Edgar Wright’s psychedelic fever dream of a horror movie, Last Night in Soho, has divided critics and audiences, but there’s one thing that everyone can agree on: The costumes are sensational, not to mention crucial to the narrative. The story follows Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring designer who moves from England’s Cornish countryside to the capital to attend the London College of Fashion. After being mocked by her roommate Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen) and her crew of snobby friends, she retreats to a studio near Soho owned by a mysterious elderly woman (Diana Rigg) and finds that every night when she falls asleep, she’s transported back to the 1960s—a period that has always fascinated her.
There she meets Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a vivacious singer who’s eager to move up in the world, and watches her as she dominates the dance floor at the Café de Paris, auditions at nightclubs, and falls for a Teddy boy (Matt Smith). Inspired by her visions, Eloise creates ’60s-inflected pieces at college, begins dressing like Sandie, and even dyes her hair. But, as Sandie’s tale takes a turn for the worse, Eloise’s does too. The costumes are swoon-worthy throughout, from the homemade newspaper dress Eloise wears at the start to Sandie’s floaty peach frock when we first meet her and the outfits worn by revelers at a raucous Halloween party.
They’re the work of British costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux, who is no stranger to meticulously-crafted period pieces, having previously won an Emmy for The Lost Prince and dressed Carey Mulligan in ’60s shifts for An Education and Saoirse Ronan in ’50s tea dresses for Brooklyn. Following Last Night in Soho’s release in theaters, she speaks to us about her favorite looks, working with designer Phoebe English to create a fictional student fashion show, and her ’60s muses, from Julie Christie and Jean Shrimpton to Brigitte Bardot.
Is it true that Edgar Wright gave you a list of films to watch before production began? Was that your starting point when it came to designing the costumes?
It’s brilliant when a director does that, because you really get to know what they want from their film. I watched [the 1965 Julie Christie film] Darling, [the 1960 cult classic] Beat Girl, all of these documentaries, and then films from the ’70s that I’d never seen before because I don’t really watch horror movies. I’m too frightened [laughs]. So, initially, I was asked to read the script, had an interview with Edgar—we discovered that we both lived in Soho and could walk to work—and started doing the research. Edgar really likes detail and he puts little clues [into his films]. I was looking for things that would reflect back onto each other.
There are so many memorable looks in the film, from the newspaper dress Thomasin McKenzie’s character Eloise wears to the peach-colored dress Anya Taylor-Joy’s character Sandie dances in. Can you talk us through them?
I had a maker who made all the bespoke costumes. We started off with the newspaper dress. It was all about the silhouette, and rather than going for something more dramatic, like a fishtail look, we went for something more open that allowed her to move. And the peach dress had to inspire [Eloise]. Most of the dresses from that period were just straight shifts, but I wanted something chiffon-y that moved beautifully. I also wondered where she’d have gotten a dress that’s so glamorous. She’s not a woman of means. Most people [at that time] made their own clothes with paper patterns, so I used those as references. Then there was a red dress which needed to be shorter to say that we were going from 1965 towards 1968. The pattern for it was a Nina Ricci pattern. We tried to make it look a bit more couture.
There are also two great white coats that Thomasin and Anya wear. How did those looks come about?
In Darling, Julie Christie wears a white mac and on my mood board, I also had Petula Clark singing “Downtown” in a black mac. [The production designer] Marcus [Rowland] was attracted to the idea of a white mac and I thought that was great. Black had been done, we didn’t want to do red because that’s Don’t Look Now and yellow is too joyful and not mysterious enough. In Darling, [Julie] also wears a black dress and I wanted [Anya] to have a sophisticated black lace dress, which is then reflected in the black lace dress that Thomasin wears later on. Then, I was using this vintage white mac as a sample to show what Anya would look like in a mac, and then we put it on Thomasin. Everyone said, “Oh, why doesn’t she buy a white mac?” They were both different styles and in different fabrics. That was a lovely accidental thing that came out of Edgar being so collaborative.
What else was on your mood board?
For the newspaper dress, I did go through Vogues to look for shapes from the late ’50s and pictures of Jean Shrimpton. We also got pieces out of costume houses in Paris and London, and bought a couple of things from the vintage shops in Covent Garden that we took inspiration from.
Speaking of Jean Shrimpton, this film stars some ’60s icons: the late Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, and Rita Tushingham. What was it like working with them?
Diana was hilarious. I thought that she was going to want to look really glamorous, but no, she just said, “I want something comfortable that I can put on in 10 minutes.” I think the only thing that was added was her lipstick. Terence was marvelous. You’ll be told many interesting stories as you’re dressing him. And Rita is incredibly charming. She’s very petite, so we had to alter a few things to scale them down.
What were some of the challenges that came up as you were working on the film?
Anya was busy doing Emma, so we were chasing her around the country to try and fit her [laughs]. And it was hard doing the fashion students. I had a buying team and one of them had just come out of college. She was great. She pretended I was her aunt and got me into [an art school] so that we could have a look at all the clothes. There were all of these gangs and some had a sort of high-street couture look. That’s what we went with for the Jocasta gang. Thomasin’s character is very different from that.
Her look evolves from the clothes she makes for herself to the vintage ’60s outfits she adopts after she first sees Sandie. Tell us about that shift.
After she sees the peach dress, I put her in this vintage ’90s shirt. As she transformed, I used Brigitte Bardot as my reference. She looked great with the white mac, lace blouse, and blonde hair. Her final costume was also hard to get right. We went through 20 options and ended up with the simplest one—a top I’d bought right at the beginning of the shoot. It was for the fashion show scene and that was quite tough. Our maker and I worked on it with our fashion consultant, Phoebe English. We were trying to think like an art student and create something they would’ve come up with. The danger was being too sophisticated, but it still had to be something that was great to film.
The other scene that must have required a lot of costumes is the Halloween party. Can you tell us about that?
My team made quite a lot of those costumes, but they couldn’t dress everybody because it was such a big scene. So, there was a competition set up [for the actors]—people were asked to send in pictures of what they thought they’d do and Edgar gave out a prize for the best costume. That was great fun but I can’t remember who won [laughs].
Up next, will we see your work in the Florence Pugh costume drama The Wonder?
I’ve just finished that. We shot in Ireland and the story is set in the 1860s. I found the hats in it really interesting. Plus, doing costumes for rural working-class characters is actually much harder than costuming rich people when you’re going back into the 19th century, because there are fewer references to be found. But, it was all very exciting.