The Ice Storm is a 1997 feature adaptation of the 1994 novel of the same name by Rick Moody. It was directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee and features an ensemble cast including Christina Ricci, Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Katie Holmes, Tobey Maguire and Elijah Wood. The story takes place in a Connecticut suburb (New Canaan) on the Thanksgiving of 1973 (November 22)- the tenth anniversary of the assassination of JFK, which was one of the catalysts for much of the change that occurred in 60s America. The story is about two upper-class families (the Hoods and Carvers) attempting to deal with the social changes of the early 1970s. Their coping mechanisms include theft, alcohol, adultery and sexual experimentation. It was an interesting turning point in American society and the beginning of the end of the era of revolution. It explores the conflict between tradition and change, and between parents and children.
We thought the November setting an appropriate inspiration for our latest style edit. It features pieces from both our extensive film rentals collection (Ian Drummond Collection) and our store. Anything for sale will be available on the collection page- find the link at the end of this blog post.
The costumes were designed by Carol Oditz.
'With fondness for the era, costume designer Carol Oditz searched for a "visual grace," wanting to create "a surface tension, that was right for the characters in the story." There's a tenderness and awkwardness to the clothing and a slight cartoonishness'. - jdbrecords.com
The designers were influenced by Photo-Realism and Op-Art of the era when creating the look for the film. Director Ang Lee describes the style as Post-Cubist and is particularly interested in patterning and repetition. “Many facets are put together in a narrative way so that you can watch it from many angles and they all mean something.” We definitely see a lot of patterning and clashing patterns (metaphorical and visually literal) in the film's costumes and production design.
Film critic Robert Sklar wrote in Cineaste of how the film “re-created a 1973 world that Is cluttered with period things and styles, yet also feels harrowingly empty." The point could be that possessions in this society possessed people: mere things filled the cupboards while souls were starved of nourishment.
Its a feast for the eyes for knitwear, sportswear and party outfits. We hope you enjoy our take on it!
Played by Christian Ricci.
Wendy's look is an indifferent, anti-conformist, casual-chic and unisex approach to fashion that first emerged in the mainstream in the early 70s.
Above: A red & black fringed poncho worn over a black turtleneck and beige flared trousers. A nod to Wendy’s iconic red plaid poncho/cloak she wears throughout the movie. Fans have speculated that the garment was supposed to draw parallels with red riding hood and symbolise danger, menstruation/puberty, lust and power!
Above: Crochet vests worn over a black mock-neck top. These vests were widespread by the early 70s, popularized by the Hippie movement.
We found an exact match for the pattern of the one on the right above, in a 1972 issue of McCall’s Needlework and Crafts magazine (above). Wendy wears a granny square crochet top with thin straps (later pairing it with a Richard Nixon mask! - details of the Watergate scandal were playing out in the news at the time).
Below: A red & yellow striped turtleneck with a red knit sleeveless cardigan, inspired by Wendy’s kitchen look.
Below: The remaining looks are all inspired by Wendy and her friends at school. The blue crochet poncho, red Crissa sweater, geometric print top and beige blazer are all available in the shop right now.
Below: A belted herringbone weave jacket with a green and orange stripe worn over men’s deadstock Lee ‘frontier slacks', inspired by Wendy’s friends at school.
Poncho’s & Crochet
Poncho’s have been used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas for hundreds of years. They are commonly associated with Mexico. In popular Western culture, Clint Eastwood wore a poncho in Sergio Leone’s 1960s ‘Dollars’ movie trilogy (below). The garment become a part of Hippie fashion and were most often knitted.
While crochet existed in fashion throughout the 20th century, the boom really began in the 60s with granny squares being used to create all sorts of garments- dresses, sweaters, tops, vests and even pants. People crocheted at home, with DIY kits and patterns being mass produced. It too became a part of Hippie fashion. Cher wore a crochet dress in a 1967 TV appearance and a crochet top in 1971 for the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour show. Clint Eastwood rocked a granny square crochet vest in a 1972 issue of Playboy!
There was a huge resurgence in crochet when the pandemic began in 2020 as people had some extra time on their hands for crafts. Crochet came back into fashion and continues to be popular.
