Dressing Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine earned Suzy Benzinger a Costume Designer’s Guild Award nomination
Philomena, Walter Mitty, Woody Grant, Theodore Twombly, and Jasmine.
This motley crew of daydreamers each earned their costume designer (for Philomena, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Nebraska, Her, and Blue Jasmine, respectively) a nod for “Excellence in Contemporary Film” at the 16th Costume Designers Guild Awards. But… only one of them did so in a million dollar wardrobe that cost less than $35,000 to curate.
Enter Suzy Benzinger, the miracle worker behind the Chanel, Hermès, and Fendi threads in Woody Allen’s acclaimed flick, Blue Jasmine.
Below (via a phone interview with On Screen Style), the stylist reacts to CDGA nomination and gives us an inside look at how she brought the titular NYC socialite (played by Cate Blanchett) to life under budget and in impeccable fashion.
BEING NOMINATED — AND HUMBLED — BY THE CDG
Honestly, I’m in shock! This is my fifth film with Woody, but this is my first time that anyone’s ever said anything [about the costumes]. When I first started getting phone calls, I don’t want to say I was embarrassed — to me, it was really about Cate and the script. I’m there to tell the writer’s story, I’m not there to tell my story, or to have my thing — like this costume’s going to be great, I’ll get a lot of attention if they wear this or they wear that. My theory with costume design is that it needs to serve the script, and if I’m feeling too much of it is icing on the cake, I get a little uncomfortable. Now, my whole background is on icing-on-the-cake costumes — you know Miss Saigon, Moving Out and other Broadway stuff — you often do costumes that are there for costumes sake.
Writer/Director Woody Allen in a Blue Jasmine scene with his stars
THE FIRST SIGN OF WARDROBE SUCCESS CAME FROM JASMINE HERSELF
I was in Hawaii when the film came out, and Cate had gone to the opening in New York. I totally forgot the film was opening! I just thought it was going to be incredible for Cate. And Cate was the first one who e-mailed me from the screening, saying, I don’t know how you did it for that amount of money, everything looked so good! She was so excited for me, and it was so lovely.
WORKING IN WOODY’S WORLD
Working with Woody, you never have the feeling you’re working on a contemporary film. You sort of work in “Woody World.” To me, it’s almost futrisitic, and period, and everything in between. Woody is very funny about clothing. I really try not to talk clothes with him because his eyes kind of glaze over. It’s not that he doesn’t love fashion, but when it comes to his characters, it’s a different thing. He doesn’t understand why people have to change clothes. I’m trying to tell a story with the clothing as well, and for him it’s difficult. If you find a photograph of him from 30 years ago, he’s wearing the same thing!
The outrageously expensive Birkin bag lounges poolside in a scene
THAT DAMN BIRKIN BAG
There were certain things I felt strongly about with Cate’s character and her clothing. One of those ridiculous things is the Hermès bag. It came to me as soon as I read the script. I have to laugh, Woody would give me this glare every time the bag would show up on the floor, by the pool, or all of a sudden in the kitchen. He was probably thinking, “Oh, that damn bag!” I think he wanted to burn the bag by the end of the whole thing, you know? [laughs] He certainly never asked for it, and I would say, just take it over there so the camera gets it, so we get it into a scene. That way I could at least have something things I know wont be cut because he’s not going to cut all six of these scenes! So we had to laugh because we really conspired to get certain things in.
I wanted everyone to get the story. Coming up with certain things in the film, I wanted them to be iconic. So, I made my list: Hermès bag, Chanel jacket, and I had a Burberry raincoat which is not in the film. But other iconic things so that, you know, my cousins in Omaha could go, hey that’s a Chanel jacket! I could tell a fashion story in New York, and everyone will know every piece. But it’s a different thing to tell that story and have people get it who live in a different country.
Cate wearing one of the two custom jackets made for the film by Chanel
KARL SAVES THE DAY
We needed a Chanel jacket. I could’ve probably gotten one jacket out of them, but I really needed one that was pristine and one that was a mess, and I thought, oh boy, how am I going to do this? This was like the week before Karl Lagerfield’s Paris show. One of my best friend’s who works at Ralph Lauren said to me, “You are not going to get a jacket out of that work room! Forget two jackets — it’s right before a show, you’re not going to get it.”
So we called them, so we said, we want a Chanel jacket. They said, “what Chanel jacket?” I’m not pouring over fashion magazines all the time — my sister’s eyes were rolling while i was on the phone — I said, “like the iconic one, the one Coco wore.” They asked me to draw what I wanted because I think they were getting frustrated. How embarrassing is this? I didn’t know there was like thousands of Chanel jackets now. So I sent them the drawing, and they said, OK we get it. When Karl found out it was for Cate, they said to me, “Do you mind if Karl shapes it a little bit?” Of course, I had drawn the jacket that Coco wore in the 1940s, so when we got it back, there was more shape to it. And can I tell you something? A pin never went in that jacket, it was perfect!
The red Carolina Herrera dress became a fan favorite even though it was never seen full-length
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Just like Cinderella’s slipper, the Birkin bag went back to Hermès, and the jackets went back to Chanel! I think [Chanel] was so thrilled that Cate wore them, they wanted to keep them in their archives.
LADY IN RED
I got quite a few phone calls asking about the Carolina Herrera, one-shoulder red dress. It’s so funny because Cate in the full-length in that dress… you would not imagine in a million years how spectacular she looked. She was standing on set in that dress, and everyone — every crew member, everyone — was like, oh my god. Even when Alec Baldwin saw her, he was like, “I hope I remember my lines!”
When Woody saw all of those reactions from everyone, he was smart to only shoot her from the waist up. It was a pivotal scene where she confronts Alec’s character, she realizes he’s cheating. It’s not important she looked incredible in the dress. The audience’s brain would’ve gone to, I’ve never seen anyone look this beautiful in my life, instead of going to Cate’s dialogue, which is the most important thing. For Woody that’s real life.
Getting an exact duplicate of this taupe Alberta Ferretti dress (so Cate could “sweat” in one) was a miracle, according to the costumer
DON’T SWEAT IT
The taupe dress Jasmine wears with the Oscar de la Renta cardigan sweater when she meets Peter Sarsgaard for the first time, it’s an Alberta Ferretti. They sent a bunch of dresses, and when I pulled that one out of the box, I was like, this is the one, this is her character, this is the dress. Cate put it on, and we just stopped talking. It was like, oh my god, this is Jasmine. Then I said, “Oh my lord, now what i do I do because you’ve got to sweat in it!” I can’t have just one!
It was a sample, and we could’ve copied it, but it wouldn’t have been at all what Alberta Ferretti did. I said to my assistant, go over there, beg, plead, whatever! The dress was from a collection she had done two or so years before. Two days later, the dress shows up in duplicate. They happen to have just enough fabric left in their work room. The god’s were watching!
Blue Jasmine is now on DVD, available for download and rental on iTunes, and available for pickup at Redbox!
JASMINE’S CHANEL JACKET
GET THE LOOK FOR LESS:1.) Club Monaco Ophelia Boucle Jacket2. ) Kasper Tweed Contrast-Trim Jacket3.) Yoana Baraschi Optic Glass Rock Tweed Jacket
JASMINE’S 35CM HERMES BIRKIN BAG
GET THE LOOK:1.) Rebecca Minkoff MAB Tote2.) The Essential Jane Bag3.) olivia + joy Carnegie Satchel
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