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JULIE & JULIA

Clothing: A Tall Order
Creating the world of Julie & Julia meant in effect bringing to life two separate movies: one relatively contemporary, the other a period piece taking place fifty years ago. For the Julia Child segments, Academy Award®-winning costume designer Ann Roth -- who has worked many times with Meryl Streep on such films as Doubt, The Hours, and Mamma Mia! -- found herself re-creating an era with which she was very familiar, having lived through it herself.

 "The life of Julia Child was something I know a lot about,” she says, "and I know what people wore at that time. I knew what the girdle was, and the glove and the hat, and when you wore a hat and when you wore a glove, and how many sweaters you had and how many cashmere sweaters you didn't have. It's a life that I knew very well. I mean, I was in school in the ‘50s. So I felt pretty secure in that period.” Roth had previously called upon her memories and research for her Academy Award®-nominated costume designs for The Talented Mr. Ripley, which took place in the same period. 

Asked to describe Julia Child's style, she laughs. "I don't think she was hooked on fashion! I would describe it as captain of the hockey team,” says Roth. "She was a hardy girl who was six-foot-two. You don't walk into any store and find skirts and shirts that size. It must have been very, very difficult to dress her. I assume that she –her family, her mother--probably went to Bullock's Pasadena and had a lady there who sent her clothes to school for her, you know, as was done at that time.” 

The memory most people have of Julia Child's attire is from the way she dressed on her television show, that iconic three-quarter-sleeve cotton shirt and denim apron. However, those shirts are impossible to find now. Contemporary fabrics have Lycra in them so that they will fit closer to the body; in addition, the darts and the collar in such tops are designed differently. Roth had to have Julia's shirts specially made in order to faithfully re-create her TV look. 

For the scenes taking place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Julia would be garbed in proper "lady” clothes of the era— quality suits, hats, and, of course, embroidered monograms on blouses and pajamas. "She wore stockings with seams,” says Roth, "but she was also a girl who would play badminton in the garden in her shorts and bare legs.” Julia Child towered over most people in her presence. A primary challenge for Roth was creating and maintaining the illusion of great height for Meryl Steep. 

"You can't keep saying, ‘Well, we'll just hire four-foot or five-foot people and put her on an apple box.' So we made four or five pair of experimental shoes, and I thought they would be difficult to walk in, to act in. But it turned out that they worked quite well. All the fittings for Julia were done with that height, with that length of leg. We cheated on where the waistline was, we cheated all over the place, and we made a figure that was what I saw as Julia Child. And then, of course, her husband was this perfect smaller person. A very dapper one. His suits were made for him. As were his father's, as were his father's fathers and his uncles--he came from that kind of family. Not that he was rich; he was never rich, but he was spiffy.” 

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