BEHIND THE SEAMS
Byline: Marcy Medina
LOS ANGELES — Meg Ryan is due any minute for her first fitting for “Kate and Leopold,” her new romantic comedy, and costume designer Donna Zakowska is running around a studio in search of a sketch pad and a tape measure. Zakowska hasn’t a clue where to begin with the actress’s wardrobe.
“You have to be in the room with someone for a few hours to know what direction to go,” she explains.
This month, Zakowska’s handiwork will be featured in two new movies — “Invisible Circus,” starring Cameron Diaz and Jordana Brewster, and “Original Sin,” starring Angelina Jolie. With two films and three actresses, Zakowska has her work cut out for her. When it was all done, she’d provided for a staggering 66 costume changes.
For “Invisible Circus,” a drama that spans hippie-era San Francisco and Paris, Zakowska’s challenge lay in finding and creating pieces that picked up the subtle style distinctions between American and Continental free spirits. “I like to call Cameron’s look Patti Smith-meets-Brian Wilson,” she explains. “It’s a mix of ultimate California hippie and minimalist aggressive hippie.”
While the crew shot in Paris, she culled the stalls of the Clingancourt flea market and unearthed turn-of-the-century textiles to create some of Diaz’s gauzy ensembles.
“When Cameron’s character comes to Paris, I give her that Continental fitted look,” says Zakowska. “The looseness of the San Francisco hippie is something Europeans never achieved. They were much more Edwardian and Victorian, while we were about the Mexican-cowboy thing and American Indians.”
Diaz, who adores vintage clothing, couldn’t wait to wear her costumes off-set. “She wanted practically every piece we had,” Zakowska says. The actress’s favorites included a Turkish Bedouin shawl from 1860 and a jacket stitched from an antique Egyptian shawl, then hand-embroidered with antique ribbon flowers.
For Angelina Jolie’s “Original Sin” costumes, Zakowska found herself in a fantasy Cuba, circa 1880. This time, her challenge was to translate the era’s colorful dresses into black and white, the only colors Jolie would wear. Zakowska, who studied painting at the Beaux Arts, visited museums seeking inspiration in Tissot, Sargent, and late Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite masters.
“Actually there’s an elegant, monochromatic way of seeing that period. It’s the Yohji Yamamoto version of 1880,” she says, citing one of her design idols.
But despite Jolie’s demands, she was an easy model. “Her body was just perfect, and her love of sadomasochism meant she didn’t find the corsets too uncomfortable,” Zakowska says with a laugh. “In fact, she’s probably the only person who’s ever enjoyed wearing them.”
Once the film’s bodice-ripping begins (courtesy of co-star Antonio Banderas), Jolie’s wardrobe gets a 21st-century touch. Zakowska copied the period petticoats stitch for stitch, but for the lingerie, she used an English net fabric similar to that in Prada’s panel dresses.
“I gave her a modern look for those sexy scenes, but you could still accept her from a period point of view,” she notes. “After all, I do believe God is in the details.”