How garments and white hair turned Meryl Streep into Miranda Priestly

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Costume designer Patricia Subject is best-known for the eye-catching wardrobes that she dreamed up for Carrie and firm on “Intercourse and the Metropolis.” On this excerpt from her new memoir, “Pat within the Metropolis,” she reminisces about one other momentous gig: outfitting Meryl Streep for “The Satan Wears Prada.” Wp Get the complete expertise. Select your plan ArrowRight When “Intercourse and the Metropolis” ended on Feb. 22, 2004, many people who labored on it requested ourselves, “How can we observe that?” It was an excellent query. Six seasons and lots of, many outfits later, the collection had impressed a devotion that bordered on non secular fervor. And it wasn’t simply within the U.S. Italy apparently had a chat present solely dedicated to Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and their garments.

I skilled firsthand the attain of the present once I introduced my aunts Les and Could to set sooner or later. My household by no means understood my work for movie and tv. “What’s a stylist?” my mom requested greater than as soon as. I invited them to look at a scene we had been taking pictures in Rockefeller Heart, so they might see what I did. They had been blissful sufficient, as they at all times had been to see me, however not significantly impressed. That’s, till Aunt Les noticed Chris Noth. My little aged Greek aunt lit up like a teenage fan and, trying up on the tall actor, stated in a loud voice, “I really like you, Mr. Massive!”

On the threat of sounding ungrateful, “Intercourse and the Metropolis” was like an in-law who received’t get out of your life. It’s exhausting to maneuver on from a present with that type of attain, and the place the costumes had been so central. So once I referred to as my assistant, Molly Rogers, to inform her that our subsequent gig was a film the place Meryl Streep performed the villainous editor in chief of a Vogue-style vogue journal, she accused me of training Greek witchcraft.

Dressing one of many world’s biggest film actresses as a sadistic type fashionista was actually a mushy touchdown after saying goodbye to Carrie and the gang. However historical spells didn’t get me “The Satan Wears Prada.” No, it was earthbound relationships — on this case my long-standing friendship with “Prada’s” director, David Frankel. We knew one another from Miami, the place we each had locations.

Though the film, based mostly on Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel of the identical title, had a good finances and David hadn’t directed a characteristic since “Miami Rhapsody,” the script was so good and the forged even higher. Along with the Oscar-winning Meryl Streep, there was additionally the fresh-faced Anne Hathaway, then-unknown Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci, who’s one in all my favourite male actors.


Though the e-book was loosely based mostly on the creator’s expertise working as an assistant to Anna Wintour, all of us had been dedicated to the truth that the movie wasn’t going to be a sendup of Vogue. I actually didn’t mannequin Meryl’s editor in chief character, Miranda Priestly, after Wintour, as a result of something attention-grabbing needs to be authentic. No one wished to see a poor man’s Anna traipsing across the huge display. I’d by no means do one thing like that to Meryl Streep.

I took David with me to the reveals in Paris to loosen him up a little bit and encourage him for the world he was about to shoot. However when it got here to dressing Miranda Priestly, I dove headlong into the archives of Donna Karan, who was gracious sufficient to share them with me. Donna revolutionized workwear for the trendy lady. She changed the absurd pussy-bow blouses and overcompensating shoulder pads of the eighties with traditional silhouettes in muted materials that stretched to flatter busy, necessary girls making an attempt to get s— accomplished.

The Donna Karan reps at her New Jersey warehouse had been astonished that I used to be the one climbing ladders and unzipping garment luggage, and never some minion. Irrespective of how a lot success I had achieved, I used to be not made to sit down at a desk. I pored by way of her designs from the eighties and nineties, which was when Donna launched the world to what was often known as her Seven Straightforward Items: bodysuit, skirt, tailor-made jacket, costume, leather-based component, white shirt, and cashmere sweater. Her tailor-made female garments flattered girls with out being troublesome, they usually stood the check of time.

Timelessness is an important high quality in every part I do. It’s basic to my work that the items I take advantage of — whether or not it’s a tutu or Donna Karan wrap skirt — be traditional, which implies not pinned to a selected time. When having fun with the elegant, the attention doesn’t wish to be distracted by pedestrian markers like present developments.


