Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser in "American Hustle" - costume design by Michael Wilkinson. Photo courtesy of Sony.

“American Hustle”

December 13, 2013

“American Hustle,” directed by David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “Three Kings,” “The Fighter”) and starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence, is a fictional account of the famous FBI ABSCAM sting of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Costume Designer Michael Wilkinson, best known for his work in action adventure and sci-fi films such as “Man of Steel,” “Watchmen” and “300,” has been collecting heavy praise for the sartorial feast he put together to help tell the story and define the characters in “American Hustle.”

As Emily Zemler from Elle magazine put it, “There are a lot of big stars in American Hustle, but arguably, the ones with the most wattage are the clothes. Set in 1978, the film embraces cleavage-baring gowns, velour blazers and a lot of vintage Halston, and conveys a brazen, confident sort of style you’ll want to adopt.”

Wilkinson says one of his favorite costumes is worn by Amy Adams in her first scene as Sydney Prosser, the British girlfriend of con man Irving Rosenfeld (Bale). As part of the operation, the couple is forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) to infiltrate the dangerous but alluring world of New Jersey powerbrokers and the mafia.

“I knew I had to create an impact for the audience’s introduction to this extraordinary character,” he says of Adams’ Prosser. “I aimed to create a costume that indelibly establishes her as a sophisticated and fashion-forward woman of the late1970s.”

The blouse is from the 1977 collection of the Halston archives. Wilkinson says he chose it because of the delicate pale apricot color, the supremely elegant cut and the sensual quality of the silk chiffon.

“We made the Ultrasuede skirt for Amy–how could you do a film set in Manhattan in 1978 and not feature an Ultrasuede skirt?! I designed a clean-lined, tulip-shape skirt with a dangerously high slit. We looked for a while until we found a suede that was exactly the right shade, one that would be crisp, but still sexy. I teamed it with the iconic Gucci horse-bit hoop earrings and a vintage chain bracelet with a dangling watch bauble. The whole outfit was finished with a vintage belt that I found at a flea market that we reconditioned and replated.”

Wilkinson says he loves the play in this costume between the strong, confident elements and the more delicate, fragile elements–the sexy suede next to the soft silk; the pale nude tones teamed with the confident cut of the clothes; the way the lines of the clothes sweep and caress the body.

“It reflects the way that Amy flits from supreme confidence to heartbreaking vulnerability in this role,” Wilkinson says.

“American Hustle” opens in theaters nationwide on December 20.


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