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!
Villains don't just share a love for devilish plans; they are also often the best-dressed characters on screen. Yes, they are terrible people with nefarious motives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t praise their style prowess. Taking fashion to new heights is Glenn Close as legendary Disney antagonist Cruella de Vil, bringing the animated character to life in the 1996 version of this classic tale. Before Emma Stone makes her sartorial mark in the forthcoming prequel, it is time to look back at the original live-action adaptation and all of Cruella's divine costumes. We can't think of a better way to celebrate Glenn Close’s birthday (March 19) during these self-isolating times.
OK, first of all, we definitely don’t condone or support Cruella's OTP (herself + fur), or her attempts to make the coat of her dreams. However, we have to assume that everything we see on screen is the best synthetic materials have to offer. The costumes as designed by three-time Oscar winner Anthony Powell (co-designed with Rosemary Burrows) take Cruella's love of all things animal print to the extreme, delivering jaw-dropping results. Somehow each ensemble is more audacious than the one that came before it. So while we are meant to be cheering on Roger (Jeff Daniels) and Anita (Joely Richardson), it is impossible not to gleefully clap every time Cruella appears decked from head to toe in luxurious fabrics. Her collection of coats are also begging to be climbed in so we can recreate that scene from Hustlers.
Cruella’s introduction is a slow reveal, starting from the ground up as she enters the House of De Vil — there is nothing subtle about her brand. Specializing in fur, the collection in the works at the start of the movie was going to focus on stripes, but after seeing her designer Anita’s sketches and Dalmatian inspiration, Miss de Vil has a change of heart. It is going to cost the company millions, but they can afford this trend deviation (1996 was a very different time).
Sure, they did leopard spots in the '80s, but this is the mid-'90s and it is time for a new trend to set the world alight. "I look wonderful in spots," Cruella declares, which is not hard to believe considering how fantastic she looks in this veiled garment complete with Balenciaga-inspired extreme shoulders. Think A Series of Unfortunate Events' Esmé Squalor (Lucy Punch), only dialed up. Didn't we tell you that villains have more fashion fun?
The black-and-white motif is vital to Cruella’s signature look, which conjures up images of English socialite Daphne Guinness and Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara). If you are going to indulge in eccentric fashion, keeping a strict color palette isn't as restricting as it sounds: a bold statement is still possible when streamlining the contrast. There are some notable exceptions, as she does accent her closet with flashes of red, typically in her accessories, whether a cigarette holder, PVC boots, or a Russian-influenced hat. Her lips are permanently stained the color of crimson, while her winged eyeliner adds to her high drama aesthetic. Her entire life is a performance supported by her wardrobe, makeup, and hair. Cruella increases the level of red during the climax with her fur coat of choice, which will soon be ruined by some farm animals. That smell is going to be hard to get rid of, and there aren’t any dry cleaners in prison.
Before it all goes to hell for the fashion maven, her rotation of zebra, leopard, and tiger print reveal she wasn't bluffing when she exclaimed of her fur obsession. Nothing is out of reach, whether feathers or tooth accessories; if it was once breathing, Cruella needs it in her wardrobe. Pattern clashing will not only stand, but it is also encouraged, as the (faux) tiger cape with a leopard lining reveals. Paired with a leather skirt and tiger bodice featuring claw clasps, she also wears gloves worthy of The Countess (Lady Gaga) on American Horror Story: Hotel. Dangerously sharp nails as a glove addition are hardly surprising from a woman like Cruella, but each pair is a marvel that requires pausing the movie. Her entire jewelry game is strong, from the opulent chokers to the ear cuffs; she does not buy into the Coco Chanel mandate of taking one item off.
Smoking is her other deadly habit, which is why you never see her without the red cigarette holder — switching from the turquoise the 1966 animated version favored — and she even incorporates her habit into her attire. The zebra coat dress with faux mink sleeves also features a practical detail: a cigarette case paired with ammo cartridges as if they are military medals. The zebra stripes also give off the impression of bones or a rib cage for that extra goth vibe. Despite being set in contemporary London, everything about Cruella's closet defies a specific time period. It is as if she stepped in from the '60s of the original story combined with a century's worth of high fashion references.
Nearly 25 years after 101 Dalmatians first hit theaters, these costumes still demand attention and prove just how much fun it is for a character who lacks any scruples in the style department. When Cruella hits theaters in May 2021, the costume bar is high, but we have nothing but faith and great anticipation for the garments that Mad Max: Fury Road Oscar-winning designer Jenny Beavan is going to deliver. From the punk-infused leather first look and signature two-tone hair, this character is in very good hands. Until then, now is a great opportunity to look back at Glenn Close's terrific (and over-the-top) performance and the costumes that make this such a wild ride.