On the occasion of Ralph Lauren’s 76th birthday, take a look at one of the lesser known sides of his career: costume design
Since the start of his clothing line in 1968, Ralph Lauren has become a household name. We all know that his fashion empire houses every single preppy thing on the planet — from tuxedos to tennis skirts, ties to tweed blazers. Better known as the man behind half of the country club’s casual Friday ensemble, most people either forget or are completely unaware of the fact that Lauren designed the costumes of some our favorite on-screen, off-beat characters. In honor of his birthday this year, we list down Lauren’s (fictional) clientele beyond the regular horseback-riding, polo-playing members of high society.
The Great Gatsby (1976)
Theoni V. Aldredge, the film’s head costume designer, didn’t want to acknowledge that Lauren had designed the menswear for the film. This caused a row between the two that escalated further when Aldredge failed to mention Lauren in her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Costume Design.
The 1920s aesthetic was right up Lauren’s alley of tailored vests, pastel blazers, and all-around smart dressing. The suit that really stood out from the film and soared to fame was Jay Gatsby’s (Robert Redford) pale pink number. To clothe a man in baby pink and somehow still have him oozing sex appeal was no easy feat then and is no easy feat now. A modern-day Jay Gatsby would definitely rock those ubiquitous Ralph Lauren polos with khaki chinos to match.
Annie Hall (1977)
Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you’ve seen the film — who are we kidding, you probably have), it wasn’t Woody Allen or any of the other men that Ralph Lauren dressed for this film — it was Diane Keaton. Clad in dress shirts, tuxedos, and men’s ties, Keaton was a vision of timeless androgyny. Annie’s style for the film was trés Ralph Lauren on almost every level. We say almost because Annie herself was an eclectic foil to the preppy, wholesome girls akin to the fashion brand.
With the sartorial success of Annie Hall — girls everywhere were trying to look like boys — it’s not surprising that Woody Allen and Ralph Lauren once again joined forces on a new film, Manhattan. Allen was dressed throughout the film in pretty basic pieces: plaid shirts, solid turtlenecks, and coats with elbow patches. What gave the garb character was the frumpy, loose way that most of the clothes hung off of his tiny frame. Yet again, as much as the clothes themselves were an accurate portrayal of Ralph Lauren as a fashion house, Allen’s character didn’t seem to fit the bill. Isaac Davis was definitely a far cry from the well-built, perpetually slightly tanned, chauffer-driven men of the real Lauren world.
Time Doesn’t Stand Still (2011)
For this short French film, stylist Aleksandra Woroniecka plundered the house of Lauren’s archives to create classic, timeless looks. Lauren himself was not actually part of the project but his clothes and creations definitely helped shape the whole film’s aesthetic through Woroniecka’s styling. There was nothing too daring going on in terms of dressing despite this film being the most modern one in Lauren’s repertoire. It was just a mix of tasteful classics — no muss, no fuss, no frills, no thrills — because the production team wanted to create looks that would last a lifetime.
With almost half a century of remixing classics and creating new looks under his belt, Ralph Lauren and his distinct preppy brand — the look he has created, not solely the business — just might last forever.