In HBO’s upcoming “Grey Gardens” film, which debuts on April 18, any initial surprise about how Drew Barrymore’s California clip has melted into a Long Island-cum-New England drawl disappears. You lose sight of the fact that Barrymore and Jessica Lange (as Little Edie and Big Edie Beale) packed on the pounds with the help of pads and prosthetics — is that or isn’t it Lange’s actual dangling underarm fat? (It isn’t; those prosthetics are good.) Even the faux Grey Gardens house itself, located not in East Hampton but Toronto, is practically a pitch-perfect rendition of the original’s grubby feline-filled squalor — littered with cat-food cans with period-correct labels. And one of the most integral parts to remaking the famed 1973 documentary by Albert and David Maysles is the fabulous fashion. For this, audiences have Brooklyn-based costume designer Catherine Marie Thomas to thank.
“This has been so different from my other jobs,” says Chicago native Thomas, whose other credits include “Kill Bill,” “27 Dresses” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” “My job was really about helping those two ladies actually feel like the characters. The other movies were more an external, aesthetic thing.” And, indeed, Uma Thurman without her bumblebee yellow flight suit would still have been a kick-ass karate killer, but Barrymore-as-Little Edie without the head wraps and eccentric, deconstructed style? You can’t separate the character from her look. To a certain set of “Grey Gardens” devotees, Little Edie is as much a fashion icon as her first cousin Jackie Kennedy.
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