By Bill Desowitz
In making an ode to the Doris Day and Rock Hudson romantic comedies of the early ‘60s, the producers of the May release Down with Love didn’t have to look far to find the right costume designer. Daniel Orlandi, who is currently working on The Alamo, of all things, grew up adoring the genre and began his career assisting Designer Bob Mackie on his TV specials, on the film Pennies from Heaven and on Mackie’s couture collection. The Emmy-winner leapt at the chance to recreate the Doris and Rock vibe for stars Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger. “The costume design was done like a musical,” he says in the production notes. “Everything is color coordinated around the star.” He designed the film’s more than 100 costumes with inspiration from fashion designers Jean-Louis, Ray Aghayian, Oleg Cassini, Givenchy and Balenciaga. In fact, in keeping with the movies of the period, Orlandi made a color chart that followed Renee’s scenes so that no color was ever repeated.
Orlandi: The first thing I noticed as a kid were the costumes actors wore on screen. They didn’t really relate to what people wore on the street. They were in their own little fantasy world. People wore clothes because they looked good in them. And those Rock and Doris movies were designed through the scenery and the costumes, and that’s what we were hoping to do.
Below the Line: So how did you recapture the vibe of these films?
Orlandi: I knew all those movies by heart and I went through every fashion magazine from ’62 to ’64. And then I sat down and pretended I was designing a movie from ’63. I wanted everything to look fresh and clean. There are scenes where David Hyde Pierce’s red vest matches the red on the wall. When Renee walks into her first apartment the pink on her suit matches the pink on her couch. It was like an homage to the fashion designers of the period who made all those fantastic clothes. Like a real movie suit, we embroidered the plaid on the suit rather than use a plaid fabric so it matches all the way around. You couldn’t do that in a real dress because you can’t alter it. There were so many things that we wanted to capture about the look and feel of those movies.
BTL: What are your favorites?
Orlandi: Well, Lover Come Back is really the funniest, even though Pillow Talk was the first. I think Lover is really the height of the Doris and Rock movies. They all have those really suggestive titles–Lover Come Back, Move Over Darling. But there’s no sex in any of them.
BTL: What were some of the idiosyncrasies of designing the various costumes for the actors?
Orlandi: They all commented that there’s such a difference having clothes made for you rather than having them altered to fit you. The proportions are all right and it’s really satisfying and you’re helping them be their character. When Ewan put on the clothes for the first time he said, ‘I feel like Cary Grant.’
BTL: Ewan and Renee aren’t really glamorous in the way that Doris and Rock were—and they weren’t in the same league as Cary and Audrey. But they are still very appealing.
Orlandi: Oh, absolutely. And Doris made movies with Cary Grant and James Garner. The thing about Doris is she was the number-one box office star when she made those movies. I’m a big Doris Day fan and I like all the imitation Doris movies they made with Elke Sommer and even Audrey Hepburn. Renee isn’t really like Doris Day. She’s more like Audrey Hepburn. They’re all fun to watch.