“Bridge of Spies”
October 16, 2015
Costume Designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone was walking the sidewalks of New York earlier this week, taking in the details of her fellow pedestrians.
“Even in the business districts, 60 percent of the people are dressed casually. In the ‘60s, nobody would leave home dressed that casually,” she said. She spoke from experience of a unique kind: she’s just spent months recreating the clothes of the late 1950s and early ‘60s for the Cold War drama, “Bridge of Spies.”
The film is earning praise not just as one of director Steven Spielberg’s best films, but also as one of the most authentic-looking films to represent the era. The visual realism supports the true-but-incredible story born of the Cold War: Tom Hanks plays insurance lawyer, James B. Donovan, who not only defends a Soviet spy, but also negotiates a complex prisoner exchange with the Soviet Union. Amy Ryan plays his wife Mary.
“What was very exciting about the whole project was creating many worlds of travel for Donovan—New York through West and East Germany. They were worlds of contrast. It was a time of prosperity in America and darkness overseas. It was exciting researching those times and portraying them in costumes,” she said.
The story takes place in the male-dominated corridors of government. “We think of that time as gray, but there were so many other colors for men—navys, brown, charcoals and varieties of greens and blues,” she said. Walicka-Maimone and production designer Adam Stockhausen narrowed and coordinated their color palettes.
“I felt that women drive the color of the period,” Walicka-Maimone said. “I definitely paid a lot of attention to the colors the women were portraying. I also strategized the colors of the men’s’ suits. So I punctuated the men’s colors with a female color,” she said.
In an important courtroom scene, Ryan wears a knee-length wool boucle coat and coordinating dress in the kind of indistinct green that defined the era.
“It was the very height of an average woman’s fashion,’” she said. At the time, one woman cast an outsize influence on how women dressed—Jacqueline Kennedy.
Kennedy’s iconic pearl necklaces are given a place of honor in Mary Donovan’s wardrobe. They’re the finishing touch to her casual and dressed-up wardrobe.
“We did so much research. I think 80 percent of women were wearing pearls,” said Walicka-Maimone.
“We had a lot of good information about the real Mary Donovan, most of which came from Amy, including some amazing photographs from the family’s personal collection,” Walicka-Maimone said in press materials. “Looking at those photos helped us understand the essence of who this woman was. We created a lot of pieces for her, like the green coat she wears in the courtroom, which seemed to represent the era and, subliminally, provide the audience with a better feeling of that time.”
The designer shopped vintage stores, online auction sites, costume houses and specialty stores such as New York’s Bra-Tenders to provide the essential finishing touches, everything from proper period undergarments to framed pocketbooks. Mary Donovan’s ensembles were custom built by New York tailors.
“I think we were going for understated elegance,” the designer said. “That time of fashion is very disciplined, especially the daywear. Women accepted the strictness of the silhouette and pearls as part of the daily uniform of two pieces—a coat or jacket and a dress or coordinating skirt.
“On the other hand, the glamour of their eveningwear was very glamorous. People dressed up a lot more than they do today,” she said. And unlike today, and especially unlike today’s Manhattanites, casual clothes were for weekends or the country, certainly not the courtroom.
“Bridge of Spies” is now in theaters nationwide.