Oct. 19, 2012

Actor-director Ben Affleck’s third turn behind the camera is drawing critical acclaim on two fronts. In addition to the stellar cast, the “declassified” story of the CIA’s Hollywood-solution to the Iran Hostage Crisis has been praised for its focus on historical accuracy. “Argo” Costume Designer Jacqueline West stressed this commitment to authenticity while creating looks for the film. Among her favorite tasks was recreating the cloak-like ‘chador’ worn by Iranian women during the ’79 revolution. West found in her research that the full-length chador was typically cut from black fabric at the time. As black became scarce, the chador was cut from a variety of hues and printed fabrics. West raided fabric houses in Downtown Los Angeles and consulted LA-based Iranian ex-pats to locate a variety of era-appropriate options, including bolts of actual 70s fabric. She also collaborated with an Istanbul-based British costume supervisor who has access to fabrics in Tehran to import them for production. A popular greenish-black crepe fabric served as a model in the design process, but West refused to duplicate the hue across the board―the 500 chadors she constructed with her team span a realistic spectrum of mixed black hues and patterned prints.

“It was important that [the chadors] be many shades of black, all slightly different, as that’s what women would have actually worn,” West says. She references a scene in which CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) scouts the Grand Bazaar as a powerful visual that showcases the garment’s popularity.

“The women are all around, they surround him―the shot really sells the mood, the period.”

– Costume Designer Jacqueline West

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