NEW YORK - Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streep's character in "The Devil Wears Prada," is fashion's queen bee and an ice princess to boot. The only time anyone recalls her smiling was when she previewed Tom Ford's 2001 collection. Must have been that updated Yves Saint Laurent smoking jacket that pushed her over the edge.
Streep, with a chic silver haircut and baring what has to be one of Hollywood's finest sets of shoulders, gets top billing in the movie version of Lauren Weisberger's best-selling book about the catty fashion world that's filled with "clackers" - skinny young things who teeter on high heels that sound like a typing pool as they scurry around the office.
Streep, though, really has a supporting role. This movie is all about fashion and no single person - not even multiple Oscar winner Meryl - has the star power to compete with racks full of Chanel, Bill Blass, Valentino and, of course, Prada.
It seems that there are more handbags, shoes and earrings in this movie than all the other summer releases combined. Superman only gets to wear a glorified unitard; Streep's Priestly gets to wear hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Fred Leighton diamonds.
The sheer volume of garments required costume designer Patricia Field and her team of assistants to be on the set each day of 14 weeks of shooting - and that's after eight weeks of shopping.
Miranda is the editor in chief of the world's end-all, be-all fashion magazine, Runway. Her signature style is "expensive," says Field. "She is first and foremost an executive, so she might wear a jewel-encrusted sweater but with a pinstripe skirt and a white blouse. There's always a pinch of glamour but no trends."
Field knows a thing or two about trends: She's the one who dressed Sarah Jessica Parker and her pals on "Sex and the City," making Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo "celebrities" and convincing countless women to wear their own names around their necks.
But fashion insiders know the top figures in the industry mostly wear timeless styles - things that won't become dated from one year to the next and, more importantly, one photograph to another. It's why Field chose several of Bill Blass' perfectly fitted jackets for Miranda's work wardrobe and a custom-made Valentino gown with an oversized bow for the film's biggest fashion scene, a huge charity gala at a museum.
"Miranda is the queen of fashion. She's not a model who is trying to get us to buy the next big thing. She is the queen and that's how she dresses. She's not going to wear something from Zara. If anyone starts to dress based on her character it'll be the rich ladies from Dallas or Naples (Fla.)," says Field.
However, Anne Hathaway's eager Andy, the aspiring writer who gives up onion bagels in favor of a Fendi baguette, ends the movie with a closet many wannabe clackers would envy. True, she starts off in shapeless sweaters and skirts that literally came from a middle America mall. But once she gets a makeover, she is off and running in high-heel and thigh-high Chanel boots.
Field says she used a lot of Chanel in the wardrobe for Andy because it is so beautiful, identifiable and immediately associated with a world most people don't get to live in.
"I think Andy always dressed a little immature. There was no sexuality to her at all, even though she had just graduated college," Field says.
That was fixed with those aforementioned boots and a figure-hugging gown from John Galliano, two of Hathaway's favorite items from the film. "The Galliano gown that I got to wear at the benefit was just absolute heaven. It felt like the fabric was made out of sex. It was so good," she says.
The 23-year-old starlet also said she learned from Field to play up her sexier, sassier side through clothes.
"It's not that I had a love-hate relationship with my body before, I've always been pretty comfortable and pretty resigned to the fact that I'm just curvy and I'm never going to be a stick - but Pat taught me how to highlight my assets...From all the girls in 'Sex and the City,' she really knows how to dress for different body types and she taught me that if I want to look good, I ought to make sure that every outfit incorporates a waistline that will definitely give me a bit of proportion," Hathaway says.
Field certainly encourages and emphasizes personal style. She's a fixture at fashion shows with her bright red hair and a wardrobe that alternates between the sleek all-black look she's wearing on this day, to jeans, T-shirts and sneakers.
She says the key to dressing characters, whether they are actors or people plucked from the street, is making sure they can handle the clothes.
Stanley Tucci, who plays Nigel, Miranda's right hand and Andy's mentor, is a good example, Field says.
He wears outfits that would be fashionable by Men's Vogue standards but probably too feminine for readers of lad mags. "He got it, he loved it, he sold it, he looked great."
But Field recalls one actor she worked with on "Sex and the City" who was really reluctant to wear pink. "I thought pink would make him seem approachable. I think pink softens a man, but he said no. A year later I saw him in a pink suit! But it had to wait until he was ready. All I said was, 'I told you it would look great on you.'"
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