Old Hollywood, Same Style


By now I’m sure, dear reader, that you are probably sick of the sight of it-film-of-the-moment, La La Land; whether it’s being reviewed by every film critic under the sun, taking each award it’s nominated for in one fell swoop, or the soundtrack is blaring back at you from the radio. And I hate to say that I’m no different. You should definitely go see this film. Of course I was always going to adore a movie that’s bringing jazz back into the mainstream and stars the hilariously relatable Emma Stone, but even I was blown away. Yet, like the true fashion enthusiast that I am, it was also the heroine’s wardrobe which captured my heart and imagination.

First and foremost, La La Land is a love story; yet, not in the capacity that it may first appear. The narrative follows the relationship between aspiring actress, Mia, and struggling jazz musician, Sebastian, from their cliché first meeting (Mia is drawn into a bar when she hears Sebastian’s melancholy piano playing) to how they navigate their separate dreams of stardom in modern-day Los Angeles. However, on closer inspection, La La Land is about the romance of chasing those dreams and what must be sacrificed to achieve them.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Yet above all, this is a film which plays on the romance of an era gone-by. Old Hollywood images undeniably saturate the film. From the poster of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca which covers an entire wall in Mia’s bedroom to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts-esque tap-dancing sequences, Mia and Sebastian’s romance runs parallel to that of a 1950s Golden Age film; however, what makes this movie so outstanding is the unromantic and oh-so-realistic ending.

Whilst in the throes of first love, Mia dresses every inch the glamorous movie star of the twentieth-century. For the first few ‘seasons’ of the film, Mia’s wardrobe is dominated by vivid, primary colours, effectively used as devices to highlight her youth and romantic aspirations. There is not a 2017-approved mini-skirt in sight. Moreover, the midi-dress shape dominates the character’s wardrobe choices which, to the experienced film buffs, serves to align her with the Grace Kellys of Old Hollywood cinema.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

As costume designer, Mary Zophres, says herself, she looked to the legendary actresses, ‘Julie Christie, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and Katharine Hepburn’ for the inspiration behind Mia’s retro wardrobe. One pair of fitted black trousers Mia wears in ‘Spring’ were directly inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s minimalist, chic wardrobe in ‘Funny Face’ (1957); where another tap-dancing duo fall into an unlikely romance whilst serenading each other. As such, Mia’s clothes are nothing short of beautiful and fit the film’s overarching homage to the movie industry perfectly.

However, once Mia has achieved success as a movie star by the film’s conclusion, the wardrobe choices follow suit. The ‘Five Years Later’ finale opens with a close-up of Mia’s sky-high black stilettos and the film concludes with Mia in another midi-length dress but, this time, in slinky navy silk with backless detail. Much more sexy and much more 21st Century movie star appropriate. As viewers, we therefore mourn the loss of old Hollywood fashion through Mia’s style evolution. Its also worth noting that this is the only time Mia dons a dress worn by a credited designer (Jason Wiu) and the rest of the film sees her dancing away in pretty, polyester numbers. This begs the question whether Mia was happier in her big, bold colours than having achieved demure silk stardom.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Unless you’re a fellow fashion nerd, you may wonder why the costumes in a film may hold any significance. Yet, alongside the release of a film with huge critical acclaim and social media buzz, the outfit choices, especially when they are as classic as Stone’s wardrobe, do have an effect on the shopping habits of audience members. Do not be surprised if that shade of yellow (interestingly inspired by Emma Stone’s Amazing Spiderman 2 red carpet look) starts appearing in high street stores left, right, and centre. As for me? Let’s just say that I turned to my boyfriend as the credits started rolling and said, ‘I need a yellow dress’, which he swiftly responded with, ‘I want Sebastian’s suit’. Job done.


Third Year English Literature Student. Deputy Lifestyle Editor of The Wessex Scene. Lipstick hoarder and literature enthusiast.

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