Spotlight On: American Hustle

December 13, 2013

With seven Golden Globe nominations, we were planning to run to the theater to see American Hustle even before we found out there are several DVF dresses in the film. Now we are thinking more of a sprint. Set in the late seventies, Director David O. Russell’s tale of intrigue stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper— as a con man and his comrades maneuvering the world of mafia and powerbrokers in glamorous seventies fashion. What’s not to love? We were lucky enough to catch up with the man behind the well-designed wardrobe, costume designer Michael Wilkinson, who told us about his inspiration and why he just had to find a vintage wrap dress:

What inspired you to choose Diane von Furstenberg for Amy Adams’ character?

I was gathering research images for Amy’s character, Sydney, and I kept coming across stunning DVF photos from the period – not only of women wearing Diane’s designs, but amazing photos of Diane herself. The images had the right combination of confidence, elegance and sexiness that we needed to convey with the character.

What was it about her character that made DVF feel appropriate?

I love the clean lines of the wrap dress – they really exemplify the new spirit of the clothes for american women in the late 1970’s. It was a time when women were enjoying new freedoms in fashion – less underpinnings, less structure and bold, streamlined shapes. The natural shape of a woman’s body was celebrated. We see Amy’s character fall in love in the film, and she expresses her new-found confidence and joie-de-vivre by wearing these body-hugging wrap dresses in bold patterns – clothes that make her feel empowered, sexy and up-to-date.

Where did you find the DVF dresses used in the film?

Amy wears three DVF dresses in the film. The first is the iconic green and white dress that Diane herself was photographed in for the cover of Newsweek. Our director, David O. Russell was obsessed with this dress, so we were very excited when we found it online from a vintage dealer. The second dress is a bold chocolate and white stylized feather design that we unearthed in a costume rental house in Los Angeles. The third is actually a contemporary DVF dress that we bought – the black and red jumbo leopard print was too breathtaking to resist!

What is the most challenging part of the process?

I think in truth the most challenging part was making sure Amy didn’t take them home with her at the end of the shoot day – she really did love those dresses!

In the case of American Hustle, were there any surprises along the way?

I was surprised at how much the costumes were affecting those around me – the actors and crew said that they were really inspired by the expressive, high-impact tone of 1970’s fashion – people kept telling me that they had opened their eyes to the diverse possibilities of clothes, and the way they could express themselves using colors, patterns and different shapes.

Describe 70’s fashion in three words:

Bold. Expressive. Sexy.

Diane loves mantras. Do you have any words that you live by?

“Stand tall, be comfortable in your own skin, and let it shine!”


American Hustle opens today in New York and Los Angeles.


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