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Look of the Week: Kirsten Dunst's '70s Fargo chic
Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
The fourth season of Fargo was originally slated to debut mid-April, but has subsequently been postponed after production was shut down due to COVID-19. Showrunner Noah Hawley is taking the action back to the 1950s with a cast including Chris Rock, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Whishaw, and Jessie Buckley. Zig-zagging across the decades, the second installment of the anthology series — which is loosely based on the Coen brothers' Oscar-winning movie — currently holds the title as the most stylish, with Kirsten Dunst starring amid an impressive ensemble cast.
A longstanding genre queen, Dunst has wowed audiences with her acting and sartorial prowess since the mid-'90s. Tight ringlets and gowns made from velvet and silk helped her to stand out as she starred opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With a Vampire. Since then, she's made a mark as Mary Jane in the Sam Rami Spider-Man trilogy and worn the quintessential blazer/jeans/casual top mid-'00s combo, as well as performed a memorable underwear dance with Mark Ruffalo in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
More recently, she stunned in Melancholia — in both her performance and the ethereal wedding gown she wears before the end of the world — and tapped into mom chic for Midnight Special. However, Fargo was another career pinnacle, embracing the late ‘70s in a series of costumes that would sell like gangbusters in 2020. To celebrate Dunst's recent birthday (April 30), we are taking a deep dive into this fantastic retro closet.
The second season takes place in 1979, where Peggy Blumquist (Dunst) becomes embroiled in an organized crime syndicate feud after she accidentally hits Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin) with her car. She didn't mean to hit him, but she also drives home with his still-alive body stuck in her windshield. After committing a triple murder at a local diner, Rye was briefly distracted as he fled the scene by lights from what appeared to be a UFO. Even if you think aliens are nearby, standing in the middle of the road is never a good idea, which is how Peggy and her husband, Ed (Jesse Plemons), end up caught up in this cycle of violence.
Peggy often dreams of a far more exciting life, but she wasn’t exactly envisioning covering up vehicular manslaughter — although, technically, Rye dies after Ed stabs him. The stacks of fashion and home improvement magazines littering her home point to aspirations that exist outside of her marriage and the small town of Luverne, Minnesota. Given that she works as a beautician, Peggy prides herself on knowing the current trends, which is reflected in her fashion-forward outfits.
Costume designer Carol Case's mix of stylish custom-builds (to factor in stunts and fake blood) and vintage pieces highlights why this period is still drawing inspiration on the runway and in fast-fashion. These garments are accurate to the era and the clothes that would've been on offer to someone like Peggy, but the patterns and silhouettes have an enduring quality.
Peggy can’t shop at New York City department stores or purchase something at the click of a button, but the periodicals she collects aren’t just for flipping through. As Case explained in an interview with InStyle, “She orders pieces from catalogs and then alters them to be more stylish. You’ll see that she even keeps a sewing machine in the living room of her house.”
Two signature items she wears throughout the season showcase that keeping warm while looking cool is possible on a budget. The blue and red patterned coat with the white fur cuffs and lapels paired with a red beret (and red leather gloves) is aspirational outerwear. A cold Minnesota winter is far removed from the sunny Los Angeles world she fantasizes about, but she is serving a movie-star-leaning aesthetic with her choice of accessory.
Berets have different connotations depending on the scenario, but this headwear was adopted by glamorous actresses including Brigitte Bardot, Charlotte Rampling, and Mia Farrow during this period. Faye Dunaway put her stamp on the beret when she played Bonnie Parker in the seminal 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde. It makes sense for Peggy to wear a felt hat associated with Parisian chic that also doubles as an accessory worn by those who get involved with criminal acts (see also the famous 1974 image of socialite Patty Hearst).
Peggy and Ed are no Bonnie and Clyde; however, wearing this beret after the crime shows Peggy's commitment to a glam image. After she got home with Rye in her windshield, we see her blotting out some blood on her blouse like it's a ketchup stain, as if she can't process the severity of what she has done. Playing dress-up the following day in a pussy-bow blouse paired with a vest, matching culottes, oversized shades, and knee-high brown boots is a fashion flex that shows Peggy is terrible at crime but has an excellent eye for putting an outfit together. Pulling together a movie-star-ready look complete with a raspberry beret while her home life is in chaos underscores why this character should not be underestimated.
Later in the season, Peggy can snap out of her dream world to survive. Unlike everyone else who gets dazzled by the UFO lights, Peggy takes this moment in stride: "It's just a flying saucer, Ed. We gotta go." Survival is what matters, not the fantastical object they are witnessing hovering above. In the same way that her stacks of fashion magazines aided her escape when her home was invaded (by flesh-and-blood humans, not little green men), her lofty aspirations haven't completely clouded her judgment or diminished her fashion sense.