Water for Elephants: Latest Trailer and Stills | Clothes on Film

© 2011, Chris Laverty water-for-elephants-4

Here are some images and the latest trailer from Water for Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson. Early 1930s costumes by Jacqueline West, and they look to be dazzling.
Based on the book by Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants is a romantic drama told primarily in flashback to the great Depression. Young veterinary student Jacob (Pattinson) by fate finds himself travelling on a train carrying the Benzini Brothers circus. Joining said circus to care for the animal menagerie, Jacob falls for equestrian star Marlena (Witherspoon), despite her marriage to charming but dangerous August (Waltz). It is a sweeping, against-all-odds tale of lifelong love.

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Costumes by Jacqueline West (The Social Network) appear to strive as much as possible for period authenticity. The film’s trailers have so far shown a mix of heavyweight wool and tweed for Jacob during his time at university, moving to denim and leather workwear, with a stripping down of the basic suit elements (i.e. unbuttoned waistcoat) in the warmer climate. For Marlena, the style is more dramatic and sensuous. Virtually all of her ‘performance’ dresses seem to be halternecks, in addition to some revealing day wear. These official images below exhibit subtle period details:



Thanks to reader Carolina Müller for pointing out Marlena’s red satin halterneck dress (see HERE also) is indeed similar to that worn by Carice van Houten for Black Book (2006). The significance of red is generally one of spectacle or illicitness. Note too Marlena’s halterneck leisure wear. After the previous decade’s love affair with legs, or at least knees and calves, the thirties prioritised a woman’s back and shoulders.



Marlena is clearly intended to resemble a bygone Hollywood movie star, perhaps most blatantly, especially with the hairstyle, Jean Harlow. She is a way for downtrodden, sometimes destitute circus audiences to associate with the ‘good times’. She is inspirational – representing not what they have, but what they could have when the country returns to prosperity.


Jacob’s trousers are cut high, with the shoulders of his jacket broad and defined to a narrow waist. The vogue was for an athletic frame, possibly even broader in the chest than Pattinson. His costumes are likely kept rudimentary, even boyish, to emphasise Marlena’s attraction to Jacob as clean and unsullied (the dinner suit makes him look even younger). She is, after all, older and more experienced in the ways of the world.

Water for Elephants (directed by Francis Lawrence) is due for release on 22nd April in the U.S and 4th May in the UK. A bit of old fashioned movie glamour would be greatly appreciated.

© 2011, Chris Laverty.

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