Once again, director David O. Russell has assembled a murderer’s row of talent for his latest feature, this week’s opener “American Hustle,” but despite rounding out his vaguely historically accurate film with talents like Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner, there’s one star that steals the show in every scene they appear in. Which just happens to be all of them, because if nothing else, “American Hustle” has the best damn costumes of any film this year.
Set in the seventies, “American Hustle” always looks and feels the part – even if that part requires itchy macramé, eye-popping décolletage reveals, some really terrifying hair-don’ts, and more leather than you’re likely to find at your local dairy. Michael Wilkinson’s costume design is something to behold (it’s hard to call it all actually “beautiful,” considering some of the male fashions on display here), and it’s certainly a high point for a man whose career has really run the gamut over the years (Wilkinson has designed the costumes for a dizzying array of features, including “Garden State,” “Sky High,” “Babel,” “Watchmen,” “Jonah Hex,” “Friends With Money,” “Man of Steel,” and the upcoming “Noah”). But what’s the best costume in the bunch? As with the film itself, this one is all about Amy Adams.
1. Sydney’s Gunmetal Evening Gown
As ever-evolving con artist Sydney Prosser, Adams’ look is all about transition, evolution, and plain old wow factor. As Wilkinson told EW last month, “She’s a woman from a small town who moves to New York to reinvent herself and she becomes the most sophisticated, confident dresser in Manhattan over the course of the film…She’s playing a small time hustler who gets more sophisticated with her hustle. It involves accents and costume changes and lots of flirtation and using her amazing physical appeal to get the situation where she wants it.”
Adams stuns throughout the film (she looks so good in the film, in fact, that even when she eventually pops up hungover, sans makeup, kitted out with giant rollers, and openly sobbing, she still looks so incredible that you can’t help but make a mental note – get that robe she’s wearing), but there’s nothing quite like her vintage inspired gunmetal evening gown that she steps out in around the movie’s middle mark. As Wilkinson told EW, "As soon as she came onto the set, the conversation stopped."
2. Rosalyn’s Pearl-Colored Halter-Heavy Evening Gown
As Rosalyn Rosenfeld, Jennifer Lawrence gleefully whizzes around “American Hustle,” literally lighting things on fire and mouthing off to whoever will listen. She’s also the principal romantic rival to Sydney, who falls in love with Rosalyn’s husband Irving (Bale) as the film stars to unfold. The same night that Syd steps out in her showstopper, Rosalyn also arrives in her very own jawdropper, complete with diamante trim. Wilkinson knew what he needed for the party scene in which Sydney and Rosalyn finally come face to face, which was something “dangerous” for Lawrence, as he told the New York Post earlier this month.
He got dangerous with this little number – though it’s Lawrence’s towering tresses that look most liable to collapse. Admittedly, her hair goes sky high throughout the film, proving that few things are more seventies than just like entire cans of hairspray.
3. Irving’s Midnight Blue Velvet Tuxedo
The seventies were not particularly kind to the gentlemen, and Bale’s Irving is often the butt of some serious digs about his usually horrible sartorial choices, so it’s surprising that he shows up at the World’s Most Well-Dressed Party looking, well, well-dressed. Yes, he’s wearing a midnight blue tuxedo, but he’s also just wearing the hell out of that midnight blue tuxedo. Compared to Jeremy Renner’s get-up, Irv is the male fashion plate of the entire evening.
4. Richie’s Muted Evening Suit
But, hey, Bradley Cooper isn’t looking so bad himself – instead of turning up at the Big Party wearing over-the-top velvet, he goes for neutrals. Sure, those neutrals also involve a vest, a ton of chest hair, and a gold medallion nestled among his torso tresses, but it’s easily the best look he sports in the entire film. It almost makes us forget about his hair. Almost.
