Helen Mirren plays Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in “Trumbo.” Photo Credit: Bleecker Street.

Photo Credit: Bleecker Street.


November 13, 2015

Valli Herman

In an era when men always wore hats, women had to up their game to look as sharp as the gentlemen. In “Trumbo,” the story of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, hats almost become a central character.

Directed by Jay Roach and adapted from the book “Trumbo” by Bruce Cook, the film stars Bryan Cranston as Trumbo, Diane Lane as his wife, Cleo, and Helen Mirren as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

Hopper was known for her flamboyant hats, a trait that allowed Costume Designer Daniel Orlandi to use some of the vintage trimmings he’s long collected. He made about 17 Hopper costumes, each with a hat that did–or didn’t–coordinate. True to Hopper’s real-life character, Orlandi embellished them to look a tad outlandish.

“Some of the hats almost match exactly to what she wore,” said Orlandi. More often, they were purposefully mismatched, the better to call attention to the wearer. “I think she often played up the eccentricity with the hats,” Orlandi said.

Using vintage hat forms, Kerry Deco, head milliner at Western Costume, helped build most of the headwear, including the wide-brimmed pink felt fedora that she wears with a ‘40s-inspired skirt suit in a pivotal scene.

When Hopper confronts studio head Louis B. Mayer and reveals her anti-Semitism, Orlandi sought restraint and the sophistication that comes with a precisely matched ensemble.

“That scene starts out lighthearted, then she shows her true colors,” Orlandi said. “I designed the suit to be one of those really serious, ‘40s tailored suits. It was loosely based on all those ‘40s, Adrian suits. I combed through Vogue magazines for the silhouettes. And Kerry had a pink velour hat–the kind of Bette Davis fedora I wanted.

“I had the ribbon in my garage. I had flowers and netting and it all came together. It all matched. Then I thought, ‘Oh, it’s too matchy.’”

In the end, having one severe-but-feminine costume that the character seemed to create with deliberate care provided helpful contrast to her usual flamboyant, tossed-together looks.

Though most of the attention is directed to Mirren’s head, Orlandi gave the actress a finishing touch that made her literally comfortable in the role: New “vintage” 1940s Re-Mix brand shoes in neutral beige.

“She put them on and said, ‘Oh, my god, these are so comfortable–where did you find comfortable vintage shoes? She kept them.

“Trumbo” is now in theaters.

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