Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and the Costume Design of Arianne Phillips

If at this point you have not seen Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, you are a making some questionable life decisions and I am seriously judging you right now. I walked out of this film feeling such an immense amount of happiness, and all I can really think about is when I can go back and see it again.

For those of you who do not know, this film is in part a grown-up fairy tale in which Tarantino takes us back to a nostalgic time in Hollywood. As a love-letter to this incredible time period, Tarantino tells the story of movie star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and former stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The majority of the time spent in this film, explores the hilarious lives of these two best friends, while also bringing the audience back to ending days of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Simultaneously, at the height of her career, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) moves next door to Dalton, with husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). Of course, any film telling the story of Sharon Tate would be incomplete without also bringing some insight into the dark Manson family uprising, in which Tarantino does in a very exciting, creative way.

I really enjoyed the entirety of this film and I am very certain that this film will bring in a ton of Oscar nominations. Likely even Tarantino’s first Oscar win in the Best Director category. This love letter to Hollywood was hilarious, exciting, and most of all, inspiring. As someone who has lived in Los Angeles for my entire adult life, I felt proud knowing I live in a city that has contributed so much to what makes the entertainment industry so special for people around the world.

However, I am not a film critic. What I really want to talk about is the masterful costume work in this film. Arianne Phillips embodied every notion of what it means to be a costume designer, and delivered the audience into a world that was familiar and quite beautiful. Honestly, I feel Arianne deserves just as much credit on this project as any of the actors. The costumes basically are one of the aspects that made this film so great.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures EntertainmentCourtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Arianne told Cathy Whitlock of the Hollywood Reporter that while growing up, [she] would spend holidays in Los Angeles [and] immediately related to [Tarantino’s] descriptions”. Not only did she do large amounts of research, including weekly film viewings at Tarantino’s theater, but you could really tell that she had a real connection to the story.

Immediately, I was struck by DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton. Terantino has said that this character took inspiration from multiple actors of the 60’s era, such as Tab Hunter, George Maharis, Edd Byrnes, and Vince Edwards. With Dalton being a primarily western film actor, the design of his costume made complete sense. Arianne certainly established that connection through costume and added to a variety of audiences wondering if Dalton was possibly a real movie-star!

Courtesy of Sony Pictures EntertainmentCourtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

My favorite look of Dalton’s was his signature costume, encompassing a beautiful leather jacket, turtle neck, and a very well put together color palette. Being a western actor, it made complete sense for Arianne to use a lot of browns, tans, orange, and reds. As an end result, we are given a fully realized Hollywood-cowboy character that made to be one of the most recognizable characters of this decade. Hell, I want to be Rick Dalton when I grow up.

Though the most geek-worthy character has to be Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Sharon Tate. This is where Arianne’s work really shines and in my opinion, may possibly lead to her third nomination and first Oscar win.

Sharon goes through a variety of costumes that use vintage and custom-made pieces. These costumes perfectly capture the zeitgeist of the Los Angeles summer of 1969. Three looks come to mind that really stood out. First was this adorable day-time look that Tate wore to a showing of an American comedy spy-fi film she starred in, The Wrecking Crew. In a very 1969 fashion, Tate wears a long sleeved turtle neck and white mini-skirt, paired with white go-go boots. I literally lost my breath when I saw this look for the first time. Then there is a scene where Tate and her husband go to a seriously FOMO inducing party at the Playboy Mansion. Tate steps out onto the dance floor in a flowy, yellow crop top, and black go-go boots. This costume was absolutely stunning and likely was the reason why this was one of my favorite scenes in the entire film.

Finally, during the premiere of Roman Polanski’s film, Rosemary’s Baby, Sharon Tate famously wore an Ossie Clark snakeskin coat that immediately caught the eyes of Tarantino and Arianne. They had no other choice but to have this coat remade for the film and I am so glad they did. I love a historical moment and this look really brought it home. This coat is outrageous in all of the right ways. It’s over the top, yet really elegant and definition of 1960’s Hollywood glam. The snakeskin coat also serves as a perfect reminder of how fashion trends move on an endless cycle.

(L) Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. (R) Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Photo of Margot Robbie provided courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment(L) Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. (R) Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Photo of Margot Robbie provided courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

(L) Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. (R) Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Photo of Margot Robbie provided courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Another character who I thought had a really well-costumed image was Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth. We all know this guy. He is that cool, laid back, loyal friend who will do anything for you, but does not take any bullshit. He enjoys the simple things in life who just wants to hang out with his dog and have a beer. Interesting enough, this character was actually loosely inspired by the late Burt Reynolds best friend and stuntman turned director, Hal Needham. Arianne’s choice to costume Booth in Hawaiian shirts, denim jeans and jackets, could not have been more perfect. I totally understood this characters personality just by the way he dressed. There is a majority of time spent with Booth wearing a denim Wrangler jacket. Vivian Rivetti, Wrangler global vice president of design, talked with Rivet Magazine and stated that Wrangler jacket was “created for rodeo riders and ranch hands, adopted by rebels and rock stars. The authentic 24MJZ men’s jacket that Brad Pitt is wearing is the definitive denim jacket. This specific model, unique in Wrangler’s history, was produced in selvedge left hand twill before the brand launched its broken twill innovation in 1964.”

Courtesy of Sony Pictures EntertainmentCourtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Lastly, I just wanted to highlight the costumes worn by the various Manson girls throughout the film. Why are they interesting you ask? Well because I don’t think there could be a more obvious connection between late sixties and seventies fashion, to modern fashion. The costumes worn by the Manson girls show a direct link between the bohemian style of our time and theirs, proving once again how trends are just recycled material of another time. Perhaps we don’t see as much of overalls now as we did in the summer of 1969. Especially with the rise of the festival culture generated Coachella, there is no denying the fact that most of what young women are wearing today was certainly inspired by the young women of then. This is just another example of the wide range of historical knowledge Arianne Phillips very masterfully kept in mind throughout this project.


All in all, this entire film is a masterpiece that is very well strengthened by the leading talents of Arianne Phillips and her team. Every detail of this film was carefully thought out, and fully realized and that shows. Like I said earlier in this piece, I feel as though there is a very good chance that her work on this film will earn Arianne her third Oscar nomination. Likely even her first win, and it would be very well deserved.

Until then, stay cool Hollywood!

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