Last Night In Soho Costume Designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux Brings ’60s London Back To Life [Interview]

You just worked on a film set in ’50s London. What are the main differences

You just worked on a film set in ’50s London. What are the main differences between costume designing for ’50s London and ’60s London?

Close but completely different, and different period. I mean, early ’50s you’re coming out of that whole, much more structured, couture kind of shape where everyone’s much more cosseted. The suits are very different, bigger shoulders, I think. I can’t remember, but now I just did ’53 and then I’ve done ’50 and I’ve done ’61 in “An Education,” which is slightly different. In the later ’50s you get the slightly slimmer silhouette, the longer line down to the knee, which carries through into the ’60s. So you get a bit of a crossover, but the early ’50s is very different to the mid ’60s. And also, what’s nice is then because we did ’65 to ’68. That’s a big change as well. So for instance, I think if you were a woman trying to make your own clothes in the early ’50s, that would’ve been much harder to do the really kind of classy look.

Whereas I think in the mid ’60s, the looks are very much simpler and really it was all about the quality of the fabric that you could buy, but you could get a cutter, simpler look, I think much easier. Which is kind of the thinking behind Sandy is that she would not have bought a Dior dress. She would’ve had it made because there would’ve been a lot of makers. My mother made clothes, but she would go and buy a nice piece of fabric from say, Liberty’s, which was an expensive fabric shop. And so, that was my thinking about Sandy, for her to be able to get into the Café de Paris, now, here’s a girl with, I don’t know what income she’s got. I like to have a little bit of a backstory when I’m developing a character. She would have to have a dress that you’d believe that she could own. 

On top of that, obviously I had to design a dress that would inspire a whole fashion show [Laughs]. There had a couple of color elements in there that I was trying to match. I quite like thinking through those things, because I think that’s a good ground basis to start your design on and then go instinctively start looking at reference and then something often jumps out when you, and then you present that to your director. And then you’ve got a chance of kind of convincing him. That’s a really good idea.

You mentioned designing for a whole fashion show, but I also imagine the Halloween party was a tall order.

Oh yeah. Well actually I have to be honest. I have to put my hands up there. I didn’t do the Halloween party. My team considered me too old and they said you’ve never been to a Halloween party and they’d all been to Halloween parties. And that is true. We didn’t do Halloween parties in my 20s and 30s. So they said, go away, we’ll do it for you. And they had such fun and they did try to do some iconic Halloween costumes and try and get them the copyrights for them, which became quite complicated. Then they very cleverly contacted all the people through the crowd casting and said there was going to be a competition that Edgar would judge at the end. So that was an incentive.

I can’t remember who won, who it was. I think it was the guy with all the bones. He got all these bones and cleaned them and put them all over his costume. But they were really lovely. What’s so nice when you get a crowd who join in with the fun of making the film, they looked great. Didn’t it? I was so proud of them. I mean, if there was something there I hated, I would’ve said no.

How about making audiences believe the outfits, such as the pink dress, fashion students are making today in school?

I sort of hit it from three sides. Edgar liked the dress. That was the prototype for Sandy’s dress. It was came from a color that Twiggy wore in the period that I really liked. We went for the peach, which I think was a good choice. I chose a really expensive silk chiffon, which drove my maker mad. I kept saying, “Can we take a little bit more out? I’m just really worried that it doesn’t look as stretching as I’d like.” And [Anya Taylor-Joy] used the dress in that wonderful way on the dance floor. Nobody knew she was going to do that, which was lovely. And then, we went on and I said to my maker, “We’ve now got to design a fashion show.”

I showed it to a young fashion student and asked her to come up with something. Then we also had a fashion consultant who was helping recreate the classroom. They were accurate about how they would be taught, because Edgar, like me, loves details. I was thrilled when the art department suggested a fashion consultant who is a fashion designer herself. My maker and I worked together on it. I said what I wanted. My maker then said, “Look, I’d love to do the drawings for you. Let me do the drawings for you.” We then showed them to the fashion consult as if she was a student. So, we played a strange path to get there to the point we then presented it to Edgar.

Edgar came up with the idea of the three colors, which was nice, that were, the red to turquoise and the peach. And so, we tried to do it like we were students ourselves, because I was worried we would over-design it. At the end, we managed to contact the crowd supervisor, who’s doing the crowd. We got some names of real fashion students and asked them if they would donate their fashion collections, which were quite extra, all very different. We picked very different ones. So I couldn’t say to you there was a trend we thought, but in that last, you’ve got real clothes that belong to actual young fashion designers, just hoping to make their way into the world.