The Style of Reynolds Woodcock in “Phantom Thread”

Reynolds Woodcock was one of the the premiere dressmakers in 1950’s London.  It’s only fitting that his own wardrobe is on par with the dresses he creates.  With a minimalistic approach to style, Reynolds looks simultaneously vintage and classic, with an air of fussy elegance to boot.  This post discusses the style of Daniel Day-Lewis’ character in Phantom Thread.  

As I’ve stated before, I am no cinephile.  I don’t seek out classic movies or watch independent films, not because I am ignorant, but because I never have anyone to see them with.  However, thanks to my Movie Pass (this is not sponsored) I feel like I can finally get my culture on, especially since it works with my local Laemmle Playhouse, which plays some of the more interesting films that don’t make it to our giant AMCs.

I was recommended by a few people to see Phantom Thread since its a period film, directed by the acclaimed Paul Thomas Anderson and features Daniel Day-Lewis, the  infamous method actor, in the main role.  I have never seen a PTA film before (I almost saw Inherent Vice on my NYC plane ride but instead picked Transformers 5, which I fell asleep to) and feel like I need to start, after seeing this amazing film.

Phantom Thread is a fictional story about Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned London women’s designer.  His airy voice is contrasted with his fierce specificity regarding not only his dresses, but with his life, being particular about how quiet his mornings must be and how he likes his asparagus.   He runs his fashion house with his sister Cyril, who is equally as uptight, though they both care deeply for each other.   Reynolds’ routine is finally broken with the appearance of Alma, a waitress at a country hotel, whom he is immediately taken with.  The rest of the film then delves into their awkward romance, with both Reynold’s and Alma clashing over their expectations of one another.

Because it’s a film about a British fashion designer and his muse, you can expect that the costuming is top notch.  Done by Mark Bridges, who won an Academy Award for The Artist,  the wardrobe exudes 1950’s elegance, flowing through each of Reynolds’ dresses as well as in the tailoring worn by the fictional designer.  As a menswear blog, we’re not going to get into the women’s wear, simply because it is not a realm I am familiar with.  I don’t own any women’s garments and have no experience with them.

According to various articles (Vanity Fair, IndieWire, Hollywood Reporter), picking the pieces was a collaborative effort between Bridges and Day-Lewis.  The tailoring was done by Anderson & Sheppard, a Saville Row bespoke mainstay, who was picked by Day-Lewis since his father has had pieces done there; this definitely was not the tailor house’s first foray in to film.  Like Day-Lewis, I agree that Reynolds would have definitely gotten suits made on Saville Row, and he is fit almost-perfectly in all of his outfits.

Reynolds’ wardrobe is pretty small, but it might reflect that he puts a bigger emphasis on his work than his own attire.  He’s only seen wearing a handful of suits, sportswear, and evening attire, but there must be more than 30 of his dresses seen in the film.  It is his main attire that we will be getting analyzing.  Please forgive me for the lack of detailed pictures, as not many screencaps have been posted.

DB Suit and Bowtie

In a majority of his scenes, Reynolds is seen wearing a charcoal double breasted suit and a bowtie.  He wears it whenever he’s out at dinner or receiving a client; we can call it his uniform.  It’s a smart, elegant look that blends he perfect amount of elegance and dandyness, which is perfect for the character.   I’ve only seen the film once, but as far as I remember, the suit is designed pretty well in accordance to 1950’s English style: long length, straight leg trousers, and roped shoulders.  The suit gives Reynolds a good figure, but due to his lankiness, it does look a bit slouchy. I certainly enjoy that, but I’m not sure if it was intentional.  Most of the time, the shoulder padding extends too far and droops down.  Other than that, the suits look pretty good.

Going double breasted for a period piece is always a good move since it’s really uncommon to see in the regular world.  As I’ve noted before, the rarity of good double breasted jackets are what pushed me to vintage in the first place.   Now it’s important to note that he isn’t wearing some zoot suit or gangster attire.  English suiting has always been more conservative than their American counterpart; while the Americans had their ugly bold look, the British kept their classic details. At least in most cases.  Reynolds in a classic DB makes him look dated, yet perfectly elegant.  It’s definitely not costume-y in the slightest.  

The choice of a bowtie was Day-Lewis’, if I’m not mistaken.  Bowties and DBs are a rather vintage-dandy choice and while there isn’t anything inherently wrong, it does look a bit too old, especially on larger gents (see Peter Lorré in Casablanca).  However, on Reynolds’ tall, slender frame, it looks pretty great, coming off as a rakish choice for an eternally working designer.

