Thursday, 11 July 2013

Style in Almodovar's 'Women on the Verge...'

Anyone who's watched a Pedro Almodovar film will appreciate that the director likes his women strong, captivating and usually taking centre stage, but when I sat down to watch Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), I wasn't quite prepared for how arresting their costumes would be. 

Every female character had a distinct look that only she could carry off, whilst the only memorable male outfit was the bizarre cartoon-esque get-up sported by Madrid's most sensitive taxi driver - think big 80s bleached hair and a heavy dose of lime green, against a leopard print taxi interior. 

Almodovar's Mujeres title piece with vintage women
 These well dressed women hint at how much fun you'll have with the film if you love style.

Opening titles of 1988 Mujeres al borde...
 The slick and eye-catching opening titles.

Minimalist costume design with collaged jewels for Almodovar
This is the man to thank: costume designer Jose Maria de Cossio.

This film not only had major staying power because of its complex plot and unexpectedly good one-liners during traumatic moments, but it struck me that the costumes were impossible to get out of my head. I kept thinking about Pepa's Vans-style trainers and hibiscus-print shirt, contrasted with her more business-like long line cardigans, which she even double-layered at one point. 

Pepa wearing Hawaiian shirt and standing next to fire
 What to wear when your bed bursts into flames, as demonstrated by Pepa (Carmen Maura).

Pepa (Carmen Maura) searches through Ivan's wardrobe
 Pepa examines Ivan's wardrobe.

Pepa (Carmen Maura) wearing two cardigans and sitting on bench
This calls for two cardigans.

I loved the innocence of her best friend Candela's tube skirt and top ensemble, worn with knee-high socks and creepers - an outfit that could have come straight out of Topshop this season. Candela (Maria Barranco) then borrowed Pepa's black dress, slicked back her hair in true 80s style and took on a much more serious fashion personality, as she tried to get to grips with the crazy and dangerous situation she'd found herself in, which Almodovar has made brilliantly tragi-comic.

Maria, Candela and Carlos in Pepa's flat
 L-R: Marisa (Rossy de Palma), Candela (Maria Barranco) and Carlos (Antonio Banderas).
Candela's working the stripes and the embellished jacket.

Candela with slicked back hair and black dress
A serious event needs a sharper outfit.

For another key character Lucia (Julieta Serrano), fashion was all about looking to the past, because the happiest times of her life were decades old. Cue meticulously applied eyeliner, a beehive wig and childlike accessories such as white tights and a hat that looked like it was once a traffic cone.

Lucia talking to Carlos with eyeliner in hand

The eyeliner excuse: probably used by women around the world. As said by Lucia to Carlos.

Lucia wearing pointed hat, outside Madrid flat
Totally incognito.

The most interesting costume moments definitely appeared when things really started to unravel for the women. That meant weird hair and gazpacho-soaked clothing to go with the heightened tension and urgency.

Almodovar's Lucia in vintage clothes with set hair
Not quite sticking to smart-casual here, Lucia.

Mujeres al borde... Pepa's gazpacho-stained outfit in taxi with Ana
One of the morals of the story, as Pepa explains to Ana (Ana Leza).

Carmen Maura on telephone as Pepa
This could almost be the basis of a Lichtenstein painting.

Basically, I can't recommend this film enough if you're into costume design and you love the 80s. There's so much expressed by the outfits in Almodovar's Women on the Verge... and it's great to see it lighting up the screen.

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