Piano forte: Cate Blanchett strikes a chord with power chic fashion in Tár – The Guardian
It’s the zeitgeist film that has split opinion. Critically adored, awards contender and praised by Martin Scorsese. On the other hand, slated by the prominent conductor Marin Alsop for being “anti-women” and scoffed at as patronising by younger audiences for belittling cancel culture. But there’s one area in which everybody agrees that Tár, Todd Field’s epic about the reputational downfall of a fictional maestro, excels: the clothes.
Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) embodies the power-lesbian ideal. Crisp, pale blue button-downs. A cashmere sweater slung over her shoulders when curled up in her gigantic, book-lined brutalist apartment. She marches down the streets of Charlottenburg in a luxe, virgin wool coat with padded shoulders, a silk shirt underneath. Clean lines and sharp silhouettes dominate.
It’s the kind of aspirational wardrobe that has made people of all genders swoon – and generated fashion world approval. It was not a reaction that costumer designer, Bina Daigeler – who has worked with Blanchett before on the TV series Mrs America – expected. Usually, her aim is that “nobody should notice the clothes, although they are part of the language of the film … it was a big surprise to me”.
But Daigeler knew from her first read of Field’s script that Tár’s sartorial choices were – as with all of us, but perhaps especially in Tár’s case with her self-mythologising – key to her character.
Daigeler approached the task with the same level of research as she would a period film. The main theme was clear: power dressing. “I think we all do this – when we need to project strength, we dress in a certain way. [Lydia] Tár is a lot about power and strength.”
In response to Alsop’s criticism, Blanchett has said Tár was “not a film about gender but about power”; but her silhouette is often a masculine one.
Tár is a wealthy woman. Daigeler mentions Margaret Howell, Max Mara and Dries van Noten, among other high-end labels featured. Studio Nicholson and Lemaire supplied many of the staple pieces. The film’s budget was just $35m, which sometimes proved challenging, with Blanchett at one point joking that they had spent most of it on the Diana coat from The Row (which retails at around £3,000). Tár carries the iconic Hermes Birkin (from £7,000), and, for a woman who talks of controlling time, wears a Rolex (approximately £4,000) with the face turned inwards.
Daigeler created an entire wardrobe for Tár, as though she were a real person. Some things were specified by Field in the script – Tár’s baseball cap when travelling incognito. Others were Blanchett’s ideas during fittings: the shirts worn over turtlenecks, for instance, a styling trick seen also at the recent Brioni presentation, one of the most luxe brands in the world.
As well as haute designers, Daigeler brought in vintage blouses from stores in Berlin and New York, and a lot of custom pieces: “It was a complete mixture”. Tones were mostly muted to reflect Tár’s severe nature and to “match the grey Berlin skies”.
It is also about lifestyle – there is little chance for Tár’s beige and pastel Oxford shirts and knitwear to pick up dirt when doing the school run in her Tesla and flying first class.
Most important to perfect was Tár’s high-collared penguin tuxedo when conducting. They looked to the Austrian maestro Herbert von Karajan, and mostly other past male conductors, for inspiration.
“I realised also when I watched Cate in rehearsal [conducting], that it was very important for her to be able to move. But also to have strength in the core. So I made these high-waisted pants to support her,” says Daigeler. There is an extended scene in which Tár visits the tailors and is measured up.
As Tár’s world unravels, her put-together look becomes somewhat less put together. Tár is never going to wear jogging bottoms, Daigeler points out, but the outfits become looser, the collars less pressed. The sweaters hang untucked (all in the film are Margaret Howell, which cost about £300). Even trainers and a leather jacket make an appearance. It is about as shabby as the assiduous Tár allows.
Given how nice the clothes are, I ask Daigeler if she took any pieces home. She didn’t. For her, “once a job is done it’s done” – but Blanchett did. “There was a very nice Dries van Noten suit which I have seen her in a few times since.”
Is there anything accessible for Tár fans who might not have quite the income of a globally famous cultural icon? Try the New York Rangers baseball cap. Yours
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