Though an archival photo of Little Edie's debutante dress exists, costume designer Cat Thomas decided to go with something more glamorous for the film version of the girl's coming out party. "Layering of clothing was very important to her-that she could have two pieces and hide her body a little bit," Thomas says of the vintage gown, which she found on location in Toronto. "And it had so much movement at the bottom that when she was running you could feel her panic."
Big Edie hadn't been as extensively photographed as her daughter, so recreating her look took a backseat to expressing her personality. "She was a true Bohemian," Thomas says. "She was out in the Hamptons, breaking some barriers in terms of how women should act and dress." Hence this breezy silk outfit, which also plays well during the dance she performs with her daughter in this scene.
Recreated from a 1930s photo of Little Edie, this hooded white dress was revolutionary in its time because it had a zipper-a new invention that had just begun to appear on clothing. The hood made a great place for Edie to hide, providing Barrymore with a tool to display the character's insecurity. "Ultimately," says Thomas, "what I enjoy about my job-beyond the beauty and other things-is helping them feel like they are that character. For me, it's more about how the clothes feel to the actor than just looking pretty."
These black dresses were worn twice in the film-at Mr. Beale's funeral and again in this scene, when the Edies listen to John F. Kennedy's memorial service on the radio. Thomas recycled much of the ladies wardrobe, especially as they became more destitute in the 1960s. In fact, a tablecloth that appears in the 1930s scenes shows up later as a skirt on Little Edie.
Making Grey Gardens
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Find out more about the actors in the film in the Cast and Crew section.