We wound up utilizing loads of these Donna Karan items we hauled over the bridge from New Jersey. They served as a sublime and flattering basis to extra expressive jeweled jackets, daring equipment, and, in fact, that marvelous white hair.

That hair was an awesome second. White, high-style, and stunning: I knew Meryl and her longtime hair and make-up stylist, J. Roy Helland — who had labored collectively on all her films since “Nonetheless of the Night time,” greater than twenty years earlier — hadthought quite a bit about how the look may serve the character. Their references had been a mixture of the octogenarian mannequin Carmen Dell’Orefice and the president of the European Central Financial institution and former managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.

Their thought made good sense to me, and I may do quite a bit with it. “White goes with every part,” I permitted. “It’s such an excellent palate backdrop.” However when the producers heard white, they went right into a frenzy. To them white equaled outdated girl. Producers are enterprise varieties. They aren’t the style guys. Plenty of them have wives who inform them what the actresses ought to put on. So after they see one thing that appears odd, they’re afraid of it.


“Did you discuss to Meryl?” a hysterical producer stated to me. “White will kill us.”

I did my finest to speak them off the ledge, explaining she’d have a trendy haircut with killer garments to match, however they couldn’t see it. Lastly, I needed to relay their considerations to Meryl.

“They received’t cease bugging me about this white hair,” I informed her.

“I’ll handle it,” she stated.

She informed them: “My hair goes to be white, and that’s the top of it.”

You are able to do that if you’ve been nominated for dozens of Oscars.

Hair was additionally crucial within the transformation of Anne Hathaway’s character, Andie. She’s not a slob or loser; she’s a author. Bangs and a shaping up of her shaggy hair went a good distance towards signaling Andie’s embrace of vogue. Much more useful, nonetheless, was a closetful of Chanel. Anne grew to become a “Chanel woman” on “Prada.” The famed French vogue home was eager to see trendy iterations of its iconic tweed jackets and quilted luggage on a younger lady, and I used to be blissful to have the posh model remedy all my issues in a means that was plausible for her character.

Properly, perhaps not all my issues. There’s a montage of Meryl getting into the workplace and throwing a collection of coats and purses on Anne’s desk whereas barking orders at her. (We used such heavy coats, like richly coloured Dennis Basso furs, that I believed she was going to keel over by the top of that taking pictures day.) We didn’t assume we had been going to see Emily Blunt’s character within the shot, however we had been mistaken. On the final minute, David ran in to say Emily was within the scene, sitting on the different assistant’s desk. “I would like twenty-six extra outfits for her!” he stated. “Not an issue,” I answered, earlier than Molly and I hit the highway to do what she wryly termed “drive-through costuming.” We bought it accomplished. We at all times do.


When “Prada” wrapped, everybody knew the image was good. However simply how nicely it will be acquired, we had no clue. It was the sleeper hit of the summer time of 2006, crushing what was presupposed to be the summer time blockbuster, “Superman Returns.” For context, “Prada,” which value $41 million to make, grossed $326 million worldwide. In the meantime “Superman” made $391 million on a finances of $204 million.

An instantaneous traditional, “Prada” not solely proved financially profitable, it additionally acquired the trade’s highest honors. The Academy Awards nominated Meryl for finest actress (her fourteenth nomination, however who’s counting?), and me for finest costume design. Neither of us received, but when I needed to lose to anybody, I used to be glad it was Milena Canonero for “Marie Antoinette.”

I won’t have gone dwelling with a statue, however I did stand out on Oscar night time 2007. At the moment all people was sporting both black or impartial. I didn’t wish to be part of the ocean of beige — that’s not me — so I had David Dalrymple design me a bright-red strapless costume that just about matched my hair. On the lengthy pictures of this complete huge theater, you may at all times spot me, a imaginative and prescient in scarlet.

Tailored from “Pat within the Metropolis” by Patricia Subject. Copyright © 2023 by Patricia Subject. Reprinted courtesy of Dey Avenue Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Pat within the Metropolis

My Lifetime of Vogue, Model, and Breaking All of the Guidelines

By Patricia Subject

Dey Avenue. 272 pp. $35

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