His lavender bowtie (seen in the first image) is the most striking one, popping out in every scene it’s in.  It certainly is much more interesting than the traditional dotted one he also wears.  In some articles, writers point to lavender’s regal theme, fitting for the character.  With the fitted DB suit, white shirt, and bowtie put all together, it definitely makes me feel like he’s wearing a tuxedo.  Perhaps that is Reynolds’ intention.

The White Leisure Jacket

Whenever Reynolds is working and not meeting with a client, he can be seen wearing this amazing linen leisure jacket.   It almost looks like a lab coat, making him look like he’s a scientist. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to emphasize the clinical nature of his dressmaking, an art that is definitely very precise.  In reality, it is quite the oddity of a jacket, with slim lapels that evoke the boldness of American Hollywood/Lesuire jackets of the 1950s. I am unsure if this American fad truly caught on across the pond, but I think it’s an interesting choice to put Reynolds in one for the film.


It looks that it has four buttons (as the top one is rolled quite high), buttoning cuff, and features triple patch pockets, no doubt useful for holding his tools.  The back is pleated with a half-belt, which presumably gives him a figure, even though this is a working jacket.  Funnily enough, real lab coats also have a belted back.  

Seems that Woodcock is also a pocket fister!

Like his suits, Reynolds keeps the same attire of a white shirt and bowtie underneath his leisure jacket.  However, there are a few times when he mixes in his country attire (dark shirt with foulard ascot) as well.  I’m not normally a fan of ascots, but that first picture (black polo and red ascot) is something I would really love to try sometime.  The contrast between the black and white goes swimmingly with the green-red foulard.  If only I had the balls (and the ascot) to do it.

 

Country Attire

When taking time off in his vacation home, Reynolds swaps out his double breasted suit and leisure jacket for traditional English country attire.  A hefty brushed cotton shirt and ascot sit underneath a gorgeous windowpane tweed jacket that again suffers from droopy-shoulder syndrome.  It’s a small nitpick, as the outfit in general is quite nice.

It’s hard to see here, but I’m pretty sure he’s wearing grey flannel trousers.  I believe in one of the interviews, Bridges says that Day-Lewis knew that English country attire usually involved a tweed jacket and grey flannels, so it is possible that the actor helped create this outfit.

Country attire with a red sweater vest.

Checked tweed jacket and boots.

For most of his scenes in the countryside (he returns to this area), he wears variations on this outfit, changing the shirt and ascot.   If it isn’t already apparent, it seems that Reynolds is very particular about how he dresses.

Tuxedo

For dinner and party scenes, Reynolds wears a smashing shawl collar tuxedo.  It makes sense that he would own one, as he is apart of elite society, dressing rich and influential women.  There isn’t anything super special or vintage about it, other than it features a pretty wide collar.  The trousers may be wide (to keep it in era appropriateness) but it’s hard to tell on Reynolds’ tall and slender figure.  I’m confident that he could pull off anything.

I will say that the tuxedo is very tasteful and looks miles better than whatever people wear on the red carpet.  Apologies for not having a proper picture of Day-Lewis wearing the tux; I searched everywhere!

On display.

Blue Herringbone Coat

Lastly, we have Reynolds’ blue herringbone overcoat.  He wears this with everything, whether it’s over his suit or with his country attire (seen above).  It appears as a standard three button coat, but upon closer inspection you’ll see that it has a raglan sleeve and big patch pockets, perfect for stuffing hands into.

It’s certainly a cool coat that is pretty spot on for the era.  You would be hard pressed to find a coat like this without going vintage or bespoke!

It’s also interesting to note that Anderson and Sheppard apparently had trouble with the coat, due to its raglan sleeves. They weren’t used to making coats in that fashion, but I think they did a great job.

Pajamas and Socks

When we are introduced to Reynolds Woodcock, we are treated to his morning routine.  He starts the day shining his shoes in his pajamas and robe, brushes his hair, and puts on his dress shirt and trousers, wearing either an untied bowtie or the ascot from his country attire.  It’s a wonderful sequence and it shows you just how particular Reynolds is.

A full pajama set is another garment that dates a character, similar to the double breasted suits or the presence of a fedora.  Instead of being white or blue, which are the most common colors, his is lavender, which matches perfectly to his striking bowtie.  It’s such a simple element that really marks his “regal status” among the fashion world.

Reynolds continues this stately theme with burgundy-purple socks, made by Gammarelli the same maker for the Pope.  Like the bowtie, it’s such provides such a cool contrast between his trouser and shoes.  It’s almost like how Drake’s loves to push their purple sock.

Breakfast attire!

