Award-Winning Costume Designer Patricia Field Sizes Up the Film
Filmmakers knew that a film like “Confessions of a Shopaholic” required brilliant costuming. Enter Patricia Field. “Patricia Field is one of the great costume designers,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “She’s always been ahead of the curve, finding new designers and dressing our characters in ways that are unique, interesting, colorful and stylish.”
Field has been at it for more than 40 years, since opening her first boutique in 1966. Field is responsible for the noteworthy fashions behind HBO’s “Sex and the City” (including the smash-hit feature version released in 2008) and “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“The story of `Shopaholic’ really appealed to me,” says Field. “It seemed like a fun, positive and entertaining project, which is my kind of movie. I love to entertain…it’s my approach to this business. I had never worked before with Jerry Bruckheimer, and that was a big draw. Jerry and P.J. Hogan were very positive about me working for them, which is very important.
“I’m a stylist,” continues Field, “even though in the world of costume design that’s kind of a dirty word. I create fashion as art, and I do that by means of collage. I mix old pieces, new pieces, dressy pieces with jeans, all kinds of mixtures. The world of costume design in the orthodox sense is about making the garment from scratch. But I feel that if we’re doing something contemporary, you’re at a disadvantage in trying to make garments when you’ve got the world of designers to choose from. Our film is about a shopaholic who goes around shopping all day.”
Field says she was inspired by the film’s colorful cast. “I always get my main inspirations from the actors and what they bring to their characters. I work with the actor to bring out what they want the character to be. Of course, I have my own ideas, and I share those, but in the end, it’s the actor who’s in front of the camera. I found Isla to be very flirty and fetching, with a twinkle in her eye. She’s petite and cute, but has a sexy Cheshire cat quality that inspired me to dress her in the way I did for the film.”
Isla Fisher enjoyed the costuming process as much as Field did. “It was so much fun creating Rebecca Bloomwood with Patricia Field,” says Fisher. “She’s such an amazing stylist with a unique vision. I wanted Becky to be adventurous and eclectic in her style, and also be the `Everygirl’ that we all relate to. It was a fun balance finding and keeping her young, bright and colorful, but at the same time high fashion.
“Becky is much more adventurous-stylewise-than I am and far more image conscious,” continues Fisher. “I’m much more of a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl.”
“Becky is a happy girl,” says Field. “Although she has a conflict with debt, she’s essentially a positive person. Isla is very animated, funny, sexy, pretty and young, so it was an ideal situation for me. Also, I knew that Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to use a lot of color in the movie, which was fine with me, because I love color. So the costumes for Isla as Becky reflect those qualities.”
Ironically for a story set in New York, Field got several ideas for dressing Isla while on a business trip in placeCityTokyo before the start of production. “While I was there, I shopped for Isla,” Field says. “Her petite size is perfect for the Japanese size range, and young fashion there is extremely animated and colorful. It was an opportunity for me to dress Isla in clothes that we haven’t seen before. The influence isn’t reflected in the fact that she wears clothes designed by the Japanese, but rather in the mix. It reflects the edge that you see in the placeCityTokyo fashion scene.”
Reflecting her “collage” technique, Field adorned Fisher in fashion-forward and often startling combinations of clothing and accessories from some of the world’s most internationally renowned designers, including Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Christian Louboutin, Zac Posen, Miu Miu, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Todd Oldham, Gucci, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen.
The other characters also received the full Patricia Field treatment, including Rebecca’s roommate Suze (Krysten Ritter). “In the story, Suze tries to tame Becky’s shopaholic tendencies, so it would have been easy to just make her plain,” says Field. “So I conjured up the idea of Suze being like a Williamsburg Girl-the neighborhood across the river in placeBrooklyn which has attracted a colony of young people. It’s young, artistic, a little bohemian and a little rock. I dressed Krysten in a mix of color and neutral-very eclectic-whereas Becky is just color, color, color.”
Having costumed actresses portraying fashion editors in “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Sex and the City,” Field was determined to give Kristin Scott Thomas’ character of Alette Naylor her personal fashion stamp. “A woman like Alette is number one-she’s achieved her position after many years and has developed her own sense of personal style. Kristin’s wardrobe is very fashion acute. In one scene, she wears an elegant, neutral gown with this gorgeous necklace made of handmade wood beads, a one-of-a-kind accessory. We were trying to show that Alette had her 360-degree choices of what she would and could wear.
As Alicia Billington, Leslie Bibb is physically the opposite of Isla Fisher’s Rebecca. Field chose a lot of black and neutral, “a kind of Cruella DeVille inspiration,” says the costume designer. Bibb says the wardrobe choice fit her character perfectly. “Alicia is a controlled, driven person, so nothing is left to chance. She works her ass off and everything is calculated, particularly her clothes. I put on Alicia’s outfits and was immediately in character. There’s an attitude that comes with wearing a four- to five-inch heel.”
The men received equal treatment from Field, although the lack of interest that Hugh Dancy’s character Luke Brandon shows in what he wears presented the costume designer with interesting challenges. “It’s much easier to do head-to-toe gorgeousness than it is to do `I don’t care,’” says Field. “For the first part of the movie, Luke feels that there are bigger things in his life that he’s interested in, and through the course of his relationship with Rebecca, he undergoes a little bit of a transformation, which has to be believable.”
For her more proletarian characters, John Goodman and Joan Cusack’s Graham and Jane Bloomwood, Field still found a way to dress them interestingly. “I went to the costume fitting with thoughts of being slightly eccentric,” says Cusack. “Patricia was so brilliant in making that eccentricity attractive and dignified in the way that she makes clothing art. She sees great dignity in clothes and style.”
