Now that the Academy Awards are over, and with them all the mayhem, constant media pressure and general insanity, we can focus on the
Moving away from resentment and focusing on the movie now. Apart from its pulse-racing rythm, fantastic cinematography and hilarious, near-perfect performances from all actors, I want to talk about the costume design. They say the clothes make the man, and in a world of excess and luxury like the one you see in The Wolf of Wall Street, three-piece suits, Polo shirts, loafers and Versace are there in spades. Costume designer Sandy Powell, who has worked with Scorsese since they collaborated on Gangs of New York, was responsible for bringing to life the power-dressing of the 90s. But she didn't do it alone.
Giorgio Armani collaborated by supplying reference material like runway shows from the period and various of original pieces including one of Jordan Belfort's early 90s suits.
"I remember the period well, when my deconstructed suiting emerged as an emblem of success," said Armani recently. "The era of power dressing on Wall Street projected tremendous amounts of resolute strength." Says Powell, thrilled to access the Armani archives: "We endeavored to capture that iconic look through our partnership with Mr. Armani. It was all about a jacket silhouette that was fluid and structured at the same time."
But even those deconstructed Armani suits don’t last long. “Belfort starts off in off-the-peg cheap suits, progresses to an Armani, which is what everyone in the ‘80s aspired to, and then swiftly moves on to bespoke tailored suits which were often made by Savile Row tailors flown in specially from London,” Powell says. “Jordan Belfort actually had his own tailor who custom made everything for him for years.” At the height of his powers, Belfort spends his work days in tailored, single-breasted pinstripe suits, then switches into an unbuttoned Polo shirt, oversized sunglasses, and loose, pleated linen pants to lounge around with a pair of models aboard his yacht. He looks like someone who stepped out of a Ralph Lauren advertisement circa 1996. (“That’s exactly how he was meant to look!” says Powell.)
Another stylistic highlight is Belfort’s wingman Donnie Azoff, played by a riotous, depraved Jonah Hill. In his memoir, Belfort describes Danny Porush (the real Azoff) as a Jewish Long Islander with WASP pretensions. “I think I’ve ended up exaggerating this a little,” Powell admits—“mostly because of how Donnie’s character developed during my fittings with Jonah.” The result is a spectacular mash-up of aspirationally misguided 1990s preppy style. A multicolored pastel oxford-cloth button-down shirt. A cable-knit sweater tied around the shoulders. Tortoise-shell spectacles with clear lenses. Lilac suspenders. And so on. “We arrived at Donnie’s look after trying on various different combinations of things usually bright or pastel colors and not always coordinating,” Powell says. “I wasn’t trying to making him look comedic. But I wanted him to look as if he was really trying hard!”
The result of Powell’s efforts is a seamless depiction of a decade that until now has been all but ignored by Hollywood. It’s almost enough to inspire a broader 1990s revival. Powell, for one, is convinced. Asked if the silhouettes and patterns of the period are due for a comeback, she answers with a resounding, “Yes to all of that!”