After its limited release last weekend, Burnt hits theaters everywhere tomorrow—and you'd better show up with an appetite to see it. Starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, the film follows the story of Adam Jones (Cooper), a troubled American chef whose substance abuse issues throw his life and career off track. After leaving his job at a Parisian restaurant behind, Jones heads to New Orleans. But he doesn’t stay there long. With little to his name and nothing to lose, Cooper’s character heads to London with one goal in mind: to re-establish himself as a top chef and earn three Michelin stars. And costume designer Lyn Paolo—who’s also behind the killer wardrobe on Scandal—was determined to get his minimalist look just right.
“Bradley’s character is sort of like the quintessential American hero, only he’s tragic and flawed,” Paolo recently told InStyle. “He doesn’t really care about his clothes, and the only things he kept from his previous life are his knives, chef’s jacket, and a necklace that he never takes off—which we had custom made.” Cooper’s character arrives in England wearing jeans and a leather jacket (pictured in Paolo’s original sketch below), carrying one bag that contains his entire wardrobe. “Bradley and I figured that he has two pairs of jeans, six T-shirts that we got from Scoop NYC, and the leather jacket that he’s wearing when he gets there,” said Paolo. “That’s his uniform, and it doesn’t really change.”
Cooper isn’t the only one with a distinct look in the film. Sienna Miller plays a chef at the same restaurant as Jones, and she was hands-on when it came to curating her character’s wardrobe. “Sienna truly loves clothes, and I think she felt that the costumes were an extension of how she might dress if she lived in London,” said Paolo. She and Miller ultimately settled on a look that made sense for her character, Helene, both aesthetically and economically. “Helene has a budget, and she knows that even the greatest chefs don’t make that much money,” said Paolo. “But we still wanted her to have great style, so I shopped at thrift stores in London’s Portobello Market. Everything she wears has a bit of a punk-rock edge, and it’s all vintage.”
All but one outfit, which was designed specifically for Miller’s character, was purchased off the rack. “I was trying to find a dress for her to wear to a party in the film, and I had this early ‘90s image of Kate Moss wearing a slip dress in my head,” said Paolo. “I looked all over London but I just couldn’t find it—everything just felt a little too current.” The solution was just a phone call away. “I called the team at Burberry and told them what I was looking for,” said Paolo. “They designed three dresses for us over just one weekend. We ended up choosing a gold slip dress that was exactly what we had in mind—a simple, effortless look.”
When it came to dressing the rest of the cast, Paolo also had specific visions in mind. “We went to different designers for each character,” said Paolo. It was only fitting that she went with Prada for Uma Thurman, who plays a restaurant critic in the film. “She’s had such a strong relationship with the brand over the years that it just made sense,” said Paolo. She chose Louis Vuitton for Alicia Vikander, who plays the ex-girlfriend of Cooper’s character. “She comes from a wealthy family in the film, so we thought she should be dressed in an iconic European brand.” And when choosing a look for Emma Thompson’s character, a therapist, Paolo had help. “Emma lives in London and loves the quirky local boutiques,” said Paolo. “We wanted her character to feel a bit offbeat, so we bought her clothes at a store called Egg in Knightsbridge.”
Of course, those outfits weren’t going anywhere near a stove. But for the characters who were getting busy in the kitchen throughout the film, there was one unifying look: a chef’s uniform. Paolo turned to renowned chefwear brand Bragard to get the look just right. “There are so many different restaurants featured in the film, so we needed a huge amount of uniforms,” she said. “I would ask chefs in local restaurants where they got their aprons, and then work with Bragard to restructure and tailor different designs.”
In the end, it was less about what the chefs were wearing and more about what they were cooking. “We wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be a chef, and to be in the heat for all of those hours,” Paolo said. “Bradley is exceptionally knowledgeable about the world of food, and he was so methodical and impressive with his research.” The cast did plenty of field research on their own, too. “Every week, our director would take us all out to dinner at a new restaurant,” said Paolo (pictured below). “It was pretty much a foodie’s dream.”
Check out the trailer for Burnt below, in theaters Friday, Oct. 30.