Director John Crowley‘s Brooklyn explores the life of a young Irish woman, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) in 1950s Ireland and New York. Odile Dicks-Mireaux, known for The Constant Gardener (2005), An Education (2009) and One Day (2011), joined the team to help create both worlds. She was excited when she received the call to meet with Crowley because she especially liked the script and the period it was set in. “I felt very comfortable with it. And I think you can do your best work when you feel really comfortable with the script that you’re attracted to and you can start to visualize it,” said Dicks-Mireaux.
The research process was great fun and diving into the period had its many pleasures, such as looking at photography and watching films from the time before collecting all the clothes to make all the different wardrobes. “I’ve always liked Hollywood’s period of movies from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” the costume designer said. She found the period fascinating especially postwar when there was so much change. “It was just a big thing in Europe, the Second World War, how it affected different people’s lives and the decisions they made. And I think Eilis’ life was affected by it. There was no work so people had to make much bigger and bolder decisions to leave their homes and families to be able to move forward.”
There was also much fun to be had when it came time to dress all the characters, especially the women, because there were so many of them to work out, with Eilis and the women in the boarding house. “You put the same kind of effort into all the characters,” Dicks-Mireaux said. She was inspired by the old Hollywood films she had seen for many of the characters and it was really enjoyable for her to realize the characters through those films.
The lovely color palette happened as a result of instinct. It was a happy accident as Dicks-Mireaux didn’t set out to create a deliberate color palette. “I knew there would be more color in America, just generally and there were certain colors in the clothes and fabrics that weren’t around in Europe, for instance the wedding suit, that apricot suit when she gets married. You wouldn’t have been able to buy that in Europe at the time. So it was fun to use things that you wouldn’t be able to if you were doing just a British movie,” she explained.
The conversation about what Eilis would wear when she moved to America was one Dicks-Mireaux had early on with the director. She knew the character would change in America and eventually want to wear what Americans wore. It was a creative and interesting process to contrast the two worlds through Eilis’ journey there. “The challenge was to get her from one world into the other world and so by the end she was completely different. That was fun to do,” the costume designer said.