For David O. Russell’s flashy con drama American Hustle, costume designer Michael Wilkinson (Man of Steel, Tron: Legacy, Watchmen, 300) combed costume houses, vintage stores and fashion archives to find the slinkiest of ’70s gowns. Then he went looking for double-sided tape—the Vs were never more plunging than during Studio 54–era New York.
“They didn’t give such a damn as people do these days,” the Australian designer says. “We tend to hide in our clothes and hope we don’t call attention to ourselves. It was a period when women were encouraged to feel comfortable about their bodies.”
Wilkinson pulled archival pieces from Gucci, Bob Mackie and Halston. Amy Adams alone has more than 50 costume changes as her character evolves from shady small-town gal to “the most sophisticated and confident dresser in Manhattan.”
Labels should have scrambled to infiltrate that wardrobe, but even Wilkinson, whose current to-do list includes Ben Affleck’s Batsuit, gets closet doors slammed in his face. “Sometimes these actors are in situations in the script that aren’t super flattering, and production is very secretive,” he explains. “For a fashion label to approve the use of their clothes when they can’t read the script—that scares people away.” The only thing more frightening than a misbehaving David O. Russell heroine? Missing out on being part of the inevitable Oscar nomination awaiting Wilkinson.