The Talented Mr Ripley

In the film adaptation of 'The Talented Mr. Ripley', which is set in the swanky precincts of Europe in the 1950s, the challenge for costume designer Gary Jones was to maintain what he calls ‘the old-fashioned aura.’

‘There’s a strong connection between the costumes in the film and the fashion in clothes today and we had to be very careful to avoid self-consciousness,’ says the Saucon Valley resident.  ‘The job is to create for the characters a look for the movie that puts itself in time, place and atmosphere without calling attention to itself.’

Jones, along with his partner of 22 years, Ann Roth, met the ‘Mr Ripley’ challenge well enough to be nominated for an Academy Award for costume design.  

 Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow as Dickie Greenleaf and Marge Sherwood 

Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow as Dickie Greenleaf and Marge Sherwood 

Costumes for the main characters, Ripley (Matt Damon) and Dickie (Jude Law), were marked by simplicity, says Jones.  ‘It’s really difficult sometimes for us to realise how innocent times were then – the clothes weren’t showy.  There was no sexual innuendo – all that came later, in the ‘60s,’ says Jones.

Ripley’s clothes are a mixture of prep school and prep school wannabe.  As he evolves into someone more European, he begins wearing a classic, more tailored look.

 Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow as Tom Ripley and Gwyneth Paltrow 

Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow as Tom Ripley and Gwyneth Paltrow 

Dickie’s clothes describe so well his self-confidence and his leisurely and luxurious lifestyle. Knitted polo shirts, white linen trousers, linen blazers, colourful printed shorts and espadrilles, the perfect summer wardrobe, but one of the finest quality. He has a very individual style, loves to wear hats and jewelry and has his suits tailor-made at a famous sartoria in Rome.

Roth describes Gwyneth Paltrow’s Marge Sherwood as ‘a girl who comes from a good family, and goes to Europe to write’ says Roth.  ‘She hangs out in her pajamas and her skirts, and she has a bikini on underneath her skirt and blouse when she goes to town. She doesn’t buy her own clothes, they are her parents’ purchases she had from school.  

Her style gradually changes from the carefree resortwear compiled of flirty mid-length printed skirts, bikinis and white shirts tied at the waist or worn over bathing suits, that so well describe the comfortable and easy life she and Dickie have been living, to more serious outfits, sophisticated day-wear (ladylike dresses, trenches, scarves, gloves and compact totes, it’s the 50s after all) and a gorgeous blue evening dress with string bows at the back that she wears to the opera.

 Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge Sherwood 

Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge Sherwood 

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There’s a calf-length blue cloth coat with rolled collar that she wears in Venice, and a wonderfully period-perfect leopard-skin print coat she sports in the Piazza San Marco.  The former was designed specially for the film, and made at Terelli’s in Rome, but the latter was a vintage piece, as are many of the film’s costumes.  “Ripley’s costumes as Dickie Greenleaf are all custom-made,” says Jones of the elegant suits made in New York by John Tudor, “and the clothes for Ripley himself are mostly vintage, but all remade,” says Jones.  “There’s not a formula for that; it has to do with what looks best.”

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There is also Meredith Logue, Cate Blanchett, in a supporting but significant role. She is an American socialite travelling the world. Her belted full skirts, cashmere sweaters and throws-on, berets, red lips and a gorgeous pair of espadrilles.

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