By Sharon Clott Kanter
Updated Sep 26, 2014 @ 1:01 pm
Credit: Courtesy

If you love to scope out the fashion in films, your next must-see flick is the thriller The Two Faces of January, an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith (she of The Talented Mr. Ripley fame) novel that opens on the big screen this weekend. Set in the 1960s, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen star as the uppity, high-class American couple, the MacFarlands, who travel to Europe on holiday and meet tour guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac). The three are all conning each other to get what they want and ultimately get tangled in a murder cover-up, which leaves them showing their innermost flaws to a fateful end.

But between the what's-gonna-happen-next moments, there's the fashion. Costume designer Steven Noble, whose work includes Wuthering Heights, Bridget Jones's Diary, and the forthcoming (and super buzzy) The Theory of Everything, was tasked with transforming the characters into '60s trendsetters. "I wanted to create the mood of 1962 and be true to it, but then also make it timeless and feel relevant to an audience, so it didn't feel like a costume drama," he told InStyle this week. "I wanted to bring it forward to a modern audience but still be true to the period."

To do so, he looked at fashion journals from the period to find out what people wore on vacations, as the movie travels from Greece to Turkey. "I immersed myself in the period," he said. "I watched a lot of films and looked at magazines, books, posters, and footage." And because he wanted such specific looks for the three principal characters, he and his team made the looks themselves.

The first look you see in the film, with Mortensen in a linen suit and Dunst in a lemon dress (above), was the most important, said Noble. "I wanted them to pop from the background when you first see them," he said. "It looked so beautiful next to the stonework in Greece. The director [Hossein Amini] wanted them to be an aspirational golden couple, and I felt like this is what I had to put them in."

Scroll down to find out the little intricacies behind just a few of the film's mesmerizing looks.

Colette's Cat-Eye Glasses

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Noble went to one of his trusty optician pals in London to pick out this unique pair for Dunst's character, Colette MacFarland. "I spent a lot of time with the lenses and figuring out what color we wanted," he said. "I didn't want to go too dark with the lenses because you still want to see their eyes. You want to see some sort of reaction and depth. That's why we put a lot of thought into that and how dark the lenses could be." Noble and his team settled on these golden frames, which he imported from an Italian company. He switched out the lenses to get them just right.

Getting the Colors Right

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To make the looks pop on screen, Noble traveled to the filming locations ahead of time with options in tow. "I took loads of different color swatches of fabrics with me to see how the light reacted when we got different light in different countries in different times of year," he explained.

Rydal's One-of-a-Kind Hat

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Oscar Isaac's character Rydal carries this topper everywhere with him throughout their journey—which caused Noble some angst. "We only had one of this original style that I had found, which is always scary, especially when there's a scene on a boat and it could have easily blown off." Luckily, it didn't!

The Challenging Light Color Palette

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"Working with pale colors is a bit daunting when you're in a lot of dusty places," said Noble. "Especially with Viggo and Kirsten. I had to put them in pale cream linens and we were shooting from 12 to 16 weeks. It was pretty scary! But you go along with that sort of thing. It was nice to wear down the clothes naturally through the sequences."

The Two Faces of January opens in theaters Sept. 26. Watch the trailer below.