Friday, December 11, 2009

Clothes on Film: An Education

Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard

I've written plenty of posts about Great Clothes in Lousy Movies, and its subset, Great Clothes on Lousy Actresses. This is not one of those posts. An Education is a damn good movie -- even if the incredible self-possession of the 16-year-old heroine is slightly hard to believe -- made better by its incredible attention to period detail, in particular, the fabulous clothes.

The movies is about Jenny, a school girl whose goal (and her parent's dearest wish) is to get into Oxford. Other than some problems with, horribile dictu!, Latin, Jenny is right on track until she's picked up by a mysterious, totally amoral older man who introduces her to the things she really wants to learn about -- good food, jazz bars, anything French, especially Paris, and sex. He also introduces her to his equally amoral friends, and of course, being amoral (as well as immoral) they have the best taste in clothes, art and interior decoration. They get Jenny out of her school uniform and into brocade sheaths, and they take her to Paris . . . but not before Emma Thompson steals the show with her cameo as the very moral principal of Jenny's school. Complications ensue, lessons are learned, and as a result An Education received an astonishing 94% approval rate at

The movie takes place in 1961. I adore the clothes of that period because they combine the extremely elegant with the slightly tarty. The image was every woman as mistress, instead of every woman as booty call. I prefer mistress; at least one could expect a detour to Paris on the road to perdition.
Odile Dicks-Mireaux did the wardrobe for the film. Carey Mulligan is the much-praised (and very busy) actress who plays the teenaged Jenny and wears all those clothes so well.