Daily Herald Suburban Chicago
October 8, 1996
The movie: â€œThe First Wives Clubâ€ The setup : Brenda (Bette Midler), Elise (Goldie Hawn) and Annie (Diane Keaton) â€” three Manhattan former college pals all dumped by their husbands â€” declare war against their exes.
The costume designer: Theoni V. Aldredge, who won an Academy Award for â€œThe Great Gatsby,â€ and whose other film credits include ‘Rich and Famous,â€ â€œThe Roseâ€ and â€œNetwork.â€ On Broadway, her work includes â€œA Chorus Lineâ€ and â€œ Dream girlsâ€ ; she won Tony Awards for â€œLa Cage aux Folles,â€ â€œBarnumâ€ and â€œAnnie.â€
The challenge: Dressing three big stars, each with her own distinct fashion identity. The solution? To a large extent, it meant respecting their looks as well as their sense of what is flattering. â€œIt happens that their taste is very close to the characters, so it was no problem,â€ Aldredge said. â€œWe were all lucky with that. Thank God whatever they asked for was not out of line.
â€œBut when the chips are down, and you say that their character would require something against their personal taste, they went for it.â€ For example, Keaton prefers her skirts knee-length, but Annie needed a bit more oomph, so Aldredge wanted to hike them up to
just above the knee. Keaton objected until Aldredge pinned a hem and shot a Polaroid as evidence. Then Keaton agreed.
Itâ€™s no wonder that all three actresses fell in love with their wardrobes.
After filming wrapped, Aldredge said she â€œmarched myself to the producers and said, You want to deal with these ladies?â€™ I think Diane took most of the stuff.â€
The looks: Hawnâ€™s Elise, playing an aging, sexy movie star, wears youthful clothes on a still-fabulous body. Think leather mini skirts, leather slacks, cropped blazers (much of them made for her) and leggings and bodysuits (Reebok).
Aldredgeâ€™s take â€” â€œGoldie loves sexy clothes … She has a great body. Sheâ€™s tall, lanky. She works out. She literally doesnâ€™t object to anything because she knows she can carry it.â€ Since Hawn doesnâ€™t like to â€œcut up her body,â€ preferring one continuous line, she leans toward short ja c k e ts and slim trousers, and sweaters that are either tunic length or cropped (as in a Barneys label black and white stripe).
Keatonâ€™s Annie, a wealthy housewife, is, well, an uptown version of that other Annie she once played: Annie Hall. â€œ Since â€˜Annie Hallâ€™ (Keaton) developed a look and it suited her and she kind of hung onto it. Sheâ€™s very angular She has very good bones,â€ Aldredge said of Keaton â€™s affinity for tailored clothes. â€œI said, however, we were going to make it softer, and she did not object.â€
Most of her clothes, including leath er blazers and cashmere cardigans, were by Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani. (Besides his knack for making glamorous dresses for the Academy Awards, thereâ€™s another reason why Armani is favored in Hollywood. â€œ Armani understands proportion. You put an Armani suit on any actress and it just fits,â€ Aldredge said of her choice for many of Keaton’s jackets and coats, including an of-the moment long, bathrobe-style camel overcoat.)
Midler, transforming from a dumpy matron to a saucier type, finds her look in variations of fitted suits with tulip shaped skirts in a range of colors from brown to red.
(Personally, Midler prefers strong colors.) As for shape, â€œBette is a bit more particular because she is smaller and full-bosomed. She knows her body.â€ Indeed. The flared skirts, Aldredge explained, balance out the bust line. Most of her Midlerâ€™s suits were purchased at Barneys, Saks and other New York department stores and then restyled.
Quoted: â€œ In a contemporary movie, the body pretty much dictates what you wear,â€ the designer said of creating a movieâ€™s wardrobe,Â adding later: â€œObviously, you want to make them (the stars) happy â€” they shouldnâ€™t worry about the shoe or the skirt or the jacket. And you play mother a lot.â€