Sunday, February 10, 2019

Dressing the Wife

There once was a how-to fashion book called "Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife", published in 1959 and written by Anne Fogarty, a popular American designer. The book has some timeless advice, but that title is rough. Some book titles, like fashion, don't wear well.

This post is about the movie, "The Wife". Glenn Close plays a stoic, long-suffering wife of a famed author about to receive his Nobel Prize. He's not much of a prize himself, a philandering egomaniac who is something of a big baby. Glenn Close does a terrific job, never crossing the line into melodrama and pity.

I didn't realize there was more to "The Wife" than all this suffering, which is why it took me so long to see it. Glenn Close is up for an Academy Award, and she deserves it. Her wife has a story to tell, which is revealed even more in her eyes than words in the screenplay.

I had been told, "Michelle, you'll love the clothes.", but I don't spend the bucks and fight the crowds at the multiplex just to see nice clothes. They were, however, lovely. 

Joan's clothes hint at the steely person inside. From practical plaid flannel pajamas to a classically formal gown for the Nobel ceremony, Joan is a woman of few frills but impeccable taste.

Everything is of the best quality.  She wears a "good cloth coat" to Stockholm as she thought fur would be ostentatious—the movie takes place in 1992 when we did wear fur—but it's the most luscious camel wool coat ever. She knows the power of a good scarf. She knows enough to keep an ethnic jacket free of extraneous adornment. An important part of her look is cropped but softly styled silver hair, restrained makeup and fine accessories. Her jewelry is either unobtrusive or an artistic piece possibly from a museum shop.

These are clothes chosen by a woman who likes nice things but doesn't want to stand out. You get the feeling an afternoon of shopping would not be her idea of a good time, especially as she turns down that very suggestion.

The movie has more than a few surprises which I won't reveal. Here's one I will. The actress who plays the younger Joan in flashbacks is Glenn Close's own daughter, Annie Starke. Now that is perfect casting.