“Molly’s Game”

January 22th, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

Costume Designer Susan Lyall knew she had taken on an epic task when she signed on to Molly’s Game. The film was the directorial debut of acclaimed screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin, and is based on the autobiography of Molly Bloom, a young woman who stumbles into managing an illegal high-stakes poker game. “The real Molly Bloom told Aaron that she never wore the same thing twice in front of the same players,” Lyall explains. With millions of dollars on the table at her games, Molly had to look the part and having ninety story days to cover meant dozens of spectacular dresses just for her lead.

Portraying a character that transforms from cocktail waitress to running an underground poker empire meant telling the character’s story arc in subtle shifts. Lyall describes her strategy for costuming that transition in three stages. “Molly arrived in California with pretty colors and pastels with costumes which felt a little more youthful and fresh. When she loses the game at the Viper Room, Molly moved to the Four Seasons Hotel—which meant a lot more money being spent. The colors went into quieter tones with an occasional pop. When she returns to New York the stakes get higher, the clothes get darker, there’s more sharp angles and business jackets.”

Differentiating between the players at the table meant engaging in some character development so that each would have a distinct look that the audience would recognize as they came and went from the games. Lyall based their looks on the script and the physical appearance of the actors. “One guy looked like Rande Gerber… so that’s how we dressed him,” Lyall says. Another actor reminded her of David Lynch, so she pictured him as a cool, esteemed director. Yet another character became a nightclub owner in Las Vegas. “It was fun, because if something just didn’t ring true for Aaron he would give a note, but he gave us a long leash.”

Molly’s Game from STXfilms is in theatres now.

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