Behind the Wardrobe: Magic in the Moonlight

Magic in the Moonlight – Emma Stone

Thoughts Behind the Wardrobe

Italian costume designer Sonia Grande has worked on over 40 films, a handful of which were Woody Allen’s. Therefore, the two had an existing relationship prior to their collaboration on Magic in the Moonlight. Making it easy for Sonia to develop and pitch her ideas for the characters wardrobes while avoiding the things Woody is less than fond of.  Working closely with Allen and the actors of the film Sonia constructed the wardrobe by both creating one offs and shopping second hand. Her inspiration being the period itself (1920’s), the real Wei Ling Soo (Chung Ling Soo), and a number of artist specified by Allen: including Otto Dix and Leo Gestel. All of which creates a beautiful canvas for Allen’s witty period piece.  

The film itself is a somewhat slow moving piece that uses Allen’s timeless wit to question the ides of fate, truth and love. Wandering through the glamour and beauty of each scene almost aimless the film at first glance appears overly frothy and lacking true substance. However, upon deeper investigation the story is full of truths worth pondering and the wardrobe is far from a frilly after thought. Woody Allen and Emma Stone may be why I turned this film on, but the work of Sonia Grande is without a doubt why I’ve seen it so many times and am choosing to mention it now. Below is a few treasures I uncovered about Sonia’s thought process and the Moonlight wardrobe.  

3 Things Magic in the Moonlight’s Wardrobe Tells Us

Sketch by Sonia Grande - Magic in the Moonlight

1.  Believer WHO?

  1. If you pay close attention to the color of the garments that adorn the film’s characters you will find that those who are happy to believe in the spiritism of Sophie (Stone) tend to wear light colors throughout the film. While those actively seeking to dis-robe the young women are seen in darker shades or until their belief changes. The ladder is especially true of Stanley (Collin Firth) as he has a major revelation half way through the film. Whether the epiphany it’s guided by faith, science or lust is something to ponder,

  2. The sketches above are those of Sonia Grande used for development and show a couple of the many light weight, pastel frocks that Emma Stones’s character Sophie uses to express her role as Spiritualist and Head-believer.

Sketch by Sonia Grande - Magic in the Moonlight

2. On the Clock?

  1. Taking place in the South of France in the midsts of the holiday season the majority of the film’s character’s are  American socialists relaxing their days away. However, not everyone has come to town for a breath of fresh air and their wardrobes reflect such. Neither Stanley (Colin Firth) nor Howard (Simon McBurney) have come to town to socialize as both are magicians called upon to dis-robe a young spiritist and their wardrobes reflect so. As both men spend their days dressed in three piece suits made of wool. In contrast to the holidayers around them that seem to have a uniform of light weight summer frocks, lace, and linen. All in a gradient ranging from white to pastel.

  2. Fun Fact: Tweed was a must when it came to the magician’s suits as Woody Allen is a big fan of the material and it’s texture on screen,

Sketch by Sonia Grande - Magic in the Moonlight

3. Sophie’s Status?

  1. From the film’s first mention Sophie is a young women from a less than stable upbringing. In contrast to those around her, she has no fortune to fall back on  and has therefore come to the South of France in attempt to find a way to support both herself and her mother. Sonia reflects Sophie’s unstable prospects by dressing the character in youthful and at times more than childlike frocks. The most extreme example of such and coincidentally the look I find most memorable would have to be the Sailor dress Sophie adorns during the first seance that Stanley bares witness to. This playful number sticks out in the scene as the rest of the cast are dressed for a proper evening dinner where the men are expected to break out their tuxedos. Moreover, it can be argued that Sophie’s attire is the perfect companion to her ill-fate as this is the moment Sophie’s future appears to be in greatest danger, as Stanley is most actively seeking to de-mask the young spiritist. However, after Stanley continues to fail at such efforts and more than one man develops feelings for Sophie her future begins to look up and her image grows in sophistication in response. The peak of which could easily be shown through the beaded gown she adorns during the ball.

For a deeper understanding on Sonia’s process check out this article:

Woody Allen’s costume expert on designing for Magic in the Moonlight

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