Fashion people look for different things in movies than regular people do.
Like many of my friends, I went to see Ocean’s 8 in order to see how the premise would fare with a cast of 8 famous women instead of 11 famous men. But they did a silly thing, thinking it would help capture the imagination of (generic?) women*: they set the caper into the Met Gala. This is a fashion event I know well. I did an internship in the Costume Institute and got to attend one year. Since then, I have carefully watched, and reported on, the fashion that walks up that staircase.
For a movie about NYC’s biggest fashion night, the clothes in Ocean’s 8 were pretty Meh. I get the argument that these women were acting the part of thieves, so trying *not* to draw attention to themselves. But these 8 actresses are some of the most fashionably conspicuous women in the world. Surely their costumes could have riffed off that more?
Anne Hathaway’s character, who was one of the gala chairs, should surely have been wearing something drop-dead and fantastic. I give you comparisons from the real MMA gala:
In contrast, Katy Perry as co-chair of the 2017 Met Gala:
Or Rihanna, one of the co-chairs of this season’s Gala, with the Heavenly Bodies theme:
Rihanna’s impishness is radically underutilized in this film as well. The costumes that worked best, I think, were Cate Blanchett’s groovy pantsuits with the Keith Richards feeling, seen below. But the heart of this is that the costume designer, Sarah Edwards, just really doesn’t understand the Met Gala.
This movie has earned a lot of commentary:
For people who were excited or angry or just tired of the idea that a major film should be cast with not just 1, but 8 major female leads, there was a lot of ink spilled. I have to agree: the skill of those 8 powerful actresses was way underutilized, their thoughts were too focused on the brother and the insurance agent, they were too nice to be human beings, and none of them got anything interesting in the way of character development.
I still enjoyed it. Because it was shot in New York City, and it was heartwarming to pick out the familiar places (Veselka!!). And the Met has been one of my educational homes (Yay, MMA!!). And I love a caper show! (Loved all of Hustle and How to Steal a Million!)
The art world got a cinematic love letter! The Met as the main set! Art galleries and auction houses as part of the plot!
We give the film organization major kudos for their homework on the fake Met exhibition in the film. It looked plausibly Costume Institut-ish, if a tad 70s in the mannequin choices. I’m always happy to see the Met get publicity. Besides that, the art directors did their homework. The film credits FIT Museum Associate Curator of Costume Molly Sorkin for her consulting on the setup of a costume exhibition, along with Jennifer Park and Hamish Bowles of Vogue magazine. In fact, the film is studded with fashion journalists, designers, and style influencers, in an attempt to lend verisimilitude to the on-screen gala. Even Anna Wintour got a cameo.
Finally, it was just nice to watch talented actresses interact with one another in a setting that presumes their intelligence and displays their senses of humor and camaraderie**.
I hope you enjoy the film!
* What do women (generic) want, really? Is there even such a Thing??
**Have you ever noticed how, in your real life, there are slightly more women around you than there are men? Now count the number of women to men in the next movie you go see. Weird, huh? In the article linked above, Sandra Bullock calls it “actress solitary confinement”. Here are some statistics on that phenomenon: