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“Look at you. Swanning ’round like you’re Al Capone” – 1920s/30s costume design in Lawless.

Recently, during the opening trailers at the cinema I’ve noticed this particular film a fair few times – it stuck out to me. Naturally, as you do, I was doing the typical “yes!” or “no!” throughout the opening trailers, deciding whether or not the films look good or bad and/or if I’m going to pay to go and see it. Of course, I’m a huge fan of the prohibition era and having had a sneak peak at the wonderful costume designs during those couple of crucial minutes deciding on whether I am going to spend a few bob at the cinema watching it  – all I could think was – yes, yes yes!

After watching the trailer I thought Lawless had a very Johnny Depp in Public Enemies kinda look which obviously can’t be bad. Also with my one true love Boardwalk Empire also showing strong similarities, in particular the attractive men in swanky, expensive suits living the American gangster lifestyle – all in the name of (illegal) alcohol I knew it would be right up my street.

Before I start expressing my love for the wonderful costume design – let me just say that as a whole this film is brilliant. I left the cinema feeling extremely happy and wanting more, it’s one of those films that I could watch over and over again but do let me know whether you agree or disagree? The film, based on Matt Bondurant’s ‘The Wettest Country In The World’ tells the story of the infamous Bondurant brothers, known to their community as some sort of misunderstood, mysterious superhero trio with such a large collection of legends and myths associated with them that even their grandkids would get a little bored hearing about.

Costume designer Margot Wilson’s previous work on 2009  post-apocalyptic drama The Road despite being brilliant, I can imagine didn’t give much freedom with costumes. Lawless on the other hand set in Depression-era Franklin Country, Virginia with an array of world class actors, all very individual in their characters and the way that they present themselves on screen. Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke – the Bondurant brothers who to me, clearly have some sort connection with ridiculous  rapper 50 Cent – if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

First up, Tom Hardy, aka Forrest Bondurant – the ‘middle’ brother and the leader of the 3 man wolf pack just loves a cardigan and doesn’t care much for the tailored suit wearing people he sometimes crosses paths with, he has far more to worry about than how his clothes are perceived by others – his strong family values in particular. Despite this, the choice of clothes Margot has put him in works perfectly for his build, almost an Incredible Hulk kinda moment – his inner Bane from The Dark Knight Rises is just waiting to be unleashed onto passers by who cause trouble between him, his family, his lady friend and most importantly – his home grown moonshine. Typically seen wearing a well-loved or more appropriately, beaten-up fedora hat, a high necked shirt, an oversized cardigan and some loose fitted trousers his character is perceived well – a laid back, casual approach yet with his hat low and when needed, his intimidating body language in check he has the menacing look down to a t.

Howard, played by Jason Clarke is the mad one of the three – the alcoholic, howling Bondurant brother is a little scruffy in the way that he presents himself physically. Also rocking the beaten up hat look alongside a tatty shirt and a heavy woolen coat his clothes are definitely falling apart and could do with a little wash but are glued to his skin just like a moonshine filled mason jar is glued to his hand. Despite his clothes requiring a few amends, they will no doubt be handed down to the younger brother, the runt of the litter, Jack.

The only one of the three that has a clear transformation costume wise in the film, Jack played by Shia LaBeouf gets thrown a lot of his older brothers hand-me-downs and isn’t happy about it. The baby brother wants to be just like his older brothers and show some sort of authority and intimidating characteristics yet feels a little out of place at the start of the film. From the hand-me-downs leads to wearing his dad’s fancy, tailored suits to impress a girl (Mia Wasikowska) until he gets the money to purchase his own swanky ensembles. After earning some dollar he splashes out on some 3-piece suits and even buys Bertha (Mia) a yellow, floral dress that flows perfectly on her petite frame.

Of course, no prohibition-era based film would be complete without a villain. Rakes, played by Guy Pearce isn’t one of those characters that you love to hate, it’s just pure hatred towards him. The moment he steps on to the screen with his quirky, unusual fashion sense, his ugly hair cut, his irritating voice  and a face you just want to punch you immediately know that he’s trouble. His dodgy deal with the Bondurant brothers doesn’t go the way he liked which spirals out of control into a long feud between the corrupt law and the legendary family. Sometimes he looked like he is dressed for a dinner party in The Great Gatsby with his bow tie and thick, pin-striped suit and other times looking like his just about to wait a table at a restaurant with ridiculous white and black trousers and suit jacket – there is a lot of depth to his wardrobe. Oh and I can’t not mention the gloves that complete his pretentious look and that are always wiped clean from the blood shed at the hands of his annoying character. There’s a clear barrier between Rakes and the Bondurant family – in particular, the colour palettes are completely opposite to each other. The warm tones of the Bondurant brothers – the browns, beiges, greys contrast well against the bold colours that Rakes is draped in.

Not quite as extravagant and luxurious as 1920s prohibition television drama Boardwalk Empire and no one in particular giving Steve Buscemi and his flowered lapel a run for his money, yet the period costumes Margot Wilson has used in the film are used so well between the characters that the difference between each character’s clothes is clear and even those people that aren’t particularly used to paying attention to the costume design in films will probably notice it.

Basically, what I’m saying is – go and see it.

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Boardwalk Empire – who knew the Prohibition was so god damn stylish?

Boardwalk Empire first graced our TV screens in September 2010, and boy are we glad it did! Having comparisons to Mad Men, particularly in the fashion scheme of things – Boardwalk Empire is making the Prohibition look desirable in terms of styling and costume. Forget Mad Men and the Sixties – it’s all about the Twenties now.

In case you are not familiar with the 1920s period drama (shame on you if this is the case!) here is a short summary of what the award winning TV series is all about:

Based during the Prohibition era, Boardwalk Empire focuses on  Enoch “Nucky” Thompson a corrupt political figure who controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1920s and 1930s yet was bootlegging alcohol himself. Adapted from the book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson – the HBO TV series was scripted by award winning screenwriter and producer Terence Winter of The Sopranos. Now come on, HBO joining forces with Terence Winter had success written all over it from the beginning. That’s not all. Directing this masterpiece is no other than Martin Scorsese who is well known for his gangster films such as Goodfellas, therefore the perfect choice in showing the criminality and violence in Boardwalk Empire. The first episode had a final cost of $18 million which received the title of the most expensive pilot episode ever produced in television history.

The love I have for this television programme is strong. A true love at first sight moment was had when I first watched the trailer below, now you give it a try.

Costume designer John Dunn is the man to thank for the brilliant costume choices shown in both series one and two. Just thinking about what the wardrobe would be like on the set of Boardwalk Empire is far too exciting, it would be more like a three-story department store than a wardrobe.

Beautifully cut suits, period lingerie, beaded flapper dresses, top hats and perfectly polished 1920s shoes are so very desirable and goes to show what life you could lead back then with power on your side.

Don’t worry this is not the last time you will read about Boardwalk Empire on here, I’m a massive fan in case you hadn’t noticed, so keep your eyes peeled. Coming soon: How to dress like you’re from the Prohibition era – Boardwalk Empire v.s. high street.

Catch Boardwalk Empire on Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays at 10.15pm

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