A Look at the Period Fashion – WWD

HBO’s new series “The Gilded Age” takes a deep dive into the New York City era of 1882 at a time of greater prosperity, industrial growth, and an internal confrontation in society as “new money” figures grew among the ” old money “fixtures.

The HBO show, which hails from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, focuses on a number of characters played by Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Louisa Jacobson, Carrie Coon, Morgan Spector and others. The show follows Marian, played by Jacobson (who is the daughter of Meryl Streep) who recently lost her father and moved from rural Pennsylvania to live with her “old money” aunts Ada (played by Nixon) and Agnes (played by da Baranski) in New York City.

Costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone was tasked with portraying this split between “new money” and “old money” characters through their period costumes. The costume designer and her team of around 65 costume designers thoroughly researched the Golden Age – and the time periods before and after – to understand the styles of 1882 and create around 5,000 costumes for the show’s first season.

“There was this strong Parisian influence on women’s fashion in New York and on stylists alike [Charles Frederick] Worth greatly influenced what was happening on the streets of New York, “Walicka-Maimone said.” So the ladies of ‘new money’ and royalty quickly brought those Parisian and European fashions to the streets of New York. “

Walicka-Maimone said that most of the fabrics were either from Rome, Paris or London or created in the show’s costume house. Few vintage materials were used – Walicka-Maimone used some vintage lace and period jewelry – as they were too flimsy to be molded into the skintight corseted dresses.

The distinction between “old money” and “new money” characters can be seen through the types of fabrics, colors and ornaments in the costumes. The character Bertha Russell (played by Coon) is the most important character on the “new money” show.

Carrie Coon in “The Golden Age”.
Courtesy of HBO / Alison Cohen Rosa

Russell is the wife of a railroad tycoon and recently moved her family to an “old money” neighborhood that doesn’t accept her. Her costumes contrast with those of her neighbors, with Russell favoring heavy ornamentation, striking headdresses, and bright colors.

“She is trying to be the grandmother of all grandmothers,” Walicka-Maimone said. “She’s not trying to break away from society, but she’s just trying to be a better version of the old society. I tried to create this subtle difference between her costumes and “old money”. The silhouette is the same – no one would dare to break the silhouette – but with Bertha, she goes more with the fashion of the moment ”.

Walicka-Maimone explained that, through historical research, his team saw that “new money” figures would often embrace the current fashion of European homes, while “old money” families would buy those same items, but they would hold them until a time when those trends and styles finally reached the United States. This reflected the desire of the “new money” figures to set trends and be bolder, while also reinforcing the practice of the “old money” figures. to stick to what is traditional.

Russell’s costumes were in stark contrast to the central “old money” characters of Agnes and Ada, who both stick to monochromatic jewel tones, with the former regularly wearing shades of purple and blue while the latter wearing gold, orange and gold. Red. Walicka-Maimone described the aunts’ dresses as “highly ornate fabrics that are at the same time extremely elegant, discreet and never too loud”, but also evoke a “richness of history in each element” such as embroidery or depth of color.

Decomposition of the costumes of

Christine Baranski in “The Golden Age”.
Courtesy of HBO / Alison Cohen Rosa

Although the show’s central character, Marian, comes from an “old money” family, her costumes don’t necessarily fit that style, nor “new money” style. Because Marian is new to town, her style reflects how she is absorbing the new people and experiences around her.

“She has a very nice sensibility of a girl who comes from a smaller city and then lands in New York among those giant powers of a world that is very well established with very classic values,” Walicka-Maimone explained. “And then she catches a glimpse of Bertha, who is across the street. [Marian] she is exposed to all this and at the same time absorbs it all and creates her own vocabulary ”.

Walicka-Maimone described the style of the characters as a mix of “old money” and “new money”, with Marian favoring pastel yellows and blues, lighter fabrics, lace and floral prints. Her style of hers also wants to reflect her newfound independence of hers and the way she is trying to carve a place between these two worlds.

For all characters, color plays a huge role in promoting each person’s story and narrative. Walicka-Maimone explained that there are some colors reserved for specific characters, such as jewel tones for the aunts and pastels for Marian, and that the shades were used strategically.

Decomposition of the costumes of

Louisa Jacobson in “The Golden Age”.
Courtesy of HBO / Alison Cohen Rosa

“We are all color coded for responses,” he explained. “We know that color contains a lot more information than what you would call color. It carries a wealth of information. I wouldn’t put Marian in a jewel tone. This is not her character. She is young and innocent and is a breath of fresh air that shows up in the house. Bertha, we treat those colors symbolically. Her husband is in charge of the railways, so that idea of ​​steel and things that shine, all of that is encoded in the character. “

Overall, Walicka-Maimone said the costumes serve as a representation of the world at the time and promote narrative and division between the characters.

“[The costumes] improve the storytelling, “he said.” This is always our job as a design team to represent the underlying story of each character. I think you only feel it by looking at people and recognizing each character. “


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