The cult 1978 thriller Eyes Of Laura Mars is often cited as an essential film for fashion inspiration; a citation that’s aided by the plot and cast. Directed by Irvin Kershner, Faye Dunaway plays Laura Mars, a successful fashion photographer who specialises in violent and provocative images and ‘sees’ through the eyes of a killer. Cue lots of close-ups of Dunaway’s eyeballs, elaborate fashion sets, half-dressed fashion models and images courtesy of real-life photographer Helmut Newton.
The Eyes of Laura Mars’ stylish reputation is regularly reinforced by fashion designers: Marios Schwab’s first collection for Halston, by Frida Giannini for Gucci’s Autumn/Winter 2011 collection, and most recently, Roland Mouret who ‘borrowed’ for Pre-Fall 2013. But why does fashion ‘like’ Laura Mars so much? There’s certainly a general preference for movies that reflect and are based around the fashion industry – after all, they are easy to understand and relate to – and Laura Mars includes a cameo performance from real-life 70s supermodel Lisa Taylor.
Plot and context aside, fashion-approved movies usually come with a unique and inspiring visual aesthetic, created by the collaborative effort of cinematographers, set and costume designers – but the individual talents involved in the creation of these are often overlooked as the industry borrows the references but fails to attribute credit where it’s due.
Theoni V. Aldridge’s costume designs for Laura Mars exemplify chic 70s styling. Shooting on location, Dunaway’s practical wardrobe includes split skirts, suede knee high boots, plaid capes, fedoras and silk pussy-bow blouses in a neutral palette of camel, caramel and earthy brown hues. When she attends an exhibition to celebrate an impending book launch she is clad in a spectacular black satin evening dress with a high neckline, long sleeves and a dramatic slit front. A white flower in her hair and red lipstick emphasise her femininity.
It’s unclear which costumes Aldridge designed herself and which were bought off the peg. Either way, Alridge (who, four years previously, had won an Oscar for costumes in The Great Gatsby) pays homage to influential 70s designers, including Yves Saint Laurent and Halston – and that is exactly where fashion’s love affair with the movie begins.
Yves Saint Laurent and Roy Halston Frowick were, and remain, fashion industry icons, designers who changed the way women dress and introduced a whole new set of reference points into fashion design. Aldridge manages to capture the spirit of the late 70s – the era when their appeal was at it’s peak – so successfully that her efforts have become synonymous with their designs and reinforces their popular appeal; the movie is bound up in the designer’s cultural legacies.
Halston and Saint Laurent define the way we perceive the late 1970s – at least in sartorial terms – and it’s testament to Aldrige’s skill that she was able to create a contemporary character that wore designer-inspired clothing with ease. It’s just a shame her talents – in this film specifically – are overlooked and Eyes of Laura Mars is relegated to little more than a ‘fashion’ film.
This post first appeared on Guise Magazine