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Costume Design Slideshow

Mildred in flowered dress and brown hat

For her job search, Mildred wears her only presentable printed rayon afternoon dress. Explains Miss Roth: "The brown dress came from 1929 or 1930 even though the picture starts in 1931 - I don't think people throw their clothes out and start all over again when a movie starts. I wanted her clothes to be common at this point, I didn't want her to look like a fashion plate. She didn't have the bucks to do that but even if she had, it wasn't her first priority. In addition to this little brown felt hat, I gave her gloves because ladies wore gloves whether they were servants or not."

Bert playing with Ray and Veda in flowered robes

It was a school night and the girls were to go to bed by 9 o'clock so they were in their pajamas. Bert's in a vest because that's what men wore in 1930s and even though he wasn't working, he was considered a businessman -- not a plasterer or a house painter or someone who delivered milk.

Veda by car in white skirt and striped top

Veda was socially very ambitious at age 12; she wanted to look like her clothes came from Paris. She wanted to be dressed as she thought the debs in Pasadena would dress. She was very precocious. I had her wearing 2-inch high heels from age 12 on in the picture. But I don't think you see them, thank you [Todd] Haynes.

Mrs. Forrester in fur and hat with veil

Mrs. Forrester is wearing a very beautiful dress with a fox fur and an intimidating chapeaux, gloves and a purse. She was, when I first walked onto the set, with her elbows on the table and I damn near died. I whispered in her ear to straighten her back and put her hands either in her lap or nicely on the table. I wanted this beautiful woman to effectively make the working woman appear less. She was immaculate and Mildred was working class. We wanted to see iron marks on Mildred's dress; it doesn't show, but the dress does look worn. We ripped it and patched it.

Veda with Christmas gift riding boots

Veda at 12 manages to put on a bow in her hair on Christmas morning. We know perfectly well Veda did not ride but she wanted the accoutrements.

Veda in flowered dress

Veda still dependent on her mother, wears an inexpensive Dimity dress. This was a fabric that is like a slightly stiffened lawn and it was often printed and probably made in Switzerland at the time, but it was not expensive.

Mildred on beach barefoot in white skirt and blue sweater

We made Mildred's entire outfit; we made her a lot of clothes. Well I didn't, Eric Winterling made this cream-colored linen suit. We made her several blouses and suits. One article said I said her clothes came from Bullocks. That is not true. I said when she got older and had more bucks, she didn't have clothes made like her daughter did, she went to Bullocks Wilshire, which was very fancy at that time. But at this point, the clothes Mildred had she wore over and over again.

Veda on couch with cream dress and hat

I always say you can have anything you want if you pay for it, but I have not seen cream sharkskin clothing like this today. I found this fabric at Mr. Katz's in Brooklyn. He doesn't know what he has. He has a whole house full of stuff; you have to be very energetic and go there and forage. That's what I do. It's my job. Though the truth is, if you put me on a witness stand, I couldn't swear it's real sharkskin.

Bert in pin striped suit

I find Bert's middle-class/working-class brown chalk strip suit very endearing. It's so earnest. I imagine he goes to a friend who has a small shop and does the alterations, someone from the Kiwanis or Lions or Rotary Club.

Mildred in grey coat in rain

This is Mildred in the latter half of the 30s, wearing a very old coat (circa 1930-31). It's appropriate that she keeps her clothes for years.

Veda in long orange dress by piano

We found this dress, it was a rag. Even though it was an early 30s dress I put it on her at the end because I loved it. It had good bones. I wanted a long dress and it was below the knee so I found the crepe and had it died to match the dress and we did the same bias and put the dark brown velvet flowers on it, which I thought made it. Anybody else would have put black on. That girl, literally, you can put my pajamas on her and she'll look sensational.

Veda on stage in shiny green dress with pink hat

This dress was inspired by the singer-actress Jeanette MacDonald. I was stymied by that dress. Again, I found the fabric at Mr. Katz's. It was one of those net festoons. You stand in the workroom late at night with the dressmaker and play around and something wonderful happens. I thought it should be goosey yet I wanted them to light it so you could see through it from the back; she had a slim lamé slip under it. That didn't happen. But the hat was a sensation. The parasol was a sensation. And the bow under her chin was glorious.

Mildred running to concert in gold dress with flowers

Mildred's gown for Veda's Philharmonic performance is gold lamé with actual metal threads. HBO has donated it to the Museum of the Moving Image.

Veda in front of cab in brown suit

I love this suit. The sleeves and cut of waist are of that rare moment at the end of the 30s. Todd Haynes said he wanted nothing to do with the 'Mildred Pierce'-Joan Crawford connection; he wanted to reflect the Depression. In 1936 Schiaparelli did put shoulder pads in dresses and by 37 there were being worn in New York so it would have been normal for shoulder pads. But he refused to allow me to do shoulder this was my nod to that.

Veda in off white dress with embroidered jacket

This says: "I'm not your little girl anymore." If her mother had an image of how she wanted her daughter to be -- highly glamorous, rich and beautiful -- this surpassed it.

Part 4

Mildred opens a profitable new restaurant, but her good fortune is tempered by
Vedas manipulation of a smitten society bachelor and his wealthy family.