Conclusion

I think I’m confident to say that Reynolds Woodcock is one of the best dressed people in recent film. His style contrasts so sharply with the casual nature of Sebastian and  the overtly vintage (but rather well done) Murder on the Orient Express, with it’s approach to sartorial minimalism.  There are no striped shirts, odd vests, and foulard ties here.  Almost everything is solid and appears old, which is pretty tough to do.  I don’t think fit is too much of a factor, as it fits pretty classically; if it wasn’t for the women’s attire and cars, it would be tough to place an era on Reynolds.

Attire is an important thing to this character. He isn’t interested in being “chic”, a point that definitely comes up during the film.  His clothes really do tell how he’s feeling.  At almost all points of the film, he is dressed according to his uniform: suits for “normality”, leisure jacket for work, and tweed+ascot for the country.  I don’t mind that, as he is equally as fussy for his work, food, and daily activities. All of this comes to a head during a dramatic scene where Alma changes things up on him.  For dinner, an out-of-sorts Reynolds wears his tweed jacket over his lavender pajamas; a sweater vest is also donned, making the outfit even weirder.

I really do appreciate this form of film costuming as it isn’t always enough to just make a character look disheveled. Perhaps to Reynolds, being dishevlied means to change out of what you were wearing before and then put on whatever comes to mind.  Or perhaps he was also being childish, like when Joey wore all of Chandler’s clothes to spite him. Storytelling through clothing is something that I seldom see.

I’m sure you guys will notice the shoulder droop on some of his attire in the film and it is slightly disappointing, considering that Anderson & Sheppard made his clothing.  However, after talking to some of my friends it just may be the combination of the padded, extended shoulder, wide sleeves (both are accurate to the era), and his sitting posture, resulting in some wrinkles.  There’s also another scene where he is clearly wearing high rise trousers at his hips, making his legs look a little odd.  However, none of these are really dealbreakers as much as they are nerdy nitpicks, as Reynolds’ style is really to die for.  I normally plan my outfits for the week (so I can go to work quickly), and I can tell you that double breated suits, bowties, and white linen jackets will make an appearance.   Extreme pattern mixing is typical Ethan Style but I think that minimalism is much more elegant and is something that I definitely don’t do very often.

If only more guys strove to look like Reynolds Woodcock and not Goodfellas or Gatsby when dressing vintage.

Phantom Thread opens everywhere on January 19th.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza 

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13 comments

  1. Pingback: The Style of Reynolds Woodcock in “Phantom Thread” « Fashion
  2. Michael Nevin · January 20

    So in love the white work coat – lightweight, easy to move around in.

    Like

  3. Greybite · January 21

    Ethan you’ve got to watch more PTA. There Will be Blood is a MUST.

    Like

  4. Michael Nevin · January 22

    Not my site. Was just surfing around .

    Like

  5. David Starzyk · February 2

    This is a wonderful article on a wonderful film! PTA films are a MUST; very detailed, very lovely, very intense. Just a note, though: Unless I am grossly mistaken, (and anyone, please correct me if I am…) A&S are KNOWN for their droopy shoulder. I believe I read sometime, long ago in the recesses of my memory, that the head cutter said something along the lines of, “People either swear BY our suits, or swear AT them.” This was, I believe, in accord with the shoulder particular to that house. I do happen to own a tweed coat and waistcoat by A&S, and I find that, though the cut is WONDERFUL, the shoulder definitely droops…just my two cents. Thanks for writing this. Saw the film last night; LOVED IT!

    Like

  6. John · February 8

    can you share specifics re Reynolds cap being worn at ski re DesAlps resort very very cool

    Like

  7. DuncanH · February 12

    Hi Great article. One minor point I don’t think Reynolds is wearing an ascot, he wearing a short silk scarf, this was a style developed by WWII fighter pilots. The cockpits were cold, buttoning up a shirt would be the obvious thing to do to keep the cold from the neck. Unfortunately if a pilot had to bail out the sea water would shrink the cotton strangling the pilot. The solution was to wear a scarf inside the shirt.

    Like

  8. Pingback: La somptueuse étrangeté de « Phantom Thread  | «Coquecigrues et ima-nu-ages
  9. RLM · March 4

    Excellent article, but how could you overlook the ravishing purple cardigan that Reynolds wears at leisure in several scenes? If I can’t fine a replica of it for sale someplace, I am going to learn to knit and make it for myself. It is the most gorgeous garment I think I’ve ever seen on film.

    Like

  10. Pingback: Pulling Off the Bow Tie | STREET x SPREZZA
  11. Coonfield · September 15

    I merely required to write down a rapid expression to be able to give thanks you for those wonderful tips and also clues you might be demonstrating on this website.

    Like

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