High fashion be damned. When costume designer Karyn Wagner dressed Ryan Gosling's sensitive lumberyard worker Noah for the 1940s-set tearjerker ''The Notebook,'' she chose not to romanticize working-class duds a la Ralph Lauren. ''The Sears catalog is something that his character would have to save up for,'' says Wagner, who also designed the wardrobes for period flick The ''Majestic.'' ''He probably gets his clothes from the general store in town.''
Not so Noah's well-to-do love interest, Allie (Rachel McAdams), who sports just-right shorts sets and nip-waisted jewel-toned frocks that Wagner refers to as ''the armor of what social women wear.'' ''One of the things I wanted to set very distinctly was the class distinction between [Allie and Noah],'' says Wagner. ''She and her mother [played by Joan Allen] probably have their clothes custom-made in New York.'' Still, as Wagner discovered on a fact-finding trip to NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art, '40s fashion didn't always equal glam. ''Because of the war effort, nothing was flamboyant,'' she says. ''It was a very businesslike time.''
Even so, McAdams had fun playing dress-up. ''We would sit in the production office for hours, trying on the little hats and gloves and playing with veils,'' she recalls. ''All that stuff is just so sexy and classic.''