Played by Sigourney Weaver. Janey is perhaps the most fashion-forward character in the movie, evoking somewhat of a polished boho look.
Above: 3 maxi dresses with black bodices and patterned skirts. This style of dress started to be popular in the late 60s and continued into the early 70s, riding high on a wave of nostalgia for ‘the bygone days’. The bold paisley and psychedelic prints that started off in the 60s with the bohemian look had taken on mass popularity by 1973.
The metallic dress in the centre modelled by Ainslie is part of a two-piece set which includes a long open vest. The metallic Op-Art style print was another continuation of a 60s style.
The outfit Janey wears in the movie is actually a wide-leg halter-neck jumpsuit, but looks like a maxi dress at the party. We have a gorgeous jumpsuit in the shop with black pant legs and orange psychedelic print overlay (below).
Below: Janey wears a tapestry coat (another boho trend) with a brown suede skirt, black tights and black boots.
Ainslie is modelling an amazing tapestry coat from the rentals collection and brown suede boots with gold trim, available to buy at the studio.
Katie Holmes’ Libbets steals the affections of Tobey Maguire’s Paul in the movie. She is a young college student embracing the Hippie-inspired/ peasant-chic fashion of the early 70s, which contained distinctly ethnic features.
Below: A full-length denim skirt with embroidered floral motif and raw hem, worn with a cream crochet fringed vest, over a blue peasant blouse with red embroidery and ruffle detail front. Outside, Ainslie wears an Afghan-style sheepskin coat with gorgeous purple & beige embroidery throughout.
Below: A white peasant blouse with blue embroidery worn under a velour vest with purple embroidery and a suede lace-up skirt. Worn outdoors with a blue Afghan-style coat featuring red trim.
Below: The same skirt as the previous look with a blue & grey striped cowl-neck belted sweater and the same style vest from the previous look in tan linen and sage green embroidery.
Afghan coats are a development of the traditional coats worn by the Afghan people. They are made of sheepskin (worn with the skin side out) and often featuring colourful embroidery. They became popular in western wear in the 1960s when they were imported to the UK by Craig Sams who sold them to such Hippie boutiques as ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ in London. The Beatles wore coats bought at the shop around the release of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 and demand for them took off. Traditional makers could not keep up with demand and crude imitations emerged. These imitations were extremely popular throughout the 1970s and into the 80s, largely associated with Hippie subculture.
Mikey and Sandy Carver
Played by Elijah Wood and Adam Han-Byrd.
Lots of patterned sweaters & vests over printed shirts, and layers of knitwear seen here! Sweaters were a huge phenomena at the time and particularly those in shades of brown and other earthy colours. We love Sandy's scenic sheep sweater and we have a similarly farm-themed vest in the collection here! And what about those faux-turtleneck shirts?!
Played by Joan Allen.
Modesty is key here, particularly in comparison to Sigourney's Janey. Is she hiding or comforting herself? Not even a bare arm is seen the whole movie!
Below: A 70s cream blouse with a burgundy red crochet vest-dress featuring a rosette, and brown leather low heel pumps. The cream knit skirt with front pleat is from our sales stock. Outdoors, Ainslie wears a cream single-breast mack style dress coat with a pointed collar.
Below: An icy blue pussybow blouse from our sales stock worn under a silver 2-piece A-line maxi skirt and vest top set with a striped/ chevron weave. White pumps peeking out under the skirt. We love the colour of this set- perfect for our Ice storm theme and great for the holidays in general!
Below: Inspired by the outfit Elena wears when she rides Wendy’s bike to the drugstore to shoplift (above). A 70s jumpsuit with a pastel Pucci-inspired paisley print worn under a layered wool cardigan and a fringed poncho-cardigan with hand openings. An alternate long brown chunky cardigan is also featured and white pumps. These shawl-collared belted cardigans were everywhere at the time.
Below: A baby blue zip-up dress, available to buy. The second baby blue dress and jacket set is from the rentals collection, as is the brown knit sweater dress. Baby blue was a very popular colour in fashion during this time period. Inspired by the outfit Elena wears to dinner at the beginning of the movie and the one she wears in the kitchen with Wendy.
