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New decade, new style icon?

January 19, 2010


2010 is shaping up to be a stylish year already thanks to Robert Downey’s Jr’s movie personification of legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes. Take one cult actor with lashings of charisma, add in an Oscar winning costume designer (Jenny Beavan) and tap into the current trend for all things Victorian/steampunk.

Result? A new movie costume style icon.

What’s so appealing about Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes is that we get the impression that, although everything else he does is premeditated, his appearance is not. His Holmes is a pugilist who isn’t afraid to get his hands (or suit) dirty, a man who never brushes his hair. He is a man who spends three weeks in his rooms wrestling with all manner of weighty issues in an amazing house gown which looks like it’s seen much better days. He is not, in short, a man who has much time for clothes.

Instead, Holmes “borrows” clothes from his sidekick Watson (played beautifully by Jude Law), but throws them on any old how. And mixes these pieces up with his own items, which are more exotic in colour- think plums and purples- and fabric- silks and corduroys- than Watson’s conservative palette of cottons and tweeds.

The sartorial contrast between Holmes and his sidekick Watson is nicely marked. Where Holmes has the flamboyant Bohemian look of someone whose profession has no dress code, Watson, ex-military and professional man of medicine always looks smart, starched, and somewhat fastidious. Just compare the way the two men wear their shirts in the scene below:

In his very immaculateness Watson doesn’t look half as stylish to our 21st century eyes as Holmes. In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine Jenny Beavan remarked that she put Watson in “really nice suits an army man would have had made by his army tailor for when he returned to civilian life.”

And, of course, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the brooding fellow in the floor length leather coat must be the villain…

Some costumes and props from the movie are apparently now on display at the London Film Museum. More info is here.

Pictures are all copyright © Warner Bros. Pictures and are reproduced here for research purposes only.

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