The new film Brooklyn is not only a beautiful love story, it’s also an ode to the beauty of ‘50s fashion. The plot, adapted from the novel by Colm Tóibín, follows young Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), who leaves her native country and her family behind to make a better life in America during the period in which European immigrants flooded the famed New York borough. She suffers a bout of debilitating homesickness when she first arrives, but then she starts to fall into her own rhythm, working as a shopgirl by day, taking evening accounting classes at Brooklyn College, and even meeting a soft-souled Italian-American plumber named Tony (Emory Cohen). Her journey is an emotional one that’s captured ever so perfectly by Ronan’s performance, as well as ever so subtly by the by the visuals of her costumes, created by Emmy-winning designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux.
“Eilis’s looks helped tell the story of a young lady who grows in confidence and embraces a world she had newly joined,” Dicks-Mireaux told InStyle. Therefore, her wardrobe is different from Ireland to New York. “They’re very different worlds,” said the costume designer, who sourced real vintage from shops in London and Montreal for Ronan to wear. “New York was not touched by the Second World War, whereas Europe was. Therefore, when she was in America, I wanted her to look bolder and stronger.”
The costumes tell the story as much as Ronan does, with her getting increasingly happier as it progresses. Suddenly her downtrodden wardrobe from Ireland transforms into a vibrant palette in America. She purchases sunglasses for the first time, which is a major turning point. In fact, there are a few pivotal looks that really stand out, says Dicks-Mireaux—six to be exact. Scroll down to find out what they are, and why Dicks-Mireaux considers them so darned important.
1. Her new coat
"We knew that she left Ireland with a suitcase, so I kept her wardrobe very minimal when she was in Ireland. But in America, I wanted to introduce things that I thought she would buy, like a coat to get through the winter. She would only buy one, because she only had the money for one."
2. Her increasingly colorful dresses
"By the time she got to spring, she was over the homesickness and met Tony. Therefore, I felt we could add some more color into her clothing. I used color to tell her story of growing up and becoming more of her own person. I tried to use it very carefully, not in a flashy way. I wanted the colors I used to be natural, like what she would choose to go out and buy as she became more confident."
3. Her Grace Kelly-inspired look
"I looked at a lot of photos from the time period to influence her character, including photographs of my own parents. But I also referenced images of Grace Kelly. I loved her simplicity, and that went with the character. I think you can see that she’s more Grace Kelly as she continues throughout the film."
4. Her swimsuit
"She wasn’t a wealthy girl so she wouldn’t have had a lot of clothes. It was important to me that you still thought of her as a working girl. Therefore, she would only have one swimsuit. She wouldn’t use her swimming costume often. She would not have gone swimming very much in Brooklyn, really. When she went to Coney Island with Tony, it seemed like a big special thing."
5. Her rainbow of cardigans
"She would have had quite a few cardigans, hand-knitted from Ireland. Then, she would have some that she acquired in America that were slightly more stretchy and machine-knit, which wasn’t as much available in Ireland. I wanted to show that there were just different things in America that you could buy."
6. Her flats
"Women didn’t wear them at the time. Rather, you would save your high heels for Sunday best because they would get ruined so easily and fixing the heels would be really expensive. Now, that’s not the case. We rush around a lot, don’t we?"