Vintage News | By the Sea’s Costume Designer on ’70s French Glamour

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All Photos Courtesy of Jolie Pas



By the Sea, the third directorial feature from Vogue November cover star Angelina Jolie Pitt, isn’t a walk in the park any way you slice it. Pare away the dreamy, ’70s South of France backdrop and the almost tangible glamour of the film’s leads and you’re left with a turbulent portrait of a collapsing marriage, brought to life by Jolie Pitt and her real-life husband, Brad Pitt. (Filming off Malta came hot on the heels of their nuptials.) The film’s tearstains and tempestuousness are underscored by the placidly sumptuous costumes, a visual feast served up in part by costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, whose past credits range from Face/Off to The Knick. We caught up with her by phone on location in Cambodia, where Jolie Pitt’s forthcoming endeavor, First They Killed My Father, a true-life account of life under the Khmer Rouge, is in production. Below, Mirojnick talks about why French style works, dressing Jolie Pitt after Jane Birkin, and what it’s really like to work with Hollywood’s most famous couple.


What was your preparation for the film like? How did you immerse yourself in those characters?
Aside from talking to the director and trying to understand the vision that Angie had and what she wanted to accomplish—I always use images to delve into a time period or a vibe. In this case, the late-’60s, early-’70s South of France. It was all thrilling to look at it because it’s so classic and glamorous and of its own time. Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Peter Sellers even, Brigitte Bardot. Looking at those images, it just brings back a surge of je ne sais quoi, of absolute chic. It’s aspirational and inspirational. We decided that we would create what we felt was a classical early-’70s feel that was both cosmopolitan and European, true to characters that came from the East Coast. Brad and Angie’s wardrobes are not large, [as] people who traveled and packed for a month—that’s also a challenge to put those pieces together and make it authentic to the characters’ lives.


When you mention ’70s style, people’s minds inevitably go to freewheeling bohemia and flares. What is the stylistic milieu that these characters occupy? They’re a bit bohemian in their careers [he’s a novelist, she’s a former dancer], but they’re also jet-set.
I agree, they’re jet-setters in the sense that they are from New York. They have traveled to the South of France; they’re not poor. The bohemian style is reflected in more of a Jane Birkin kind of way. She was definitely the model for the visual style of [Angelina’s] character, and [Angelina’s] husband was more modeled after Serge Gainsbourg than, say, the Beatles at the time. What you learn about the French sense of style is that there’s an ease and a simplicity, there’s an ease in wearing it. It’s not overdone. The cut is always beautiful; the finishing is beautiful; the fabrics are beautiful; and even if they’re inexpensive, [the clothes] look beautiful. [The characters] are not trendy. They err on the classical side. [But] they are human people, and that in the end is what we needed to focus on—their vulnerability and how it comes through in the fashion. [In the ’70s] there was an ease of fit: The blouse was open to the cleavage, but you didn’t look at the cleavage. You could feel the flesh on a woman. That feminine quality is evident in this film. There’s a sexiness in the cut of the clothes, where nothing is drawn attention to.


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