December 4, 2015
There comes a point in life where one person’s fantastic vintage find is another person’s slightly worn old jacket.
Costume Designer Carlo Poggioli invoked that idea of good clothes gone slightly bad in his creation of Michael Caine as retired classical composer-conductor Fred Ballinger. The film by writer/director Paolo Sorrentino also stars Harvey Keitel as movie director Mick Boyle, Rachel Weisz as the conductor’s daughter Lena Ballinger, and Paul Dano as actor Jimmy Tree. Jane Fonda does a scene-stealing turn as diva Brenda Morel.
Though Ballinger is a successful, internationally recognized maestro, he has so given up on life that he no longer cares about music.
“He is sad, and he doesn’t care to dress well,” said Poggioli from Rome. He worked with Caine to create a feeling that his clothes, though expertly tailored of fine fabrics, were relics of his better years.
Poggioli went to the famous Naples tailor, Cesare Attolini, to select fabrics and silhouettes. “They have the best tweed and cashmere I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Poggioli. “And they are very, very elegant.”
For a man of Ballinger’s stature, quality and precision were key. “Everything he wears, we made it. Everything. There is nothing that we bought for Michael. All the suits. The tailcoat, everything was from Attolini,” Poggioli said.
As the vacationing maestro, Caine assembles his luscious tweeds and woolens in perfect compositions. A suit ensemble explores a symphony of grays; his sweaters and signature bucket hats are a duet of textures; and his jackets are cut with generous gussets to allow the conductor freedom of movement.
Caine told the Los Angeles Times that he knew how to play the part when he saw himself dressed as the character. Yet it wasn’t so easy for Poggioli.
“When I met Michael in the first fitting, it was very strange because I was very scared. He didn’t talk to me the whole time. He didn’t say one word. I was there with the tailor who makes the clothes.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my god, something is wrong.’ Some actors, they don’t speak to you because they don’t like what they are wearing,” he said. Central to the ensembles was a series of bucket hats.
“People say it looks like Woody Allen, but it’s very English,” the designer said. “After more than an hour in the fitting, he put the hat on and was looking at the mirror and he said, ‘Carlo, thank you. This is my character.’ After one hour not talking to us, we were expecting, ‘This is wrong!’ But he is such a sweet man, and so enthusiastic about the stuff we made for him.”
Caine was so appreciative of the quality and fit of the clothing that he cringed a little when Poggioli had to age the collars and elbows to achieve a worn-in look.
“All through the shoot, I was using sandpaper. And when Michael saw it, he said, ‘Please, Carlo. Don’t ruin it too much because I love that.’”
“Youth” is now in theaters.