Costume designer Mark Bridges has been working with director Paul Thomas Anderson for over 20 years and has done the costumes for all of his feature films so he was the natural choice for Inherent Vice, their seventh collaboration. Bridges is nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film and has previously won an Academy Award in 2012 for his costume design on The Artist (2011).
“It was really fun,” said Bridges. “I mean when you have a Pynchon story to go off, it’s going to be interesting and rich. You can go a lot of different ways because he hints at things, but then you have to finish the sentence…and I’m a little bit of a detective at heart so I love putting all the clues together to come to some kind of Sherlock Holmes conclusion that ends up being the costume or at least the direction we go in.”
The research Bridges did for this film is as diverse as it gets. There were television influences like Mod Squad, Dragnet and Laugh In. Hippies at concerts, conservatives at conservative rallies also served as inspiration, along with the musician community at Laurel Canyon at the time and Neil Young. “I just got tons of pictures – a lot of them are just an emotional feeling. It’s not like ‘oh look at those shoes,’ but that comes in peripherally and I love looking at how pants were worn and the width of the belts and how short the women’s skirts were,” Bridges explained.
Half a dozen costume houses in Los Angeles opened their doors to Bridges and he looked at the period clothing and pulled pieces from their racks. Besides the costume houses, he also found clothing from vintage clothing malls and from dealers from across the country. Particular pieces were also designed by him when it wasn’t available or when he was to be more specific. Overall though he used as much original clothing from the period as possible.
The choice to use more original clothing also lent a distinct flavor to the color palette. There were many strange colors that are in the film that are unique to the time. “Reading Pynchon is a little bit of a psychedelic trip and I thought this is a place where I can really play with colors. I was happy with how there are colors that you don’t see now so it makes it very specific to the period, and also how they worked in composition to the sets and of course the lovely photography,” Bridges noted.
As well as the shoot went, there were still the usual challenges – the logistics of things, dressing people in summer clothing when it was cold out. When it came to creative challenges, one was the interesting variety Bridges wanted to create in Doc’s (Joaquin Phoenix) costumes. “You make him a closet, but then there’s another costume and there’s another costume and you want to say something,” he said. There’s a particular scene that Bridges recall where the character should have been in a suit and tie but instead he was wearing a turtleneck and Indian necklace instead. These moments are ones that will very well make cinematic history when it comes to costume design.