Style Sheet

Sharp Dresser

''Vanity Fair'' costumes have exotic flair -- The film's costume designer spices up the color scheme to reflect Reese Witherspoon's character's arc

They don't call it a rags-to-riches tale for nothing. Eschewing era-appropriate English drab, ''Vanity Fair'' costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor (''Wonder Boys'') and director Mira Nair amped up the opulent color in dressing Reese Witherspoon's 19th-century aristocrat wannabe Becky Sharp. ''There were a lot of white dresses and pastels in that period. Colors -- like oranges, turquoise, and intense purples -- were used for accenting,'' says Pasztor. ''We flipped it around.''

The result is a parade of gorgeous gowns in India-inspired hues that become richer as Becky's fortunes rise. ''It helped project Mira's vision and helped achieve a liveliness in the movie.''

And the luxe wasn't limited by history: One red duchesse satin ball gown was inspired by contemporary couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier. ''The great thing about this movie was it was so many creative people going 'Well, what if we interpreted it ourselves?''' says Witherspoon, whose costumes had to accommodate her real-life pregnancy. ''Beatrix took all these ideas about reinterpreting the clothes and reconstructing them -- that was one of my favorite parts of the whole film.'' Color her happy.

Originally posted Sep 03, 2004 Published in issue #781 Sep 03, 2004 Order article reprints