5. Sydney’s Flying Get-Up
While Adams spends the vast majority of the film wearing gravity-defying deep cuts (basically, we can’t even imagine how much fashion tape was necessary to keep her teeny shirts covering up her goods), one of her most impressive looks keeps things covered up. As Sydney, Irving, and Richie wait for their required red herring to land at a private airport – no, it’s not a real sheik from the Middle East, it’s Michael Pena! - the love triangle begins to steadily unspool. And who could possibly blame Bale and Cooper for wanting to duke it over Syd, who wears that hat better than most people have worn anything in their lives?
6. Sydney and Richie’s Disco Inferno
When referring to Cooper’s unhinged FBI agent Richie DiMaso, Wilkinson told EW: "John Travolta would have been this guy's hero.” While that might not be necessarily clear in the early parts of the film, when Richie and Syd hit the town for a night of disco dancing and bathroom stall loving, the influence is unquestionable. Half pilot, half “Saturday Night Fever,” Cooper looks swank – paired with Adams, this is basically the one “American Hustle” outfit you need to remember for next year’s Halloween festivities.
7. Sydney and Irving Dance in the Streets, Need Outfits to Do It
A large section of the film’s first act centers on the sparkling love affair between Sydney and Irving – a pair of cons who con each other, love being the greatest trick of all, or similar – before reality knocks them back on their butts (here’s a hint: Remember Lawrence’s role? As Irv’s wife? Yeah. That.). There’s a whimsy to their romance that, for the most part, finely toes the line between fantasy and reality – at least until the pair start dancing around Park Ave., like they’ve just stepped out of the pages of check-out aisle throwaway romance novel or the cells of a Baz Luhrmann musical.
8. Rosalyn’s “Science Oven” Cooking Sweatsuit
Fine, you light your house on half on fire with some ill-advised aluminum foil and try to look half as good as Lawrence does here. She’s wearing a velour sweatsuit the color of pea soup, and somehow, she’s still the most glamorous thing in that damn kitchen (sorry, highly advanced microwave).
9. Sydney’s Bathing Suit
No woman in her right mind would want to go for a dip in a macramé swimsuit – can you imagine how it would tighten as it dries? – but they were all the rage in the seventies, so of course Adams had to don one for an important pool party-set scene (one that, of course, takes place in January, because isn’t decadence the best?).
Costume designer Michael Wilkinson told EW back in November about the process behind finding just the right vintage suit. Turns out, they couldn’t go actually go vintage for the one-piece (“We found these amazing macramé one-piece bathing suits from the period…but because they’re now 35 years old, they were discolored, they were stretched out”), they had to opt for a fresh take.
As Wilkinson shares, it was just a bit of luck: “We were lucky enough to find an Australian swimsuit manufacturer who was doing these reproductions of vintage styles. One of them was almost exactly a match for this reference suit we had, so we were just visited by the costume gods for that one.”
10. Rosalyn's Casual Dinner Outfit
"Jennifer's so relaxed with her body. That girl can wear clothes," Wilkinson says, and that’s exactly what Lawrence did when it came time to don no less than leopard. Just how relaxed is she? Lawrence spends the dinner scene – a business dinner, no less – imploring her husband and their guests to smell her fingernail polish (she’s obsessed with its half-sweet, half-rotting scent), getting lit on liquor, and promptly falling on her ass. Elegance in its highest form.
11. Sydney’s Important Meeting Outfit
Few people will ever have the occasion to wear a glorified leather onesie (with skirt!) to a highly important business meeting, but then again, few people will ever have the occasion to travel back in time to the seventies for such a meeting. Perhaps the most purely period piece of the film, and one that epitomizes Adams’ look in the film – plunging, bold, sticky – Sydney sports this outfit during arguably the most important meeting in the entire film. How anyone got any business done during said meeting, we still don’t know.
12. Sydney’s Other Important Meeting Outfit
Sydney doesn’t just get down to it in leather duds, she also employs a coterie of wrap dresses when it’s time to make the (metaphorical, inedible) donuts. It may be the most wearable outfit Adams sports in the entire film – non-movie stars might want to toss a camisole under that thing, however – but it’s still glamorous and bold. And that color. That color!