Just ahead of the holidays—and right on time for end-of-year nostalgia and family gatherings—two big film releases, West Side Story and Being The Ricardos, will aim to transport audiences back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, the 1950s, through elaborate sets and the era’s opulent fashion. Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes take on I Love Lucy through his project Being The Ricardos and Steven Spielberg’s new rendition of the classic tale West Side Story will both make their theatrical debuts this Friday.
In Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, tulle, taffeta, bold colors, and voluminous flying circle skirts very nearly outshine the outstanding dance numbers. Tony Award-winning costume designer Paul Tazewell manifests a vision of the post-war decade in mustard and sky-blue suits, mid-length dresses with cinched waists and flouncing skirts—American riffs on Christian Dior’s influential 1947 “New Look.” While a great deal has been said in hindsight of issues surrounding the casting and other plot and stylistic points in the original 1961 film—which was, in turn, based on the 1957 stage show—Tazewell’s new aesthetic prioritizes keeping ensembles intact while improving the film’s adherence to more authentic representation.
The titular character Maria’s dainty white A-line dress topped with a cherry red belt remains unaltered for the 2021 adaptation. With the character Anita’s original lavish lavender confection particularly emphasized in dance numbers “Promenade” and “America,” 2021 Anita (Ariana DeBose) seems to have gotten a few wardrobe updates.
A new and vivacious black and red off-the-shoulder frock with an A-line silhouette and a frothy bright red petticoat makes an appearance at the promenade. The character is seen again in an effervescent bold gold costume with a similar silhouette and the same voluminous red crinoline beneath, adding a buoyancy and an undeniably lively quality to the costume.
The Social Network director, Aaron Sorkin brings us Being the Ricardos, starring Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Tinseltown’s first couple, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The film follows the I Love Lucy mega-stars throughout the span of a particularly dark week, plagued with a pressing crisis that puts both their personal relationship and onscreen careers in turmoil.
Chic and tailored high-waisted cigarette pants and feminine button-up blouses come courtesy of costume designer Susan Lyall. Having aired from 1950 to 1957, Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz star star as Lucy Ricardo and Ricky Ricardo, respectively. The film is set to land in theaters this Friday, it will be featured on Amazon Prime Video by December 21st.
When it comes to conjuring the glamorous sophistication and exaggerated silhouettes of 1950s fashion, the stylistic opulence was not just relegated to silver screens. With the era in mind, stars of both films brought elements of the decade’s style to the red carpet. Rachel Zegler, who plays West Side Story‘s Maria, attended the LA premiere for the film this week alongside her fellow cast-mates in an Old Hollywood-inspired haute couture gown by Elie Saab. Complete with a belted, cinched waist, the gown could have easily been seen on the starlets of the ’50s, Elizabeth Taylor or Grace Kelly.
Donning the designs from the house that began it all, Zegler dazzled in a Dior Fall/Winter 2018 Couture gown complete with Point D’Esprit bobbinet for West Side Story’s New York premiere.
Being the Ricardos actress Nicole Kidman took a similar route in an Armani Privé tulle dream of a gown with the help of stylist Julia von Boehm. Evocative of Dior’s “Junon” and “Venus,” the tulle creation most certainly conveys the time period while Kidman’s red lip gives a nod to Lucille Ball herself.
As West Side Story and Being The Ricardos transports us back to the Golden Age Of Hollywood, the vivid costumes splashed across our screens will do more than merely support the storytelling. Fashion is ultimately a visual and tangible representation of the time in which we live. With clothing acting as a translator between time and space, it often represents inherited norms, taboos, and the cultural zeitgeist as a whole. While the fifties epitomizes a tumultuous period in time, the era also exemplifies a rich and opulent expression through fashion.