How careful are you when you pack your suitcase for holiday? Do you overpack and bring too many options or are you frivolous and just toss whatever clean items you have in your closet? For Maggie Gyllenhaal’s breathtaking debut, The Lost Daughter, costume designer Edward K. Gibbon was tasked at creating wardrobes for two very different women who are ready for some rest and relaxation.
Olivia Colman delivers one of her most guarded and emotionally volatile performances to date. Her Leda wears a lot of lighter but expensive fabrics, and she is clearly a fan of straight lines and reserved blues, grays, and white. I was fascinated with how Leda might take a lot of time planning out her scheduled outfits, and Gibbon confirmed that he looked to how Gyllenhaal adapted Elena Ferrante’s book.
“I think she was cool but also cautiously excited. The whole thing we tried to do with Olivia’s wardrobe was to complement how Maggie wrote the characters. Leda is this elegant, sophisticated, middle-aged woman who happens to be an academic. There was a certain kind of feeling of this control about her wardrobe and she’s gotten to that stage in her life where she knows what looks good on her. She’s kind of limited the options, but then, at the same time, she put that pink dress in the case. That was the the main feeling for us to try and achieve with her. She is a woman who, on the surface, is in command of everything and in control, and this is reflected in her wardrobe. At the same time, me and Maggie really talked about it being slightly iconic as well. We were looking at [Ingmar] Bergman, [Michelangelo] Antonioni, and [Federico] Fellini and all sorts of classic cinema that were keen and quite striking.”
When you have a younger version of two characters in one film, you begin to look for familiar notes in how they dress and carry themselves. It feels like a conscious decision on Gibbon’s part to show us how Colman’s Leda differs greatly from Jesse Buckley’s version. Is Leda trying to shed as much of her younger self as possible?
“There is such a difference in their lives in the script, and you see how the younger Leda is in such a difficult stage of her life when things are too much for her. Everything’s a little bit crazy. Her clothing was more thrown together, and she has less money. In the city, there was maybe a little bit more freedom to dress as she wanted, but with no money, she couldn’t dress particularly brilliantly. When we come to older Leda, we see a woman who’s got her act together to a degree and knows how to dress. It was tempting sometimes to think, ‘Oh, there should be little echoes of what she wore before and what she wears now,’ but it felt like there was a change. It was more interesting to mark that change, and we get a brief glimpse of it. When she’s been to London and she starts hanging out with Professor Hardy, we see a little bit more how she comes back to the flat in a nice crew-neck sweater and a khaki skirt. She suddenly has a thought that to get on in this world that she wants to get on in, you have to present a certain thing.”
The Lost Daughter spends a lot of time at the beach, and Colman looks stunning in her various swimwear throughout the film. The fabric hugs Colman’s body, and it’s a direct contrast to how Dakota Johnson would walk in the surf in a cheaper, more revealing suit.
“It was a big deal. It’s always a big part of my job with making actors feel comfortable in what they have to wear so they can get on do their job. If it’s a beach movie, there’s going to be a swimsuit, so that was early on in the discussion. Olivia is so beautiful, so it felt just as simple that the simpler the better. It’s the most classic and the most form fitting, and that made her look great and feel great. It also gives us a really nice contrast with Dakota who arrives on the beach in a dental floss piece. In a very, very more revealing way. Exposing herself is her kind of confidence. That was her projection. With the color, just like everything that Dakota wore, it pumped up and pushed to the max.”
I imagine Dakota Johnson’s character, Nina, has clothes in piles in her bedroom. She wears a lot of bold colors, and she is clearly not afraid of a pattern. Are there similarities between the circumstances of younger Leda and Nina? The fabrics of Nina’s clothes feel wayward and less cautious. Nina is the kind of person who will wear a giant hat on the beach and not care how large the brim is. Johnson is an actress who knows how to wear clothes.
“I have to find the contrast and courage. There isn’t immediate contrast to Olivia’s character, but it’s that presentation of a woman–sexy, young woman–and how you deal with that. Because the character Dakota [is playing] is so troubled and interesting, it almost felt like she’s not really that bothered by the clothes. She knows that she looks amazing, but it’s sort of not enough–she wants more. That’s that whole kind of thing. I think she does have this wardrobe full of incredible things and slightly inappropriate things and things that are maybe from before when she was a bit wild. She has tattoos and nothing’s particularly perfect on her which is hard again, because you have Dakota Johnson. She’s incredible and would look incredible in whatever. My original designs for Dakota were way more over the top and much more put together. She was really doing a cat walk on the beach, but we stripped that away slowly and just left little bits like the belly necklace and things like that. It feels a bit inappropriate for beach, and it also feels a bit slightly inappropriate as a mother of a young lady without saying she’s a bad mother. She maybe just have other things on her mind.”
Leda’s most striking garment has to be that red dress that she lets loose in in the dance scene. She has a scene with Paul Mescal at night, and she glows on screen. That dress represents how Leda can less loose and surprise us.
“It was the wild card. It was something that we bought in Athens, and I was just really drawn to it. I love that color anyway, and I just felt it had a place somewhere in her wardrobe. For that moment, it just felt right. We’ve seen her being quite controlled and contained in these kind of muted, neutral colors that are very tasteful. As things start to go out of control, she starts to loosen up slightly, and different things come up to the surface. The whole dance scene does feel like one moment of real joy and she misreads all the signals, but she does have a good time. The way she stands out amongst other people, it’s slightly jarring like everything’s a bit wrong. But she’s living it.”
There is a tiger print shirt that Johnson wears in a shop, and I love the bigness of the tigers’ faces. I’m not sure how expensive it would be, but it fits right in with the unpredictable nature of Nina’s character. Gibbon has a few things on his mind that he would swipe from his own designs.
“We had a Greek seamstress with us at all times, and she was making stuff for Olivia particularly. There’s one kind of cover up that she wears. Very simple. It’s very white, but it’s a really beautiful fabric. It’s just a perfect little thing. Either that or Dakota, in the dancing scene wears this amazing, pale yellow, leather suit skirt, which is a vintage bit of McQueen that we found in Athens. It’s just so wrong, and I love the juxtaposition. So maybe I’ll have that.”
The Lost Daughter is streaming now on Netflix.