looser fitting garments which immaculately combines the sentiments of two eras.
London Fashion Week '19 street style. (Images courtesy of Esquire).
Black minimalist turtlenecks make a sharp statement in Green Book’s styling repertoire. Fitted turtlenecks worn by Dr. Don Shirley are used to signify his sophistication and refinement. Even when he's on the road, he makes a point to look smart at all times. Similarly, turtlenecks are a street style staple for minimalist fashion in the modern era. A black turtleneck paired with a long coat is modern minimalism at its quintessential best.
This street style look is taken straight from the London 2019 Fashion Week. (Image courtesy of Vogue).
Costume designer Betsy Heimann notably collaborated with actor Mahershala Ali to come up with Dr. Don Shirley’s wardrobe style. She took inspiration from the actor’s personal tastes and reconfigured them in a 60s format for the film. This is why the costuming is so transferrable between the 1960s and today.
But what are the garments in Green Book that we just don’t see any more of today? Well, Tony Lip’s retro striped shirt is something that certainly stays rooted in the film’s era. The opulent robe that Dr. Don Shirley wears in his first scene is something you’ll be hard pressed to see gracing modern catwalks.
Green Book is no doubt a socially charged film that stirs up a lot of racial awareness. It’s a unique dynamic between history and entertainment that makes Green Book so worthy of Oscars appraisal. Betsy Heimann’s passionate styling choices breathes life into the film’s mid 20th century New York setting. However, it also shows the close relationship between 1960s American fashion and today. It looks like pinstripes, checkers and a classic tux will never miss the mark for men’s high fashion. Now it's time to get the popcorn out and watch the Best Picture nominees battle it out on February 25th- my bet's on Green Book.