We loved Kenneth Branagh’s 2021 black & white semi-autobiographical period drama Belfast, set in the Northern Irish city in 1969 at the onset of the 30 year long war known as The Troubles. The story of Belfast is told through the eyes of a child as he witnesses his neighbourhood become increasingly more violent when class divides and civil rights injustices come to a head between Nationalist and Unionist communities, and riots ensue. The film is a love letter to a place, and a lament for all the people who were killed or forced to leave it amidst the legacy of British colonialism. Despite this, it’s a beautiful and poignant story of the innocence of childhood, the power of family and a touching portrait of a community as it is irrevocably changed.
The film received seven nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and winning for Best original Screenplay.
We admired the understated and succinct costuming of the film, designed by Charlotte Walter. She dressed the everyday working class people of a late 60s monochromatic Northern Ireland in an unfussy lived-in way that focused on character through texture and tone. We have to remember that 60s Belfast was a far cry from 60s London!
Walter felt excitement over the prospects of a black-and-white film, conscious about giving the clothes a three-dimensional feel through textures.
She told the Hollywood Reporter:
“I think it was a joy in this film because you could make people look real but in a subtle way that it’s not so screamingly 1960s. But very much 1960s. It was what people wore who did the shopping, who did the housework. But I think also it’s about that 1960s silhouette. So for Ma [Catríona Balfe], she couldn’t have been in any other period.”
Walter tells filmmaker magazine: “I wanted to use as many original clothes as possible. The fabric of the original clothes was very particular. It was a time when manmade fibres were just starting to be popular. Because they were not natural, they had a sort of three-dimensional feel to them. They were quite harsh in a way. Such pieces, which were washable and easy to wear, were ideal for the film’s no-nonsense milieu. The characters have intentionally limited wardrobes. Even the most outwardly fashionable character, Buddy’s mother had at most 10 or 12 looks. We would use the same skirt twice and give her two different blouses, to make it interchangeable, like a real wardrobe. Ma’s relaxed yet stylishly tailored silhouettes bring to mind icons of chic ’60s femininity like Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Ma wants to look like a modern mother and wife. No matter what she wears, she still looks like a woman who could run up the street and grab her son. Although they were very working class, they would have a good coat and one good pair of shoes and look after them. With a limited selection of costumes for the characters, each garment needed to say a lot.”
Read the full article here: https://filmmakermagazine.com/112894-interview-belfast-costume-designer-charlotte-walter/#.Yk3FDy8r2Rs
Kenneth Branagh spoke to Variety about the costumes:
“Charlotte and I talked about my mother who had a strong sense of style and a great interest in fashion, but she didn’t have much money. She had a certain kind of pizzazz about her, and she loved dancing. We talked about her closet being a little more timeless and less locked in. The idea was when you shoot in black and white, you always look for texture, you want sheen or the three-dimensional nature of garments. You want things where there’s tonal difference when they move in the light. So Charlotte had to adopt this approach where that sense of style was not fighting their economic circumstance. She found a lot of originals.”
Read the full interview here: https://variety.com/2021/artisans/awards/production-design-editing-costume-design-belfast-kenneth-branagh-1235110890/
We put together a few pieces from our sales stock that we imagined Catríona Balfe’s character ‘Ma’ might have worn. We imagined what the palette would be like in full colour. We chose muted and earthy tones of cream, oatmeal, grey, navy, brown, tan, beige, light yellow and hints of white. These items have an array of different textures from crochet cotton to bouclé wool, linen, polyester and cashmere. We took some creative license as not all the pieces are from the 60s; we pulled a few from other eras to style it all together.
What do you think of these looks and our colour palette? All of the items are available in our store, so check them out under our 'Belfast Collection Edit'!
Collection fabric textures:
Collection colour palette: