When I read the script for “In Her Shoes” I knew immediately it was a story I wanted to help tell. Two sisters, opposite ends of the physical and emotional spectrum; a long lost grandmother; a closet full of shoes. I mean come on; obviously I was born to design that movie. However for many weeks director Curtis Hanson and his producing partner Carol Fenelon felt otherwise. They were not interested in meeting me and nothing my agents did or said seemed to sway them. Then finally, 5 weeks out from shooting, having met every costume designer in town and I guess still not having found “the one” they relented and let me slip in the back door. By this point I figured I had nothing to loose, my getting the job was a total long shot. So I put together probably what at that point was my most personal presentation to date. Instead of trying to find tears and images that represented how the girls would dress, I boarded out how the movie felt to me emotionally. I left the fashion magazines behind and searched in my books for portraits and situations that I felt highlighted the emotional content of the movie, not what the look should be.
The first he pivotal moment of the script to me were the opening scene where Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) drunk at a high school reunion, has sex with a stranger in the bathroom and then vomits all over him.
The second moment that resonated so completely to me was when her sister Rose (Toni Collette) destroyed after finding out that Maggie has screwed her lover, says to her best friend ‘why can’t somebody say, that sucks Rose, I am so sorry that happened to you.”
These two moments were to me the window into each girl’s pain.
And less specific but just as poignant was the notion that their grandmother, Ella Hirsch (Shirley Maclaine) waited in the scorching Florida sun for the daughters of her own dead daughter to forgive and return.
So here are 3 of the images that I used as a tool to navigate my way through this discussion: An image from Merry Alpern’s “Dirty Windows” for Maggie’s introduction. Kora Manheimer’s untitled image of a girl in bed from the first “Twenty-five and under” to illustrate Rose’s inate alienation. And Larry Sultan’s seminal image “Mom Posing by Green Wall and Dad Watching TV” from “Pictures From Home” which to me embodied the spirit of Ella.
Whatever I did, whatever I said, it worked and I got the job. To this day “In Her Shoes” is the movie I am most proud of, the happiest to have been a part of. Working with Curtis was an experience that took me back to why I had wanted to become a costume designer in the first place. It was the discipline of who, what, why and when? Not just because. But that, as they say, is another story. To be continued……….