Miami: The Hot Zone
Hugh Dancy’s Character Loosens Up
Having completed their expansive work in New York City and Connecticut, the “Shopaholic” company, including Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy and Leslie Bibb, flew south for two final but eventful weeks of shooting in the tropical, sensual Babylon by the sea: Miami, Florida. “Jerry Bruckheimer suggested that for the scenes in which the buttoned-up Luke finally gets some fun out of life, it had to be somewhere that forces him out of his routine,” notes P.J. Hogan. “It made perfect sense for that to be in Miami, where everybody loosens their ties. There’s a freedom about Miami, the sense you can be anything you want to be there.”
Again, one of the world’s most famed and influential stores swung wide its doors to the “Shopaholic” company when Prada permitted the shooting of a scene inside their gorgeous store in the Bal Harbour Shops in which Becky tries to educate Luke on the finer points of fashion. “It was very difficult to get Prada to allow us to film inside their store,” says Hogan, “because they’re obviously very conscious of their image. But I think that the names of Jerry Bruckheimer and Patricia Field had a lot to do with getting us access. The Prada store in Bal Harbour was just beautiful, stunning, and it was a real pleasure to shoot there.”
This was followed by scenes inside the atmospheric Art Deco-style lobby (including its distinctive tank full of almost iridescent jellyfish) of the Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive.
The production arranged its biggest set piece in Miami: a Latino street festival which revels in the city’s heady cultural stew. “I love the multicultural aspect of Miami, so I wanted to make sure we got some Cuban influence into the movie,” says Hogan.
The location selected was Espanola Way, built in the 1920s as a quaint, mini-Spanish village for artists and bohemians, replete with brightly colored colonial style edifices and plazas. With multi-hued lanterns hanging overhead and Latino music and food spicing the air, it’s on this location that choreographer JoAnn Jansen created a Cuban folk dance called the “danzon” for a sequence in which Luke surprises Becky by loosening up and literally taking the lead.
Everybody had a great time making the movie. The stars and filmmakers especially appreciated Kinsella’s presence on the set. She served as an associate producer, consulting and watching her character come to life and helping to make sure that Rebecca Bloomwood manifested herself on screen in a way that would be pleasing to her character’s millions of fans. When it was discovered that Sophie Kinsella was on set, the response from some members of the public was as though a movie superstar rather than a literary figure was present, with the “Shopaholic” creator happily signing autographs or chatting with her fans.
“It’s great to have Sophie on the set,” Hogan says, “because as I said to her many times, she’s the Rosetta Stone. She gives me insight into the shopaholic, even beyond the books.”
“It’s an amazing asset to have the author there with the director and the rest of us explaining the core principles of the characters,” adds executive producer Mike Stenson. “Having the point of view available to you of the person who actually created those characters was enormously helpful.”
With the rigorous shoot behind them, Jerry Bruckheimer, P.J. Hogan and their team now faced the equally arduous task of post-production. Jerry Bruckheimer, one of whose trademarks dating back to “Flashdance,” “Top Gun” and “Dangerous Minds” has been featuring cutting edge soundtracks, was determined to bring the best of today’s artists to the aural landscape of the film. And so, working with music supervisor Kathy Nelson, the producer invited the current crème de la crème to record new songs for “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” including Pussycat Dolls (“Bad Girl”), Shontelle featuring Akon (“Stuck With Each Other”), Trey Songz (“Takes Time to Love”), Jordyn Taylor (“Accessory”) and Adrienne Bailon (“Uncontrollable” and “Big Spender”).
Other recording artists heard in “Confessions of a Shopaholic” include Jessie James (“Blue Jeans”), Kat DeLuna (“Unstoppable” and, featuring Frankie Storm, “Calling You”), Lady GaGa (“Fashion”), Natasha Bedingfield (“Again”), Greg Laswell (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”) and Amy Winehouse (“Rehab [Hot Chip Remix]”). Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me,” was recorded by Macy Gray and produced by Trevor Horn especially for “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
Meanwhile, the richly toned orchestral score was composed by seven-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, a longtime associate of P.J. Hogan who previously scored the director’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Unconditional Love” and “Peter Pan,” as well as a long list of credits that also includes “The Dark Knight” (with Hans Zimmer), “Michael Clayton” and “King Kong.”
Jerry Bruckheimer has spent his entire career breaking molds and reinventing genres, and although romance and comedy are elements which have appeared several times throughout his 35 feature films, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” represents the producer’s first foray into romantic comedy as a cinematic form. And as usual, the approach is to give audiences something fresh. “I think we’re all looking for humor and romance in our lives,” concludes Bruckheimer, “and that’s what `Shopaholic’ is all about. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s going to touch you a little bit when you walk out of the theater. I love to entertain people, and when you can make them laugh, that’s a real gift to the filmmakers.”
Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
Directed by: P.J. Hogan
Starring: Isla Fisher, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas, Leslie Bibb, Lynn Redgrave, Julie Hagerty, Nick Cornish, Wendie Malick, Clea Lewis
Screenplay by: Tim Firth, Tracey Jackson
Production Design by: Kristi Zea
Cinematography by: Jo Willems
Film Editing by: William Goldenberg
Costume Design by: Patricia Field
Set Decoration by: Alyssa Winter
Art Direction by: Paul D. Kelly
Music by: James Newton Howard
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and thematic elements.
Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures
Release Date: February 13, 2009