From the opening scene of Inherent Vice, you know you are in 1970. It's not just because the opening title card states that the film set at the turn of the decade, a time when the colourful hippie culture began to come to an end. It's also because there are a number of visual identifiers that place us unmistakably in this era. There is the old-school soundtrack, there is the grainy film stock, and there is, of course, the fashion.
There are few aspects of the trippy detective comedy that immerse us in this era quite as effectively as its costumes. They are so successful, in fact, that its designer Mark Bridges - who has worked on a number of 1970s set films from Johnny Depp's Blow to Boogie Nights (also made by Inherent Vice's director Paul Thomas Anderson) - scored an Oscar nomination for his work.
Released not long after renowned brands like Gucci and Prada all went for a '70s feel with their Fall collections, Inherent Vice's costuming is bound to catch the eyes of everyone with a passion for fashion. As its lead character Doc, a marijuana smoking private eye played by Joaquin Phoenix, makes his way through a reefer smog of 1970s California in an attempt to find his missing ex-girlfriend we get an amazing glimpse at this period. The film perfectly captures why the unique look of this era is one that movies return to again and again whether it's in the form of a thriller like Argo, a comedy like Anchorman, or a musical like The Sapphires. It is sexy, colourful and carefree.
There is something that makes Inherent Vice's fashion standout from other contemporary films aiming to recreate the '70s look though. Unlike the glamorous costumes that were carefully designed and tailored for the aforementioned productions, Inherent Vice's clothing appears to be very much 'lived in'. The army jackets and denim shirts worn by the movie's hero Doc were extensively washed to appear as if they are second hand and aged. Designer Mark Bridges wanted it to look as if Doc might have picked them up from a cheap surplus store or had them handed down from a buddy - just like a true hippie of the era. Joaquin Phoenix is also said to have worn some of the items away from the set to make sure they truly appeared used.
Doc's fashion is not the only one worth mentioning in this psychedelic mystery romp though. Its cast of supporting characters that orbit Doc are all given a distinctive look in keeping with not only the era but their personality too. There is the dazzling purple suit with gold buttons suitably sported by Martin Short's eccentric dentist Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (pictured above). There is the stiff grey suit worn by Reece Witherspoon's uptight District Attorney Penny. And then there is the incredible, low-cut bathing suit worn by Sloan, the seductive wife of a missing businessman (pictured below). Each is perfectly suited to their character.
While some of the costumes were rented or adapted from modern clothing in Inherent Vice, all of the aforementioned were hand-made by Mark Bridges and his team. They were inspired by fashion designers like the controversial Rudi Gerneich, whose work was popularised in the 1960s but continued into the 1970s, as well as movies like The Baby Maker and Alex In Wonderland.
You can check out the incredible fashion of Paul Thomas Anderson's film Inherent Vice - starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reece Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson and newcomer Katherine Waterston - from today. It is out in cinemas now.
Photo source: Warner Bros.