COSTUME CORNER: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers, a girl worth fighting for, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Style is an essential element in the creation of an icon—even an indie-slacker hero like Scott Pilgrim, the star of Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s graphic novels, and of the sure-to-be cult classic film. Pilgrim’s T-shirts and parkas are as integral to his world (and appeal) as his befuddled expressions and love for Ramona Flowers, whose seven “evil exes” he must defeat in order to win her heart.

To get the behind-the-scenes scoop on dressing the film, The Style Notebook talked to the film’s costume designer, Laura Jean Shannon, who has also created looks for films as varied as Requiem for a Dream, Elf and Iron Man.

For Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, did you immediately visualize how you wanted the main characters’ costumes to look?

“We were very true to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s vision. Basically what I did as a designer was take his simplified version of real life from the books and re-interpret it to be real again.”

What was your biggest challenge?

“Striking a balance between the books and the film to make sure we gave the fans what they wanted, while also determining how to feel OK going out on my own with ideas. The best compliment I received came from Bryan: I made up a costume for Ramona Flowers, for the climactic scenes, right from my head, since none of those scenes were represented yet in the books. Bryan told me he liked it so much he planned to draw her looking the same way in the book!”

Who did you have the most fun dressing?

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THE SURVEY: What’s your favourite summer song, ever?

The Style Notebook asked stylish people around the city which song immediately reminds them of summer. Check back for new answers all week.

“‘The Boys of Summer‘ by Don Henley. Maybe it’s because Justin Bieber will not go away, but I’m more into ’80s music lately than anything on the radio. (My not-so-secret obsession: Sky.fm’s ’80s station.) This song makes you a little nostalgic—it reminds me of summer romances gone by! But on a fashion note, I’m liking the Ray-Ban Wayfarers namecheck, especially since I just acquired a pair this year. And the ‘hair slicked back’—very on trend this season!”

—Michelle Villett, founder, BeautyEditor.ca

Yesterday: Samantha Margolis, of The Mint Agency, on her top song

THE SURVEY: What’s your favourite summer song, ever?

The Style Notebook asked stylish people around the city which song immediately reminds them of summer. Check back for new answers all week.

“Without a doubt, Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. Hearing it takes me right back to my cottage, and my dad singing to me as a little (and obviously brown-eyed) girl. I’ve actually carried on my father’s tradition, belting out the lyrics to anyone that comes to my cottage for a weekend getaway. As a guest, they’re forced to grin and bear it!”

—Samantha Margolis, The Mint Agency, which represents clients like Porsche, Hudson and Brassaii

THE SPIRIT OF STYLE: The Big Sleep

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), the Howard Hawks-directed film based on Raymond Chandler’s novel.

“The purring voice was now as false as an usherette’s eyelashes and as slippery as a watermelon seed.”

Raymond Chandler isn’t known as a stylish writer in the fashion-savvy sense. His renown comes from his mastery of perfect similes like the one above, and for gifting the world Philip Marlowe, the private detective whose job description is usually preceded by the adjective “hard-boiled.” Chandler’s rep is that he writes about dames and gangsters, cops and criminals—he’s more visceral than visual.

But after reading The Big Sleep (1939)—my first on-the-page Chandler experience—I found him to be one of the most visual writers that I’ve ever read. He doesn’t drop designer names when describing a dress, but he can make you see it. His descriptions—of dresses, faces, streets—are alive to the impact of precise language, and are just as rooted in style as more traditionally glamorous writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh.

These are his and hers descriptions, heavy on the fashion content.

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THE SPIRIT OF STYLE: Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Sayre in 1919, the year before her marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Over the five weeks of the Fall 2010 collections—in New York, London, Milan, Paris, and, in Canada, in Montreal and Toronto—the attention of fashion editors and writers was necessarily focused on the concrete. What was the new silhouette, the top hue, the hemline? Are vertiginous heels coming down to earth? Who’s the new face?

But now that the sparkle has dimmed, it’s interesting to think about the more abstract elements of style—less about the individual pieces in an outfit, and more about the individuals whose approach to life is itself a lesson in style.

I started thinking about this last week, while reading Zelda, the 1970 biography of Zelda Fitzgerald by Nancy Milford. It’s a beautifully written account of a brilliant, complicated woman who became known as “the first flapper,” and served as inspiration for some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most enduring characters, including The Great Gatsby’s Daisy (with her “low, thrilling voice”) and Nicole Diver, the tragic heroine of Tender is the Night.

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