The Fashion of Australia
The Fashion of Australia
Late '30s Australia
In director Baz Luhrman's grand epic Australia, Nicole Kidman stars as Lady Sarah Ashley, an English aristocrat whose husband has gone to Australia to start a cattle farm. When she hasn't heard from him, she decides to fly there and find him herself. Lady Sarah's costumes--created by Luhrman's wife, costume director Catherine Martin--play an important role in the film, evolving alongside the character herself. Martin and her skilled team created all the costumes for the late '30s/early '40s era, and used a few brands that existed at the time. "Prada started making luggage in 1913, so it's likely [Sarah] would've owned Prada luggage," says Martin of the abundant trunks and cases she commissioned Prada to recreate.
The Clothes Make the Character
"At the beginning, she's an uptight aristocrat-tailored and done-up," says Catherine Martin of Lady Sarah, whose outfits draw inspiration from the sportswear of the '30s. Martin says she created the looks from Baz Luhrman's vision, combined with research of the period. "We looked at women of Sarah's class and nationality and the designers of that period and then went to Nicole's home in Nashville and did a costume workshop 18 months before shooting," says Martin of the process.
Lady Sarah's Transformation
After venturing to her cattle ranch that takes her on an adventure across the outback, Lady Sarah returns to Darwin, her initial Aussie landing. Through this adventure there's a noted transformation and she wears her hair down for the first time. "She becomes more practical," says Catherine Martin. "Her clothes are still tailored and clean, but she's less done up and sexier now."
Chinoiserie Dress & Ferragamo Shoes
Here Sarah attends a Governor's Ball; both the party's décor and her Chinoiserie-printed dress reflect the Chinese influence in Northern Australia at the time. She also wears Ferragamo shoes (see inset), which Catherine Martin added after delving into the company's shoe archives. "Salvatore Ferragamo was the natural choice for celebrities and aristocrats during this era, so it is quite easy to imagine that Lady Sarah would have been a Ferragamo client," says the company's accessories director, James Ferragamo. "To create the shoes for the film, our designers took Catherine's input and created shoes that were true to the Ferragamo style of the era using certain trademark details such as the ribbed wedge, patchwork woven rattan and combining mixed materials such as velvet and stingray."
Though initially like water and oil, a romance develops between the rough-cut drover (Hugh Jackman's cowboy character) and Sarah. Catherine Martin calls both Jackman and Kidman "perfect specimens" and incredibly easy to dress. "[Nicole]'s physically amazing and can wear clothes so easily and effortlessly," Martin says of the actress.
From Aristocrat to Cattle Rancher
Catherine Martin says that costumes, like scenery and dialogue, are another element in telling the story. As Sarah's style has changed, so has the character herself.
During filming, Nicole found out she was pregnant with daughter Sunday Rose. (Ironically, her character Sarah was unable to have children.) Did this pose a problem for Catherine Martin? Not at all, she says. "You barely saw a bump."
The costume department usually made one or two of each wardrobe piece, like this figure-skimming belted dress. However, during the cross-country adventure, Martin's team was required to make eight or nine versions of each look. "We had to come to terms with practicalities like time constraints and that we were in a very remote part of Australia," says Martin of the challenge.
At Home in Oz
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is the film's theme song, and parallels are made throughout to both The Wizard of Oz movie and its tagline, "There's no place like home." Odds are this is a sentiment shared with the epic's stars, Aussie natives Kidman and Jackman.