Bellow: A black mod-style 70s coat inspired by the one Elena wears while talking to the minister at the library book sale.
The Key Party
Criterion.com describes the event as "a neighborhood cocktail party that turns out to be a 'key party'—a wife-swapping game that was first played in the posh precincts of New Canaan five years after the Summer of Love had proclaimed sexual liberation as an ideal."
Above: Ainslie is wearing a long-sleeve bright green plaid maxi dress with a wide pointed collar and layered pearl necklace. She is flanked on either side by two other long-sleeve printed jersey dresses that have the same V neckline and pointed collar. These looks are inspired by Allison Janney’s character Dot Halford, the host of the key party in the film. The green dress as well as the black and white one are from our 70s rentals collection. The burgundy one is available to buy.
Above and below: Inspired by a guest wearing a leopard print and solid black dress-jacket set. If we could amalgamate the collar on the burgundy dress, the style of the second and the pattern of the third, we would come close to her look! But we just wanted to give you examples of various features popular at the time. All three dresses are for sale.
Below: A pussybow shirt dress in a light printed fabric with long almost bishop sleeves from our rentals collection, inspired by another guest at the party.
Below: Inspired by the colourful ensembles worn by some of the other guests, particularly the lady wearing a green multicolour metallic set. All of these dresses are for sale. Ainslie wears a 70s Geoffrey Beene 2-piece green metallic wrap top and maxi skirt set.
Below: A selection of colourful 70s printed maxi dresses and a jumpsuit from our shop. Maxi evening gowns were huge during this period in time.
The Sexual Revolution
The sexual revolution had reached a height by 1973 and had become highly commercialized.
The Nixon Watergate scandal was playing out on TV at the time and the press adopted the nickname 'Deep Throat' for the informant inside the administration. Deep Throat was a popular Porn film that came out in 1972 and became normalized viewing material. The film's popularity helped launch a period of upper middle class interest in explicit pornography referred to by Ralph Blumenthal of The New York Times as 'porno chic'. Deep Throat is even mentioned over dinner in The Ice Storm.
In 1997, it was prophetic as the country was a year away from the impeachment of Bill Clinton for participating in the sex act celebrated in Deep Throat.
Concluding Notes from Ang Lee
The ice storm raging in the movie is a metaphor for the movie itself.
“When I think of The Ice Storm, I think first of water and rain, of how it falls everywhere, seeps into everything, forms underground rivers, and helps to shape a landscape,” writes Lee in his preface to the published screenplay. “And also, when calm, of how it forms a reflective surface, like glass, in which the world reappears. Then, as the temperature drops, what was only water freezes. Its structure can push iron away, it is so strong. It's pattern overthrows everything.”
"Our story is about the very heart of America, even as this heart was—and still so often is—torn apart by racial and other conflicts. Even as America seems to conquer the world with the promise of freedom, it has still not fully conquered itself, or achieved its own freedom.”
“The period portrayed in The Ice Storm is innocent and good because people are rebelling against old rules and the old order. We’re jaded now, while the people of that era were very fresh and bold about reaching for their limits. What they encounter in the process is human nature, and the ice storm, which gives you a little more respect for nature. It turns out that we’re not that free after all.”
Films that are also set in 1973:
Almost Famous (2000)- Directed by Cameron Crowe with iconic costumes by Betsy Heimann.
A Christmas Story Christmas (2022- just released!)- directed by Clay Kaytis with costumes by Shay Cunliffe.
Movies not just set in 1973 but released in 1973:
Don’t Look Now- starring Julie Christie & Donald Sutherland. Directed by Nicolas Roeg with costumes by Andrea Galer. (Another movie with an iconic red garment).
Cinderella Liberty- starring James Caan & Marsha Mason. Directed by Mark Rydell with costumes by Rita Riggs.
The Long Goodbye- Starring Nina Van Pallandt & Elliott Gould. Directed by Robert Altman with costumes by Kent James & Marjorie Wahl.
Wonder Women- a cult classic directed by Robert Vincent O’Neil and costumes by Jerry Bailon.
The Great American Beauty Contest- TV movie starring Farah Fawcett. Directed by Robert Day & costumes by Nolan Miller.