Reese Witherspoon‘s This Means War finally opens today (after a delay or two). Witherspoon, our smoking February covergirl, stars as Lauren, an L.A. businesswomen hotly pursued by two dashing men (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy).
The film marks the sixth time that the adorable London-born costume designer Sophie de Rakoff has collaborated with Witherspoon. De Rakoff, who used to be a fashion features writer, started costume designing when she moved from New York to L.A. and couldn’t find a staff position at a magazine. She began assisting a stylist, which eventually led to the opportunity to design music videos and a low budget film. From there, the two-time Costume Designers Guild nominee for Excellence in Contemporary Film, started working with some of Hollywood’s most loved stars including Drew Barrymoore, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston. In honor of her latest gig, we took a minute to chat with de Rakoff about her career, her style, and the joys of dressing Reese.
ELLE: How did your relationship with Reese begin?
SdR: It began on Legally Blonde. We pretty quickly figured out that we both had an abiding love for Dolly Parton and immediately bonded. It was that simple. We just liked each other, and geeked out on Dolly.
ELLE: Where did that now iconic pink suit come from?
SdR: It was all organic and intuitive, I designed costumes for Elle Woods that moved the story forward and fitted the moment. Reese and I actually went to visit a sorority house in the early prep, and it was just obvious that pink should be her signature color.
ELLE: Reese’s character in This Means War couldn’t be more different, how did you start on this film? And where did you shop?
SdR: I guess the most distinct difference between Lauren and the other characters is the issue of sexuality. Lauren had to be sexy enough to send two best friends into a feuding tailspin. The navy Leger dress with the navy Row jacket and the Stella McCartney bag [is my favorite]. When Reese stomped across the street with the big hair and the tiny dress she just looked just like an 80’s supermodel, and I loved it!! I shopped all over LA for this movie. I ran the gamut from all the big Beverly Hills names to little vintage stores in Silver Lake. The only place that I truly feel is one stop shopping is the Barneys in New York City. I know that’s a boring thing to say, but it’s true.
ELLE: Her office is so bright in the movie, how was working against that?
SdR: I love that set, I love the bright, modern pop of all the colors and the clean graphics. I intentionally went with soft, muted monochromatic colors for most of Laurens work pieces so that she would be the calm in the eye of the storm. I had done a lot of pre-visualization for the characters before I even went to interview with (director) McG for the job. I spent a good chunk of time preparing for the meeting, researching, reading, tearing and scanning, putting together what I considered iconic looks for the characters and defining them through silhouettes and palette. I went fashion all the way. I boarded out the looks for the main characters from the work of fashion photographers, something I had not done in depth before.
ELLE: Is it easier costume designing for men or women?
SdR: It’s simply about personality, some people are easy going and trusting and some are not. I have worked with lovely, collaborative actors of both genders and I have also worked with maniacs of both sexes, too.
ELLE: Style is so influential in film. it visually sets the mood and character. As a costume designer, what film has the most inspirational costume design?
SdR: I saw Klute when I was a young kid. I was never able to get the character of Bree Daniels out of my mind and it was because of Anne Roth’s costumes. Klute will always be the seminal moment in costume design for me. I consider it perfect.